Like a sudsy caped crusader, Boston Beer Company has two identities. During the day it's Sam Adams Boston Lager, the macro-est of the microbrews, the flagship brand of a publicly traded company that recorded $453.4 million in 2009 revenues.
Then there's the dark side. The first extreme beer I ever sampled was Sam Adams Triple Bock, a syrupy concoction I discovered in the mid-90s in, of all places, Colonial Williamsburg. At 17.5 percent ABV and aged in wood barrels, it was said to be the booziest beer in America. There was only batch ever made, and after three bottlings it was gone. Since then BBC has rolled out a limited-production beer every year and a half or so: There was Millennium, with only 3,000 bottles made, and the Barrel Room Collection, three Belgian-style beers. In 2007 it started Utopia, a 27 percent ABV strong ale that retails for $150 or more. Most people found the Triple Bock too thick and rich, but the more recent releases have won rave reviews.
One of 2010's most anticipated releases was Infinium, a collaboration between BBC and Germany's Weihenstephan, the world's oldest brewery. For months beer-geek message boards popped with rumors: It had been three years in the making. It would taste of coriander and apricots. It would come with real pieces of Samuel Adams (or what's left of him) floating inside.