As a brewer and self-proclaimed foodie, one of my favorite things to do is pair our beers with food and I know I’m not alone. In fact, many brewers have a theory about pairing IPAs with food: the bitterness in hops affects the heat in spicy food.
To celebrate IPA Day (Thursday, August 6), we put this theory to the test and I joined the awesome culinary professionals at The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, N.Y. to “study” this theory. My excitement level was off the charts to conduct an official sensory experiment with food experts. If tests at school had been this fun, I’d be back in a heartbeat!
We’re proud of an important benchmark we recently hit at Samuel Adams. This milestone isn’t directly tied to brewing, but it’s certainly beer related. We’re excited to share that 16 members of our Samuel Adams team were recently named Certified Cicerones® after passing a rigorous day-long exam. That puts us at over 100 employees that have passed, with 115 in total!
If you aren’t familiar with the Cicerone Certification Program, it is a program that seeks to ensure that beer drinkers receive the best quality beer possible by designating experts in the field who are well versed in five focus areas:
Beer Storage, Sales and Service
Beer Styles and Culture
Beer Tasting and Flavors
Brewing Ingredients and Processes
Pairing Beer with Food
Much like a sommelier is an expert in wine, Certified Cicerones® and Master Cicerones® are experts in beer who have to pass written and sampling exams to be labeled with this distinction.
Studying isn’t anything new for us though… training has been engrained in our culture from the earliest days of the brewery. Jim believes that the more you know and understand about beer, the more you’ll appreciate craft beer. This passion for beer is why we have robust beer and brewing training programs for our employees (yes – even for the folks in finance and IT) including specific Cicerone Certification Program trainings.
All new employees at Boston Beer, no matter what their role is, start their careers off with a week-long intensive orientation program focused on everything from beer ingredients, the brewing process, beer styles, identifying “off favors” in beer and the reasons why, and even pairing foods with different Samuel Adams beer styles. Need help setting up your home kegerator? Chances are our Account Payable manager in Finance can help you.
Congratulations to our newest batch of Certified Cicerones® and cheers to being passionate (and knowledgeable) about beer! More than 600 of our employees have passed the Cicerone Level 1 Beer Server Exam, so we look forward to adding more Certified Cicerones® in the coming years.
Interested in learning more about the Certified Cicerone® program? Click here to learn more and get started.
This holiday season we have been enjoying one of our favorite pairings: craft beer and cheese. We’ve always appreciated the wide range of complex and distinct flavors craft beer and cheese offer on their own , but it turns out the similarities don’t end there. Brewing and cheesemaking share an intertwined history spanning thousands of years. They have evolved together for so long that they are a natural (and tasty) pairing. We wanted to explore this delicious relationship so we met with our friend Kurt Beecher Dammeier of Beecher’s Handmade Cheese to tell us all about the history of cheese.
Brewing and cheesemaking are both ancient arts and Kurt thinks of them as “cousins of the culinary world.” They are both derived from our earliest attempts to preserve food and drink, and they require high levels of skill, precision and the best ingredients possible to create a quality product. We both realized that while today’s brewers and cheesemakers are aided by advanced machinery, at the heart of our craft we are both still utilizing the same techniques that have been practiced for thousands of years. Brewers and cheesemakers alike are passionate and eager to experiment with ingredients and flavor profiles to create the best craft beer or cheese possible.
Kurt and I spent a day tasting a variety of our Winter Favorites brews and his handmade cheese to find the perfect pairings. There are thousands of flavor compounds from the hops, malt and yeast used in craft beers like Samuel Adams Boston Lager, and we discovered that these flavor compounds provide a variety of flavors when combined with different types of cheese. Boston Lager creates a wonderful marriage of flavor when featured in recipes or infused into cheese, enhancing the richness of the cheese with its subtle Noble hop character and beautiful piney, citrus and herbal notes. After a long day of tasting Kurt’s cheeses and our brews, we finally decided on the pairings we liked best. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it!
We wrote down our tasting notes so anyone can sound like a cheese and beer expert while entertaining over the holidays. But remember, half the fun is trying different craft beers and cheese varieties until you find your favorite.
On its own, Flagship showcases a tangy sharpness, which becomes softer and mellower when paired with Boston Lager. Caramel malt flavor from Boston Lager goes well with similar caramel flavors in the cheese. Hints of nut and brown butter are also apparent on the palate.
