There is a really good reason why I decided to go with a Sam Adams review to start this week off. This weekend I headed south to Virginia Beach for the Surf n’ Santa 10 mile race. Lately my wife and I have started to do a lot more running for exercise and in “races”. What I do can’t exactly be called a race; it’s more like a get past the finish-line without stopping. This event was sponsored by Sam Adams. Therefore, after completing the 10 mile run in one hour and forty minutes flat, I enjoyed a Sam Adams Winter Ale at about 10:30 in the morning. While a fairly good beer, it really isn’t my favorite winter beer by any means. So, after getting home from the race Saturday, I decided to sit down and do a little review of one of the Sam Adams releases I have in my current collection.
A few weeks ago, my local beer store decided to bring in a Sam Adams beer rep for a little tasting of their new small batch series. There they did a tasting of the four different beers involved in this series: Tasman Red, Third Voyage, Griffin’s Bow, and The Vixen. Aside from these four different beers, they also decided to include a beer out of their imperial collection: Wee Heavy.
Sam Adams bills this beer as a beer brewed in the tradition of Scotch ales and Scotch whiskeys. Scotch ales are typically a very heavy style of beer. They are heavy on malt and barley because of their climate. It is also closer to the tradition of creating good scotch as well. They tend to stay away from hops because they really don’t survive well in their climate; however, history suggests that they would import them for some use in their brewing.
Looking at the appearance of the beer in the glass, you can see that it is mostly a very dark black color. Holding it to the light, you’ll notice a little brown and slight reddish color in there as well. There is a very light white head that develops on the beer, but it is by no means very significant. The very small amount of lacing really also helps to show that this is a rather heavy beer that is high in alcohol content. There is a slightly sticky residue that resides on the side of the glass, but it really is a little insignificant.
The smell immediately takes me to a completely different beer I have had a few of lately: Backwoods Bastard. Backwoods is one of the boozier beers I have been enjoying as of late; therefore, I was fairly convinced this one would be rather heavy as well. The smell exudes bourbon and scotch scents. The boozy scent of alcohol almost burns your nose. The peaty smokey scents are there as well, but they are more of a muted smell. They don’t take over the smell like a good bottle of Laphroig. There is a little caramel that mingles with the boozy heaviness, and you can also pull out some light roasted smell as well. I think you can pull out a slight hop odor, but if it’s there, it is really well masked by the other much bigger scents.
The taste starts with a really sweet malty taste. It seems to be the malts combining with the characteristics of the caramel. This leads into the sweet rich boozy bourbon and scotch flavoring that was the most prominent on the nose. The sweetness seems to still be provided by rich caramel flavoring. There is a slight hit of the smokey peaty nature before the hint of hops. Looking into the IBUs, there are only 30 found in this bottle. So they definitely are there; however, they tend to be more disguised by all of the other flavors. The finish and aftertaste have an ample roasted quality to it.
The mouthfeel here is a rather syrupy quality to the entire beer. As with the Backwoods, this is pretty typical of something so abundant in the alcohol feel. The moderate carbonation only cuts into this syrupy quality slightly at the beginning, but most of the finish is dominated by this thick feel. It isn’t off putting because you expect that out of this type of beer. Therefore, I would have to say this is a one and done type of beer. The roasted and boozy after taste is very pleasant. I’m not a huge fan of very boozy beers, but knowing that it leans so predominantly on the alcohol taste, there are times I would sit down specifically for this type of beer. The roasted quality is really pleasant and appreciated on the ending.
Sam Adams does some really great things with beer, and some moderate things with other beers. I can’t say I love everything they put out, but I do enjoy some of their more ambitious items. This one is a great example of something they stepped up and did a great job with. They created a heavy beer for sipping that a lot of craft beer drinkers can be happy with. I was a little disappointed they didn’t bring anything more interesting to the after party for the run I did, but there is no way people could have consumed this one after a ten mile run. I guess they knew what they were doing. If you’re looking for a sweet boozy beer to keep you warm this winter, I would check this one out. I’m fairly certain I saw it available in my local grocery store.
Teacher Grade: B+