Is it the Best Beer if you can’t drink it?

Recently I saw a couple of the people I follow on Tumblr posting about a story from Business Insider entitled “The Best Beer from Every State“, and how could I not be curious, so I read it. the first thing I looked at was the publication date, which was 10/06/14, which is good because the information is only 6 months old and most likely still relevant.  I wanted to see if I had been to the breweries or tried any of the beers mentioned, but most of all I was interested to see what they chose for my home state of Massachusetts. I’ve lived in Massachusetts my whole life and have been seeking out quality craft beers for most of that time, so I was sure I must have tried the “best beer” made in Massachusetts and wanted to see if I’d agree with them. Then I read it,… The best beer from Massachusetts is Samuel Adams Utopias.

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So did they make the right choice? Who knows? Samuel Adams Utopias is an extremely limited edition “beer” that is aged for up to 20 years in bourbon and wine barrels and then blended. It has a 28% ABV (that is not a typo) and each season only 15,000 bottles (or less) are released. In fact the 2012 10th Anniversary Edition only had 3,000 bottles produced. To put that in perspective, according to the latest U.S. census data the population of Massachusetts is 6,745,408. This means that even in a year when Samuel Adams releases 15,000 bottles, only 1 in every 450 could purchase a bottle (if bottles were limited to one per person, which they are not). Another way to think of it is 99.78% of all Massachusetts residents do not have the access to purchasing this beer.

Aside from availability, why else is no one drinking this beer? Financial limitations. A single bottle (24 oz) of this beer retails for around $200, which prices most of us out of the market even if we could find a bottle. This is not a criticism of Sam Adams or Utopias Beer. It might be the best beer ever made for all I know, but it is a criticism of Business Insider for saying this is the best beer in Massachusetts when virtually no one has even tried it or can get access to it if they wanted to. The point of an article like this should be to encourage people to try these great beers if they travel to different states, but in this case that’s not likely to happen. They may be right on a technicality since the article is titled “The Best Beer from Every State”, and this could technically be the “best beer” from Massachusetts, but how does that serve their readership? It would be like publishing an article titled “Best Things to do in Arizona” and having the #1 thing be “Take a rafting trip through the Grand Canyon”. The National Park Service only issues 503 permits per year (including Winter) via a lottery system to service the 320 million people that live in the U.S. You might have a better chance of hitting the actual lottery.

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So why did they choose this beer to represent Massachusetts? My guess is they were enamored with the novelty of a 28% ABV beer with a $200 price tag and figured it must be the best (they may not have even tried it). On a side note, at what ABV is a beer no longer a beer, because Kahlua is 20% ABV, Triple Sec is around 30% and most flavored vodkas are 35%. I digress, my real beef is that this selection doesn’t help further the cause of craft beerdom, because it merely encourages people to try something that they practically cannot try. The folks at Business Insider have basically told you that one of the world’s best views is from the window of the International Space Station, and you should definitely check it out if you’re planning to travel there.

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For those of you interested in the complete state list, here it is:

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