This pairing is an explosion of flavor, with Flagship Reserve bringing the crisp flavor and winter spices of White Christmas to the forefront. The beer and cheese are complementary, coming together to provide beautiful citrus flavors.
It’s the holiday season, which means many of us are enjoying the company of friends and family at holiday gatherings. In honor of National Lager Day (clearly the best day of the year), we put together a lager pairing guide with some of our favorite foods that we enjoy during the holiday season. Cheers!
Some people mistakenly think of Valentine’s Day as a “wine holiday,” (we’re using our finger quotes on this one) but we know better. Instead, we think you should impress your Valentine with some excellent beer and food pairings! Chef David Burke and Gianni Cavicchi, the Beer and Wine Expert at Tour de France Restaurant Group NYC, compiled a pairing guide for common aphrodisiac foods and a few of the beers in our Spring Brews Variety Pack. You know, to help make this Valentine’s Day one to remember…
Beef is a great pairing, if not one of the best pairings for Boston Lager; the brew’s upfront malt flavor matches the caramelized flavors of the meat, and its hoppy finish acts as a palate cleanser and gets you ready for the next bite. Another pairing option would be a beer with a darker roasted character like Irish Red. The roasted malts will add depth to the taste of the meat while the effervescence will keep the taste refreshing.
The American and Australian hop varieties in this beer impart bold grapefruit notes and provide a nice contrast to sweeter salmon dishes, while the beer’s crisp wheat malt and subtle addition of apricots and orange peel provide a refreshing complement.
We know, this one may come as a bit of a surprise. When pairing chocolate and beer, rich malty flavors are your friend. The malt character and subtle bitterness from the Noble Hops, complements the malt sweetness in the chocolate. The carbonation also tends to lighten heavier chocolates and acts as a palate cleanser.
Happy National Lager Day! As a brewery that has been loving lager since 1984 (and well before that, channeling the love of Jim’s forefathers), it’s no secret that we look forward to this day each year. Join us today to celebrate and raise a pint of the style that helped give us our start and continues to be our favorite after all these years.
There are only two types of beer in this world… ales and lagers. Everything else is a style that belongs within one of these two types. For those of you not familiar with lager, it’s a type of beer that encompasses a wide variety of styles ranging from light pilsners to rauchbiers to darker bocks. So what links them together? Lagers are fermented and conditioned longer than ales, and at lower temperatures which yields smooth, crisp flavors and allows the malt and hops in the beer to shine.
Our Samuel Adams Boston Lager is brewed with two-row malted barley to give the beer its body and flavors ranging from slightly sweet to roasted, and Bavarian Noble hops which impart floral, piney and citrus notes. We then take an extra step and age Boston Lager longer to maximize and enhance the complex flavor combinations.
CELEBRATE WITH US!
To help you get in the National Lager Day spirit, we’re asking Sam drinkers like you to:
Valentine’s Day tends to be a wine-centric holiday, but pairing beer with Valentine’s Day favorites, such as chocolate, is a great way to take your relationship with craft beer to another level. In case you didn’t have a chance to try our holiday chocolate box, we have once again teamed up with our friends at San Francisco-based craft chocolate maker TCHO to offer a surprising combination that’s sure to satisfy the craft beer lover in your life: The “Love of Beer” Chocolate Box and Samuel Adams Boston Lager.
Beer and Wine Sommelier Gianni Cavicchi of the NYC Tour de France Restaurants put it best when he said, “Just as there’s someone for everyone, there’s a beer to perfectly pair with any food or dessert – it’s all about letting the flavor of one enhance the other.
Gianni and our Boston Brewery Manager Jennifer Glanville have a few pairing tricks-of-the-trade to share as you indulge with the Samuel Adams Boston Lager & TCHO 70% Dark Chocolate:
* It’s actually easier to pair chocolate with a balanced beer, like Samuel Adams Boston Lager, than with wine because sometimes the intensity of chocolate takes over the wine and the acidity in wine doesn’t balance.
* The carbonation of the beer cleanses your palate from the heavy finish of the chocolate leaving you ready for the next bite.
* The malt character and subtle Noble Hop bitterness of Samuel Adams Boston Lager bring out the rich, fudgy flavor and malty sweetness of TCHO’s “Chocolatey.”
Because tasting is always better than reading, and Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, you can order our Boston Lager Love of Beer Chocolate Box here… and don’t forget the six-pack of Boston Lager to share with that special someone on February 14th.
