Beer Industry Craft Beers

New beer too strong for some U.S. states

Photo: Samuel Adams (handout)

A limited-run beer from Samuel Adams is too strong for some U.S. states: its 28% ABV is illegal in 15 of them.

The brewer releases a new version of its Utopias brand every two years, and the twelfth edition will be on shelves starting Oct. 11. But don't bother looking for it in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont or West Virginia. Utopias are illegal in those states because they contain 28% alcohol by volume, more than five times the potency of typical US brews.

It's funny this is a cool hip thing these days. When I tended bar, back in the 90s, it was only the most leathery retirees, waiting to be let in at 11 a.m., who hit the high-ABV beers. I remember the impossibly cheap branding, the bottles half-wrapped in gold foil like christmas chocolate. A vile soup of hops and barley to lash some sensation into their ancient tastebuds. I made up a little whicker basket of them once all nicely arranged with rosettes, framed photos of random things from the early 20th century, and a little fake ad slogan in a calligraphic font saying "Gold Label: What We Need Is Another War On" It emptied out pretty quick but the landlord didn't think much of the humor.