Champagne beer aims to lift drink's image

* Limited release Infinium launches this month

* Sam Adams hopes to lure drinkers with taste, not humor

NEW YORK, Nov 8 (Reuters Life!) - Boston Beer Co Inc’s Samuel Adams is launching a champagne-like brew later this month to prove that beer can be worthy of a New Year’s toast.

The limited run beer, called Infinium, will be sold in 750-ml bottles with foil-covered cork tops, like champagne. It is gold-colored, crisp and dry, with nearly double the alcohol content of an average beer and more than some wines.

“I get a beer that sits in between a champagne, a good dessert wine and a Sam Adams Noble Pils, which is a hoppy, aromatic pilsner,” said Jim Koch, chairman and founder of Boston Beer.

He hopes Infinium will help influence consumer perceptions about beer.

“Beer has all the same dignity and nobility that wine has, it just hasn’t been accorded the same level of respect -- frankly because brewers haven’t treated it respectfully,” he said in an interview. “Beer has been marketed with a lot of sophomoric humor and scantily clad women.”

Infinium is the result of a collaboration between Koch, who made the first Sam Adams in his kitchen in 1984 with a recipe passed down from his great-great grandfather, and Germany’s Weihenstephan Brewery, the world’s oldest existing brewery, announced in October 2009.

The beer was originally slated for release in the spring.

Only about 15,000 cases will be available for the North American market, and Koch said that should generate less than $2 million in revenue for the company.

“It’s a small fraction of our sales, but it makes a big statement,” he said.

And while some larger brewers rely on fraternity-house humor to sell their drinks, Koch believes Sam Adams has a wider appeal by focusing on flavor and taste.

“I’m basically just approaching this assuming that men and women both like things that taste good,” he said.

Infinium’s suggested retail price is $19.99 per bottle.

Supplies will probably not last far beyond the start of 2011, Koch said, since only a certain amount was made.

“Even if we wanted to make more we wouldn’t have it until Valentine’s Day.” (Reporting by Martinne Geller; Editing by Patricia Reaney)