Infinium Bière de Champagne by Boston Beer Company & Weihenstephan

As I heard that Infinium was about to be released, I of course contacted Harry and sure enough he was able to secure a bottle for me.  Again, this is why it is important to have a good beer man.  Only 15,000 cases of Infinium were shipped to the United States and with all the hype, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to secure a bottle.

Because of the expectations surrounding Infinium, I broke my own rule. I read and heard reviews about this beer before I was able to try it.  However, in my defense it was almost impossible to avoid the hype that led up to Infinium’s release.  This was to be a revolution; the brewing of a brand new beer following the Reinheitsgebot.

For those that may not be up on their 16th century Bavarian decrees, Reinheitsgebot was the German purity law as it pertained to beer.  The original law stated that only three ingredients could be included in beer: water, hops, and barley.  Some will recognize the missing and quite necessary and crucial component for fermentation, yeast.  Sam Adams and Weihenstephan give more than a wink and a nod to the fourth component.  They erroneously state on both of their websites that yeast was a part of Reinheitsgebot, which is a tad bit disingenuous.  Traditionally, the yeast would either be introduced from remaining sediment from previous batches of fermented beer.  If that failed, the brewers would then leave their beers to rest and – much how Lambics are formed – they would hope for spontaneous fermentation from wild yeast.  As it turns out, Infinium is not a brand new style of beer, but a Bière de Champagne. Strictly following Reinheitsgebot and creating a Bière de Champagne would be a near impossibility.  Bière de Champagne has a usual range of 10% – 15% ABV.  At this range, very specific high gravity yeasts are needed to achieve the desired result.  So, take their claim of following Reinheitsgebot with the appropriate amount of sodium.

My tangent and picking of nits aside, Sam Adams and Weihenstephan deliver this brew in a beautiful package:

Photo Courtesy of Kitchen Treats

Infinium pours a honey amber with a thick white head that has a touch of sandy color that lingers for quite some time before leaving thick and heavy lacing.  It has the mouth feel of a thin barlewine.  I expected some of the brightness and dry crispness of champagne on the nose, but it is distinctly absent.  Instead there is surprisingly malt with a touch of white rose and honeysuckle.  Like the nose, it is sweeter on the palate than I anticipated.  There is a very fine effervescence – perhaps too fine.  I think that perhaps greater carbonation would have balanced the initial sweetness to a degree.  There are distinct notes of grape and honey.  What is really surprising is the dry bitter finish.  It is long.  Red and I both noticed the bitter finish on our palates several minutes after we had last drank.  It wasn’t unpleasant, but it was quite unusual.  A very nice quality was how well Infinium held its carbonation.  Even two hours later there was nearly the same level of carbonation as when we first drank it.  I found it interesting that as Infinium warmed some of the sharpness from the alcohol (10.4% ABV) rounded, but make no mistake this is to be consumed cold.  As Infinium warmed, the flavors muddled and became muddy.  When it is cold the flavors are bright and intense, which is also very surprising as flavors tend to be muted by the cold.

Unlike most of the reviews I have read, I enjoyed Infinium.  It is far more complex than I anticipated and while I was surprised at the sweetness it is still a fine libation.  One could argue that it is a tad unbalanced and I don’t think that would necessarily be a mischaracterization.  I would have liked something to cut through the sweetness in the middle of my palate.  I think cellaring Infinium (yes, it is bottle conditioned) might help alleviate some of that problem.  Nevertheless, I feel that the long and strong bitter finish compensates for the initial sweetness.

However, with all of this stated, it isn’t worth the price.  Most offerings have Infinium priced around $25 and it isn’t worth the cost.  There are other beers in the same price range that I would choose over Infinium, such as Rogue 21.  I appreciate what Sam Adams and Weihenstephan have tried to do, but I would not go running for Infinium again at its current price point.

In short, is it worth trying? Absolutely.  Is it worth a repeat venture? No.


~ by its12oclocksomewhere on December 30, 2010.

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