Aonghus kealy/metro toronto photos


Christoffel, Westmalle, Cantillon ... more on these next week.

After my first taste of the Samuel Adams Utopias barley wine, my entire chest warmed.

On a sweltering hot July night, it definitely seemed to be the wrong time of year for a sip of the strongest beer in the world, at 25.6 per cent alcohol per volume. (Currently, the strongest beers at the LCBO are Crest Super Lager, from the U.K., $3.05 for a 500-ml can, and Faxe 10% Extra Strong from Denmark, $3 per 500-ml can. Both are at 10 per cent.)

But after taking a tour on the weird side of the beer world with Canadian globe-trotter Stephen Beaumont, the best beer tasting of my life couldn’t have finished with a finer drink (more next week).

Within 10 minutes after the pre-eminent beer author pried open the $100 bottle of beer — No. 1311, apparently, of Utopias 2007 — grunts of approval from about a dozen swillers filled the design garage at Coupe Space on Queen Street East.

It was the 12th specialty beer of the night — no, not full pint servings, or even 330-ml samples. About three to six ounces of each ended with Boston Brewing Co.’s extreme brew, a just dessert for a delicious evening.

It had a whisky-like nose, looked and had a consistency similar to cognac, but there was no burn to the sip.

With maple syrup, Caramel 60 malts and Saaz hops among its ingredients, chocolate came through on the first sip, then a blast of chocolate powered over my taste buds on the second. On the third and fourth sips, notes of dates, nuts and subtle raisin started to come through after the continuing initial chocolate taste. Sam Adams’ website says it has a vanilla maple finish. It was likely the only beer of the night that all attendees finished.

“It isn’t quite ready yet,” Beaumont told his gasping-in-disbelief pupils, adding it needed 10 years to really find itself.

There are only two things sadder than watching the last ounce spill down my throat — you can’t get this here unless it’s through private order (kind of a running theme in Beaumont’s event).

Suds turned to the LCBO for answers. Can people make a special order for this or other beers currently not on shelves?

“If you were wanting to bring in a beer, let’s say from Boston, that could be brought in a lot quicker than a lot of products because it’s not that far away, and we have an established relationship with

Sam Adams,” said LCBO media rep Chris Layton. “Where things tend to take a little bit longer is where you’re dealing with an overseas supplier where there isn’t as much of a relationship and there may be language issues, if they’re not that conversant with doing business in English or they don’t do a lot of exporting, that’s when it can take a little longer.”

He added prices would be made at store-shelf costing — no extra charge for their regular private order service. But it takes at least two to six weeks to make the inquiry, get a quote from the supplier, confirm the price with the customer with an American or Canadian brewer, which can be “piggybacked” in another truck coming from that area; overseas, up to 12 weeks. For more information on importing beers, call the LCBO’s private order line at 416-864-2554 in Toronto or 1-800-668-5144.