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Just a taste of what's to come
December 07, 2012, 05:00 AM By Erik Oeverndiek Daily Journal Staff

Like the weather on the Peninsula, limited craft beers hit fast and then are suddenly gone. You can regularly find seasonals at your local grocery store, however, there are varieties that need to be actively sought out if one doesn't want to miss them.

Here are a few upcoming beers on my "don't miss” list.

Utopias is out now. Granted, it may already be too late because only 10,000 bottles of this Samuel Adams gem were released this year. Having only been brewed five times historically, this high-alcohol, naturally-fermented beer weighs in at 29 percent ABV. Sam Adams says: "Rivaling the world's best ports and cognacs, this extreme beer is uncarbonated and ruby black in color with sweet flavors of honey, toffee, caramel, cocoa and vanilla balanced by distinct notes of molasses, raisins, plums and berries imparted from aging batches in a variety of barrels over the years.”  

Adams is calling this its 10th anniversary release and it is not for the weak of heart, or the poor. Each bottle is $199 and hard to come by. Local BevMos only received three bottles, at best, and my favorite local beer shops didn't get any. Go now.

Stone's Vertical Epic series comes to an end this year with its 12.12.12 release. Really this is an end of an era: Since the clever play on numbers began with its first release on Feb. 2, 2002, variations have been released on corresponding dates, March, 3, 2003; April 4, 2004, etc. Ending with the 11th release 12.12.12 as the last.

Stone's description says the "beer itself is very reminiscent of a European amber beer, with Perle and Pacific Jade hops, Munich and other roasted German and Belgian malts, hopped and brewed to a very Stone-like 65 IBU and 9.4 percent ABV. Cinnamon is a wonderful spice if used judiciously, which we did here — it doesn't by any means dominate the beer's flavor, but definitely adds a subtly complex spice note that blends amazingly well with the banana esters and green chili.”

If you have the time and money, Stone is also having an Epic Festival to celebrate the Vertical Epic series that will include a taste of every former Epic with small-plate food pairings to accompany all 11 vintage ales on Dec. 12, 2012. In addition, there will be pours of barrel-aged variations of the beers.

Fifty Fifty Brewing Company's Eclipse series is also returning in the coming weeks. The Eclipse Series features Fifty Fifty's already award-winning Totality Imperial Stout that is then aged in a variety of bourbon casks, including Craig 12 Year, Evan Williams Single Barrel, Rittenhouse Rye/Pikesville Standard Rye Blend, Old Fitzgerald Bourbon, Bernheim Wheat and American Mellow Corn Whiskey. The results are some of the best barrel-aged beers you can find and they typically sell out within days.

The brewer's description says the stouts are "aged for a minimum of 180 days in oak bourbon barrels. This time spent adds a plethora of flavors to the already-rich Imperial Stout. At first taste, there is a large presence of dark chocolate, espresso and warmth from the alcohol of the beer. Oak barrel character then comes into play with hints of vanilla and coconut, followed by mild bitterness from the hops, and then a nice long lingering finish with hints of tobacco, dark dried fruit and more chocolate.”

It's too late for the release party, however, Fifty Fifty's celebration debut this year's Eclipse beers on Thursday including ones that will never make it to a bottle.

Also out now is the 150th anniversary Chimay Spéciale Cent Cinquante. Only released in seven states and Puerto Rico, if you look, I assure you this is available in the Bay Area. This is the brewery's first special release in roughly 46 years and "only the fourth style to be sold commercially,” according to the brewer.

Chimay describes this as a "strong ale” that is made by Trappist monks at their abbey in Belgium. They describe this beer as having a "distinctive bouquet [that] evokes the rich fruity and complex notes of the Chimay yeast in harmony with a delicate spicy note and the fragrance of fresh noble hops. At 10 percent alcohol, the flavor is full bodied and complex with a slight but refreshing tang note and a crisp hop finish that will delight the palate.”

Although maybe a bit premature, I am also very excited for Dogfish Head/Sierra Nevada's next joint effort, Rhizing Bines. For their third collaboration, the two brewers are going to break away from the Life and Limb and a move toward a hop-driven beer that's due out February 2013.

The brewers say: "Rhizing Bines will go through Dogfish's signature continual-hopping process with floral and citrusy Bravo hops. On the cold side, it will be dry-hopped with an experimental varietal so new it doesn't yet have a name, just a number: Hop 644. A component of Sierra Nevada's aroma-boosting Torpedo system will make a pit stop in Delaware for dry-hopping duty before it heads to Sierra's new North Carolina brewery.”

Have a favorite brew or want to talk beer? Contact Erik at

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