This month we will be focusing on the iconic flagship beer of Samuel Adams, their rich, balanced and complex Boston Lager. When determining what beer to write about, we take into account several criteria; A) we want to know its good before spending the money and time on it (plus it makes for more enjoyable reading when we talk positive of a beer). B) We like to know a bit of the brewery’s back story and C) we need to make sure the beer is obtainable in our market. All Samuel Adams beers meet the criteria.
The reason we chose Boston Lager is that we tend to focus on ales more so in our articles and don’t want to be too predictable. The other reason is that Jim Koch and his powerful brands have done amazing things for the craft brewing industry as a whole. We will discuss more of that after we talk about the beer itself.
The six pack carrier and label design is classic and clean. The only negative is that it gives the impression of it being a darker beer. With a lot of blues in the packaging colors, it almost gives off a sense of it being a winter brew when in fact it is a full-time, year round offering.
The pour is picture perfect. We enjoyed our tasting in standard 4 ounce sampler glasses however it would be recommended to acquire a Sam Adams glass that was specially designed to accent the flavors of their craft brew line-up. An inviting foam appears at the surface, however it dissipated pretty quickly, and left a light lacing as we made our way through the samples. The Boston Lager appearance is spot-on – golden amber in color and brilliantly clear, almost reminiscent of the late afternoon sun on a summer’s day.
Our brew team was unanimous is noting fruity notes in the nose. Slight caramel and toasted malts also prevailed. A bit of yeast esters popped through with the pleasing scent of Nobel German hops, all in all quite tempting. The flavor is predominantly toasted malt up front with an earthy tone and a slight clove and pear presence. Very little sulfur detected which helps keep this beer as clean as it is in taste. The finish is refreshing and borders on crisp. A little bit of malty sweet finish balanced with a slight bitterness and dry aftertaste. Her measurements come in at: 4.9% alcohol by volume, 30 International Bitterness Units, and 175 calories.
When asked ideal pairings for this beer, several recommendations were voiced. From pizza to Chinese dishes to Stone Cellars’ fine Brew House Chili should complement it well. The Sam Adams website claims Thai foods, pulled pork sandwiches and sharp cheddar cheese work really well. We promise to test these theories with the remaining bottles.
With a Massachusetts native on our brew team, he tells stories of this beer being a mainstay at family gatherings as he grew up and how it invoked positive memories of lobster dinners with corn on the cob and (usually) friendly games of horseshoes. As he proudly boasts; “this is what the East Coast tastes like.” He also claims it pairs well with New England Patriot Super Bowls, we’ll have to take his word on that one.
Let’s get into the nuts and bolts of who makes this libation. The Boston Beer Company was founded in 1984 by Jim Koch and three associates. This was at a time when craft beer wasn’t even a term yet, but coming from five generations of brewing and having a very impressive business resume, Jim defied the odds and turned his home brewed ideas into an industry leading craft brewery. Mr. Koch started out primarily contracting his recipes with breweries throughout the United States that had excess production capabilities available. Since the early days, they have since gone public and now have grown to breweries in Boston, Cincinnati and Pennsylvania and employs more than 1,200 people. Samuel Adams beers can be found in all fifty states and 20 foreign countries and they’ve added hard ciders (Angry Orchard) and Twisted Teas to their product portfolio.
One big reason we chose to write about a Sam Adams beer is to bring to light a fact that is little known to beer aficionados. A few years back, the craft beer industry was in the midst of a hop shortage due to a major hop storage facility fire and inclement weather patterns. Jim Koch recognized the needs and decided to offer some of his hop inventory to smaller brewers who fell short of their needs via a lottery program. Stone Cellar Brewpub was one of the recipients of those much needed hops. We were short a German style hop that was crucial for our Honey Wheat Ale production and several very popular specialty beers. Even at a time when this particular hop was needed for their newly released Sam Adams Imperial Pilsner, Jim allowed for us to acquire some which allowed us continued production of our Honey Wheat Ale.
FINAL WORD: Iconic and underrated. What American Lagers should be!