It looks like Sam Adams is trying to rekindle the romance with hardcore craft beer geeks with the release of their small batch series of beers. Glancing at the labels, you wouldn’t guess that these are Sam Adams products, and I think that’s the whole point.
When we discussed our “no-go” breweries here yesterday, a bunch of folks had Sam Adams on their list, saying that they are too big and too boring to be worth picking up. It seems pretty clear that these limited-release beers and their funky labels are an attempt to change that. Each beer is made with interesting ingredients and are certainly not something you’d find next to the Coors Light.
I decided to go with “The Vixen,” a chocolate chili bock because it seemed like the weirdest beer of the bunch, plus I’ve been in the mood for a Great Divide Chocolate Yeti, which also contains a bit of a chili kick on the finish.
Can the Vixen stand up to a Yeti? Did Sam Adams reach too far trying to appeal to the cool kids?
Well, yes and no, mostly. First, the Vixen is no Yeti, but that’s by design. The mouthfeel is much lighter on the Vixen, which isn’t something I prefer in a dark beer, even one that’s clearly labeled as a bock. Getting past that, you have a beer that treats you to a lovely nose, a gush of chocolate, a hint of wood and dates, and a slight tickle of pepper on the back end. Again, these flavors aren’t as intense as you’ll get with something like a Yeti (which is a stout after all) but they work together with the mouthfeel to produce a very balanced and flavorful craft beer.
That’s right, I said craft beer – The Vixen certainly qualifies. This is a well-made brew that draws expertly within the lines (A Sam Adams trait) and delivers a true craft beer drinking experience. The only thing that fell a bit short was the lacing, which was the right color, but a tad foamy and short-lived. Still, if this beer didn’t say “Sam Adams” on the neck label, you’d think it was something brewed in Colorado or Vermont.
Where you’ll know it’s a Sam Adams beer is at the cash register. A 22 ounce bomber set me back $5.49, making this beer a tremendous value. Based on packaging, recipe concept and taste, most craft beer fans would happily pay $7.99 for one of these puppies, making this beer a screaming deal.
The other place you’ll know it’s a Sam Adams beer is in your head, which might spoil everything. After all, for most of us taste is an emotional thing, colored by mood and circumstance, and sampling ANY beer with skepticism clouding you palate will affect how it tastes. But if you can suspend your biases and taste The Vixen without prejudice, I think you’ll be very pleased at what Jim Koch and the gang have cooked up here.