In November of last year, Sam Adams released a unique beer called Infinium. It was brewed in collaboration with the great German brewery (and the world’s oldest ) Weihenstephaner. Infinium is technically categorized as a Bière de Champagne, which as you might guess, is a cross between beer and champagne. It's a newer beer style that's usually produced in Belgium.
Upon Infinium's first release one year ago, it received mixed reviews with arguably more bad reviews than good ones. The majority’s consensus was that it was simply unimpressive, gimmicky, boring, and not recommendable. I didn’t think they’d brew it again. But, Sam Adams and Weihenstephaner teamed up again this year to give it another go. This year's batch, however, has noticeable differences.
A small release party for Infinium 2011 was held at the Sam Adams Brewery last night, and DBNE attended. Sam Adams founder, Jim Koch, was present at the party and I couldn't help but notice that he seemed smaller in person than I imagined him to be. He spoke for a few minutes and expressed that he wanted this year's batch to have a bigger backbone. He informed us that the new version is enhanced by “dry hopping with fresh Hallertau Mittelfrueh hops to impart a fresh yet delicate citrusy hop character.”
Jim’s description accurately represented what we experienced. We didn't have high expectations when we walked in, but we were impressed and surprised how much we enjoyed this year’s batch.
While last year's version was more champagne-like. This year's version tastes a lot more like a beer that merely winks at champagne. In a blind taste test , I don’t think I could pick out this year’s Infinium as an obvious champagne/beer crossover. It didn't even sport the fizzy head inherent with champagne. Instead, Infinium’s head is foamy and amazingly doesn't dissipate. An “A” for appearance.
The enhanced, grassy-hop profile was noticeable on the nose along with sweet malt and faint citrus. The biggest enhancement on the flavor front is actually the caramel-malt profile. It’s huge. It tastes sweeter and more syrupy as it warms without ever becoming unwelcoming. What makes it lovely is the lining of orange and apricot notes in the mix.
Also commendable is that its 10.03% ABV is unnoticeable to the palate. Yes, you feel it later, but there’s no trace of alcohol in the flavor. This is uncommon for a beer with that alcohol level.
In the end, we were quite impressed. Anyone who was disappointed with last year's Infinium should give this year's version a chance. The only drawback is that a bottle costs $20. You do get 750 ml, and I’m sure its production requires higher costs. But compared to other beery treats you can buy with $20, is it worth that price tag? That’s debatable. However, Infinium does have a celebratory air about it. So given the situation and company you share it with, it definitely can be worth it.