Want to learn more about chocolate and beer? Take a look at this short video featuring Jennifer and Brad Kintzer, chief chocolate maker at TCHO Chocolate:
Most of us here at the brewery know what a great pairing beer and chocolate can be (as we’ve alluded to before), but we thought it would come as a surprise to others who might think of wine as THE traditional pairing. So to prove our point, we came together with our friends at TCHO (pronounced “choh”) to design the Samuel Adams Beer Lover’s Chocolate Box, a gift box that pairs a premium chocolate style with brews from our Winter Classics Variety Pack. (Who wouldn’t want to find this combo in their stocking?)
Truly the best of both worlds.
TCHO is an artisanal craft chocolate maker in San Francisco. They take their chocolate as seriously as we take our beer, so we jumped at the chance to work with them. TCHO’s Chief Chocolate Maker Brad Kintzer and I sat down to taste, discuss and thoughtfully pair our beers with their wide variety of chocolates.
Comparing both of our respective crafts, Brad and I were amazed by the similarities in the chocolate making process and the brewing process and how complementary the resulting flavors can be. Many of the flavors found in cocoa and chocolate can also be found in beer, and you can really taste the synergy when they are paired together. For example, my favorite pairing (if I had to pick) was probably our Samuel Adams White Christmas with TCHO’s PureNotes™ Dark “Fruity” – I was surprised by how nicely the berry notes of the chocolate complemented the citrus and wheat characters of the ale.
As many of you know, this is not the first time we’ve brought our crafts together and used the incredible flavors of chocolate and beer to enhance each other. Each holiday season we brew Samuel Adams Chocolate Bock, a smooth, rich and dark beer that is part of our Winter Classics Variety Pack, with a blend of cocoa nibs, including Ecuador nibs from TCHO, to impart complex aromas and flavors.
So what makes the pairing of chocolate and beer so good? For us, it’s the malty sweetness and rich flavors of craft beer that enhance and enrich the flavors of rich premium chocolate. The carbonation of the beer also cleanses our palate from the heavy finish of the chocolate. So after each sip our palate is ready for another taste of sweet chocolate.
We think this assortment of specialty chocolates will prove to any foodie that beer and chocolate are the perfect combination. Want to try it for yourself or grab a gift for your favorite craft beer lover? The Samuel Adams Beer Lover’s Chocolate Box is available by visiting TCHO online with limited quantities also available at the Samuel Adams Boston Brewery gift shop. Our Winter Classics Variety Pack is available through December and can be found by visiting our Find a Sam page.
The Samuel Adams Beer Lover’s Chocolate Box includes 12 8g chocolates, and the first 150 orders will also include two Samuel Adams Perfect Pint Glasses.
More and more, drinkers are appreciating craft beer in the same way they would a fine wine (i.e. smelling, tasting and proper pouring). They’re expanding their palates to include full-flavored beers as an alternative to red wine – in cooking, food pairings and gifting. Craft beers, like red wine, are brewed with the finest quality ingredients, yet can be more accessible and approachable, making them a great pairing for many foods.
Below we have outlined two different suggestions for a craft beer versus red wine tasting experience you can try at home. With Thanksgiving coming up in a little over a week, we feel it’s a perfect time to see why craft beer deserves a seat at the dinner table. We’re not the only ones either… take a look at what Black Book magazine has to say about craft beer pairing with “fancy foods.”
For comparing how craft beer and red wine complement beef, check out our suggestions to get you started:
You may notice the upfront malt flavor in our Boston Lager matches the caramelized flavors of the meat, and its hoppy finish cuts through the richness to prepare the palate for the next bite. We enjoy Boston Lager’s lighter and less viscous appeal on the palate in comparison to the Cabernet, which creates a more delicate pairing and allows the flavors to echo the long finishes of both the meat and the beer.
Now move away from a savory piece of beef and try a sweeter dish like chocolate. To get you started with your comparison:
RED WINE: Select a dry, medium-bodied Zinfandel. NYC Beer & Wine Sommelier, Gianni Cavicchi, suggests Bonterra Zinfandel from Mendocino County, California, 2009.
CRAFT BEER: Stick with our Samuel Adams Boston Lager.
When pairing chocolate and beer, rich sweet malt flavors are your friend. It’s this flavor, along with a subtle bitterness from the Noble Hops, that makes Boston Lager a great pairing for chocolate. Beers carbonation can also lighten heavier chocolates and cleanses the palate between bites. Dark chocolate’s intense flavor can actually overpower wine, creating a lack of balance with wine’s acidity.
