Samuel Adams, Boston Beer Co., Jim Koch, and Why They Matter

I’ve seen a lot of comments on the Beer Advocate forums lately that totally bash Sam Adams beer for being bland and not really promoting better beer. I’ve seen things like “They just give someone a slightly better bland beer to move to from their very bland BMC”. For those not in the know, BMC stands for Budweiser, Miller, Coors… the 3 major macro-brewers in the USA, known for churning out watered down beer mixed with lots of adjuncts, like corn and rice, to lighten the flavor of the beer and reduce the cost of production to help maximize profits. Sorry for the slight tangent, this is about Sam Adams, not BMC. So some of these BA’s (Beer Advocates) think that Sam Adams does nothing for improving the quality of beer and helping the movement for better beer because they put out a large amount of beer and it’s pretty accessible beer.

Let’s start at the beginning. Back when Sam Adams first started, they were mainly a Boston area and New England brewery, but they were one of the first to really get in on the craft beer world. I lived with a step-father who liked beer in the early ’90s when craft beer first really caught on. He would drink lots of Rolling Rock (which was good, but went downhill) and used to like Pete’s Wicked (before they were bought up) because his name was Peter. I was introduced to Sam Adams through commercials and some friends in college who liked good beer. Eventually, these were the first 2 beers I really drank a lot and found myself not able to drink the cheaper macros. By this time, Sam Adams was available in most of the country, while most craft brews were available only locally or within the region (Harpoon, for example). Sam Adams continued to grow (and they have no choice but to do this as they are a publicly traded company). However, they never lost sight of why they started. Sure, Boston Lager isn’t a hop bomb with 100+ IBUs, but it’s a far cry from Budweiser. Sure, their other beers aren’t exceptional, but again, they’re accessible without being cheap and without the adjuncts (though I don’t know what went wrong with the Cranberry Lambic, that’s just nasty). What Sam Adams represents is accessible beer. They aren’t trying to be something they’re not. What Jim Koch represents is the ultimate champion for better beer. He truly believes in the craft beer revolution and it shows with their special beers and even in their commercials. While the big breweries are putting out commercials like “Miles away from ordinary” (Corona, anything but extraordinary) with images of beautiful beaches or beautiful women and silly man rules or even gimmicks like the label turning blue when it’s cold enough (because that kind of beer needs to be extra cold to taste good), Sam Adams puts out commercials with information on beer, on why they use the bottles they do, on hops and malt, and on how they actually buy back old beer so that the customer always gets the freshest beer possible. Sam Adams holds an annual homebrew competition, Long Shot. They challenged people to think differently when they thought “beer” with their Triple Bock and Utopias. Their latest, the Hallertau Imperial Pilsner, is not your standard beer either. While it’s not crazy like Utopias, it’s got a higher alcohol content and a bigger, more complex flavor than most of their other beers.

Don’t consider Sam Adams, Boston Beer Co., or Jim Koch to be anything but true advocates for great beer. They work hard getting people to try something different. Sure, they gave in and released a light beer. It’s nothing like Miller Lite or Bud Light (though I do admit it’s not as good as regular Boston Lager). Even with their light beer, though, they’re still pulling people away from tasteless beers and into a whole new world of better beer. After all, that’s what this whole craft beer revolution is about, isn’t it? The more people we convert to better beer, the more craft brewers will make (both beer and money). I raise my cup (of Hallertau Imperial Pilsner to be exact) to you Jim Koch and the Boston Beer Co. Thank you for bringing me to the world of craft beer and for your continued efforts advocating for better beer everywhere.

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