I have yet to enjoy the Sam Adams New World Tripel or the Thirteenth Hour styles from their Barrel Room Collection, but give me time, this will happen. I was able to savor two other varieties in an unfamiliar form – 22 oz bottles. I’ve only seen Sam Adams in 6 pack form since I started drinking it in the early-mid 90’s, with the exception of their Tripel Bock. The group that I got my hands on this time were the Imperial White, a high octane witbier; Tasman Red, a red IPA; and a chocolate chili bock entitled “The Vixen.” However enticing the name “Vixen” might be, the words “chocolate, chili” and “bock” in the same sentence were enough to make me perk up in inquiry like a dog that hears the strangest of sounds. I knew right then and there that I had to give this a try.
I had the Imperial White while away on a cruise ship somewhere in the Western Caribbean. I was pleasantly surprised to find this particular beer in stock, as the bar I was in had a mostly traditional pub selection – i.e. lots of mass-market crap that everyone can agree on. Regardless, it was the beer I chose to imbibe. I must say that Sam Adams does like to push the envelope, as they do with many of their styles. This Imperial White was reminiscent of a tasty belgian white with a strong, almost boozy finish to it. This puppy has 10.3% ABV worth of goodness packed into it. The aroma it brings is of banana on steroids and orange, or some other zesty citrus blend. The taste is of orange, citrus and coriander. The alcohol was definitely present, but the vibrant taste kept me wanting more. I had at least two or three or these when I sat down to try it. Very nice. I’ve had some commendable witbiers before, but this one definitely held its own.
After arriving back on US soil and realizing my full potential to get good beer with relative ease, I made a quick run to Buy-Rite and picked up the dynamic duo of Tasman Red and The Vixen. Tasman Red, the red IPA, was a bit of a quandary. Sure, the aroma spoke volumes. It screamed “Hop Overdrive” like nothing I’ve had since the Founders Devil Dancer that made other people cringe in agony (sorry about that Jay). There is a deep dark red, almost brown hue to this one. The interesting thing about this beer though, is that while it gives you that clean and crisp, dry hoppy flavor, something else lurks beneath. There is a toasted caramel/toffee palate that comes through in the finish that takes the edge off the hoppy bitterness. Nice balance. Not too boozy, as it only boasts a 6.75 ABV, but certainly enough to remain respectable. I think this would please both hopheads as well as those who are risk averse to bitter beers.
The Vixen was a wily temptress indeed. This is the first time I have ever enjoyed the flavor of Mexican chili, tasty chocolate and beer all at once. But being that I’m all about new experiences, I was willing to give it a go. Pouring this was an adventure in and of itself. A nice thick and creamy tan head stayed around for days it seemed. Plenty of lacing stuck around the glass after each pull. The flavor is interesting. It’s very smooth, giving you a dark chocolate infusion while you enjoy the malty sweetness. There is something that lingers however. The Mexican chilies and cinnamon offer up a nice spicy character that continues to hang around and grow slightly more intense as you take each pull. When I first started on this one, I equated it to drinking a Guinness with a dash of Tabasco sprinkled in. It’s thick and malty, giving you the chocolate notes you would expect from a bock, yet has that spicy hint that hangs around in the back of your throat after you finish it. Interesting combination for sure. This one pumps out 8.5% ABV, but you really wouldn’t realize its alcohol presence that much in light of the chocolate and spiciness that continue to dwell.