Where do you stand on craft beer vs. wine for special food pairings like beef and chocolate?
Before you get the wrong idea, this post is not a fluff piece pandering to bloggers in hopes of securing a few positive pieces for Sam Adams. Variety is the spice of life and we know people have a wide variety of opinions on many of our beers and craft beer in general. The community of beer bloggers helps keep the beer industry healthy and dynamic. While we’re always happy to read a positive review, we respect the not so nice reviews and the downright negative ones as well. Honest feedback is the only way to get better at one’s craft and brewers are no different. We take feedback and review however we can get it… beer forums, blog posts and even check-in applications such as Pintley and Untappd. Of course the feedback we receive in a face to face conversation is always the best as it gives us a chance to really dive into the positives (or negatives) of a person’s thoughts of a beer we’ve created.
This brings me to the Beer Bloggers Conference I attended in Indianapolis a few weeks ago. Talk about a passionate group of people who love beer! While my visit was short due to family obligations back in Boston, I had a great time chatting with many of the bloggers in attendance. I loved feeding off their energy as we discussed their favorite beer style, the first Sam Adams they’d ever had, and what homebrew might have been aging back home. I was asked the tough questions too, like if we were ever going to can our beer (Jim’s said that day will come someday, I just don’t know when) and when I expected Jim to “retire” (I can’t envision that day, let alone speculate on when it would happen!)
One of my biggest takeaways from chatting with different bloggers was that drinkers today are more engaged than they were ten years ago when I started. As brewers have become more experimental in what they brew, the drinker has embraced the variety that craft brewing can provide. While I won’t pretend to be the second coming of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, I’d guess the rise of social media has helped seed the growth in engagement. And as the U.S. craft beer industry continues to rise, we’ll likely see the engagement and discussion for craft beer rise as well!
I also enjoyed (as I have many times before) listening to Garrett Oliver’s, brewmaster from Brooklyn Brewery, key note address before we headed off to dinner. Garret spoke about the changes he had seen over the years being in the industry and how brewers are like artists – we all listen to the feedback but at the end of the day we create the masterpieces we want to create. I’ll raise a glass to that! While there is always a time and place to come together and collaborate on a great beer, I agree that at the end of the day you have to brew the styles and use the ingredients you’re passionate about.
Enough blogging… time to get back to the brewery! Thank you to everyone who came up to say hello and introduce yourself. Maybe one day the conference will come to Boston so we can have you stop by the brewery for a beer!
Looking at the level of innovation in brewing today, it is exciting to see so many new ingredients being introduced into brewing. We, along with many of our brewing colleagues, have utilized a variety of ingredients including coffee beans, coco nibs, bourbon, and even human saliva, to make some really interesting brews. However when you look at Germany, one of the pioneering countries for beer, these styles brewed with eclectic set of ingredients are hard to come by (if they are being brewed at all). This is because of Reinheitsgebot, a German beer purity law that was signed on this day (April 23) in 1516.
What is Reinheitsgebot?
Wilhelm IV of Bavaria passed Reinheitsgebot as a proclamation that required all beer in Bavaria to be brewed utilizing nothing more than water, hops, and
Wilhelm IV of Bavaria passed Reinheitsgebot on this day in 1516.
barley. (Note: Yeast would become the 4th allowable ingredient in the 18th century).
This German Beer Purity Law (or also referred to as the “Bavarian Purity Law”) was passed for two main reasons:
Protect consumers from often used, unhealthy ingredients like wild mushrooms, soot, or sometimes animal parts
Limited brewers to using barley malt, which would reserve rye and wheat to bread baking, which held a higher commodity value over beer (if you can believe that!)
However… many people outside of Germany would tell you a different story around why Reinheitsgebot was passed. Some historians claim the law’s main focus was to protect German brewers from competition outside of The Homeland, or more importantly, taxation. Others will argue that Reinheitsgebot “is totally irrelevant.”
So what was the penalty for making impure beer? A brewer using other ingredients for their beer could have barrels confiscated with no compensation if law enforcement felt the batch had used outside ingredients.
Reinheitsgebot was repealed in 1987 due to international protest that it was a barrier to free trade in Europe. Most brewers in Germany still follow the law, though there are smaller brewers popping up throughout Germany that are developing some new styles, but these are few and far between and often still feel the need to hide to avoid criticism. To this day, German brewers believe following these guidelines produces the world’s purest form of beer because it focuses the brewer on perfecting their craft while using limited resources.
Sam Adams and Reinheitsgebot
As you’ve heard (and more importantly, tasted) from us over the years, we take pride in our beer and the Reinheitsgebot law plays into a lot of what we do. Since Jim’s early days of brewing, he’s made it a point to adhere to these strict guidelines for the simple reason that beer just tastes better when you are working with the purest of ingredients. You may have heard us mention Reinheitsgebot during our collaboration with Weihenstephan while brewing Infinium. Many of our brewing styles, including Boston Lager, Boston Ale and others fall in code with Reinheitsgebot law.
Fun Fact: Our Boston Lager passed Reinheitsgebot on November 13, 1985, which made it the first American beer sold in Germany!
So on this day we raise a pint to Reinheitsgebot, a defining moment in craft beer history! No matter the reasoning behind the law, we can all agree it helped lay the groundwork for many of the great brews we enjoy today!
“Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” a classic circular conversation that can be applied to tasting a beer. Which has more importance: taste v. aroma?
The answer: both.
How do I know? It’s my job to help make “sense” of beer flavor.
Consider your tongue a tasting device. The taste buds send signals to your brain and let you know what you are sensing. There are 5 basic tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami. The sensation, umami, is a savory or mouth-watering sensation.
All other flavor sensations result from the sense of smell. Have you ever noticed that when you have a cold eating isn’t as much fun? You almost can’t taste the food. This is because your nose is stuffed and you’ve lost your sense of smell! So when your beer’s aroma doesn’t (positively) stimulate your senses during the evaluation process, chances are your palate will agree.
Here’s a little test to show you what I mean. Grab a Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat. Take a sip from the bottle and notice how the rich cherry flavor permeates your senses. Now, pour it into a pint glass, plug your nose, and take another sip. Hold it in your mouth and think about what you taste. Now unplug your nose and you should perceive distinct cherry fruitiness, perhaps with a hint of honey. Was the experience different from your first taste? I’ll make the safe bet that it was.
Our alcolyzer beer analyzing system, which determines the alcohol content of all types of beers/ciders.
Fancy lab equipment not required. We humans can tell the difference between 10,000 different odors. But often it is difficult to quickly and accurately name the aromas. People who are trained to recognize odors are not necessarily any more sensitive with their nose – they are just better at retrieving names of smells from memory and have a common language for describing what they smell.
While dogs can be 10,000 times more sensitive to odors than humans, an individual human olfactory receptor is no less sensitive than a dog’s. What makes dogs so sensitive? Dogs just have a hundred times the number of receptors as we do.
So part of my job is to help everyone here understand aromas and be able to reliably recall them with a common language. All of this helps us ensure we ship only the best possible beer.
Every batch we send still needs Jim’s sniff & sip of approval. That’s right, to this day, Jim still insists on tasting every batch.
Please feel free to leave a comment with any questions you may have around what we do here in the sensory lab… we’d be happy to help answer them!
Annette Fritsch, manager of Sensory, Research, and Development at Samuel Adams, helped edit this post. She is responsible for all sensory done at The Boston Beer Co., including quality assurance, product development and research. She also leads the technical and scientific team which focuses on research and new product development out of the Boston location. Annette obtained her master’s from Oregon State University in the Brewing Laboratory and is the sensory committee chair for the American Society of Brewing Chemists. She enjoys yoga, rock climbing, and welding in her free time.
The Boston Beer Company is America’s leading brewer of handcrafted, full-flavored craft beers. Founder and Brewer, Jim Koch, brews Samuel Adams® craft beers using the time honored traditional four-vessel brewing process, and the world’s finest all-natural ingredients. With over 30 distinctive, award-winning styles of craft beer, Samuel Adams offers discerning beer drinkers a variety of brews. The brewery has won more awards in international beer tasting competitions in the last five years than any other craft beer brewery in the world.
The Boston Beer Company is America's leading brewer of handcrafted, full-flavored craft beers. Founder and Brewer, Jim Koch, brews Samuel Adams® craft beers using the time-honored, traditional four-vessel brewing process, and the world's finest all-natural ingredients. With over 30 distinctive, award-winning styles of craft beer, Samuel Adams offers discerning beer drinkers a variety of brews. The brewery has won more awards in international beer tasting competitions in the last five years than any other craft beer brewery in the world.