A Letter from Jim: It’s LongShot Season!

LongShot 2015I’m pleased to announce that the 2015 LongShot American Homebrew Contest, celebrating its 19th year, is now open! For those not familiar with our LongShot contest, this is a special competition we like to host here at Samuel Adams that looks to find and recognize some of the best homebrewers in the country. Each year we choose two amateur homebrewers and one Samuel Adams employee winner to have their beer brewed and distributed nationally. This year we’re introducing a new twist to the competition – we will select one winner from east of the Mississippi River and one from the west, to join the Samuel Adams employee winner in the final 6-pack.

Homebrewing is a big piece of the DNA that makes up our Samuel Adams team. Over 30 years ago I was just another homebrewer in my kitchen, constantly sanitizing equipment and tinkering with ingredients as I worked on my craft. After several batches made their way to the sink drain (happens to the best of us homebrewers), the first batch of our Samuel Adams Boston Lager was born in my kitchen and the rest is history. To this day much of our research and development for new brews are first created on brew systems that are not much different from what you’ll see in an avid homebrewer’s garage or basement.  And I still look forward to each issue of Zymurgy. Read More

Supporting Our BostonStrong Community

SAM_BAA_Marathon_Banner_skyline[2]The Boston Marathon has been a cherished tradition in our hometown for more than 100 years. It is a unique athletic event. There is no winning or losing team. It is open to athletes from all countries, backgrounds genders and beliefs. Hundreds of thousands of greater Bostonians line the race route to cheer for the commitment and stamina of all the runners. It is also a celebration of the city of Boston, personal achievement and communal philanthropy.

Samuel Adams is a proud sponsor of the Boston Marathon.  The race is a part of what it means to be a Bostonian and the holiday, Patriot’s Day, is a uniquely Massachusetts holiday which holds special meaning for us as Americans, Massachusetts residents, brewers of Samuel Adams and me personally.  Patriot’s Day commemorates the beginning of the American Revolution led by Samuel Adams our namesake, a defender of liberty and revolutionary leader.  It was also on this holiday in 1985 that I first delivered Samuel Adams to bars throughout Boston from my station wagon.  I have always thought of Patriots Day as our holiday here at The Boston Beer Company.

Last week, however, we witnessed a series of tragic events and loss of human life. We were heartbroken by the human tragedies that unfolded throughout the week.  Our thoughts and prayers go to the victims and families of those affected by Monday’s tragedy and during the pursuit and capture of two suspects Thursday and Friday. On Marathon Monday, nearly 70 of our Boston Beer team joined the ranks as runners and worked at events along the race course, and we are grateful that everyone from our team made it home safe and sound.  Late on Friday, we raised a pint in thanks to all the first responders, medical staff, law enforcement officers and other agencies for the incredible teamwork displayed throughout the week. We all felt safer because of their efforts and the capture of the second suspect.  It was a little over a mile from my house.  My family and I slept well that night because of their efforts.

Now it’s time to heal and rebuild.

We feel a responsibility to help victims and support recovery efforts in our hometown.  A day after the race, we announced that we will donate all profits from our limited release beer, Boston 26.2 Brew, brewed specially for the 2013 Boston Marathon and served at bars and restaurants along the race course and in Boston.  We will also be contributing the donations we receive from visitors to our Boston Brewery for the month of April.

SA and Greg HillThose donations will go to The Greg Hill Foundation, which was established in June of 2010 with the purpose of responding to the immediate needs of local families that have been touched by tragedy. Greg and the Foundation are focused on helping the victims of the Marathon tragedy and have already provided financial support to nine families, who lost loved ones last week and to several other victims who are in the hospital.  100% of all donations from the Foundation go to help those in need. The restaurant and bar community have also joined with the Foundation, with more than 75 bars and restaurants contributing a portion of their profits from sales last week. I am proud to serve these small businesses as our customers and proud of how our industry has reacted to the needs of our community.

We’ve also heard from a number of friends from around the country, and from as far away as Japan – bar and restaurant owners, wholesalers and other brewers – who are holding fundraisers and providing donations to The Greg Hill Foundation, and ultimately the victims and their families.

Be sure to check back below as we’ll be providing a list of fundraising events around the country so that our drinkers who want to participate in their areas can do so.

To everyone who is sending their generous support and kind words, we thank you.

Cheers,

Jim

UPDATES:

Boston, MA:

MJ O’Conner’s (27 Columbus Ave., Boston) is hosting a fundraising event on Thursday (4/22) for the 100 Club, which provides financial support to families of fallen heroes in Massachusetts. For more information and tickets, click here.

Houston, TX

The Railyard will be running a fundraiser between now and May 28th with the proceeds going to Greg Hill Foundation. They will also be matching the amount they raise.

Lakewood, OH
Join World of Beer in Lakewood on Saturday, May 18th as we takeover 13 taps with a portion of every Samuel Adams purchased going towards the Greg Hill Foundation.

Boston, New York City, Miami:

5 Napkin Burger in Boston are donating a portion of proceeds from Boston 26.2 Brew sales to the ONE fund. At their other 5 locations in NYC & Miami they are donating proceeds from Boston Lager sales.

Chicago, IL:

Tap House Grill (5 Chicagoland stores) is promoting Sam Adams Lager drafts for $2 on Thurs (4/26/2013). $1 from each draft sold will go to the Greg Hill Foundation.

West Chester, PA:

Landmark Americana will be hosting Samuel Adams for a tap takeover on Friday (4/26) and will be accepting donations for The Greg Hill Foundation during the takeover.

La Grange, IL:

LaGrange shoe store The Runners Soul hosted a solidarity run for Boston on Monday (4/22) and ended up at Palmer Place where $1.17 pints of Samuel Adams Boston Lager and Summer Ale were served to show support for the 117th Boston Marathon.

Beltsville, MD:

Old Line Wine & Spirits Bistro is hosting a special Samuel Adams beer dinner on May 2 with proceeds going to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing. Menu and ticket information can be found here.

Palatine, IL:

Durtie Nellies will be hosting a charity fundraising event on May 2 featuring Samuel Adams products and a variety of raffle items.

Columbia, SC:

Liberty Tap Room will be donating a portion of the proceeds from a special beer dinner to the Greg Hill Foundation. Call The Liberty Tap Room ((803) 461-4677) for more details and reserve your spot.

Durham, NC:

Tyler’s Restaurant and Taproom (Durham location) is hosting a fundraising event on May 16 that will include a Pint Night featuring Boston Lager with a special menu with food and beer pairings with a portion of the proceeds being donated to the Greg Hill Foundation.

Samuel Adams in a Can

Sam Can_SketchCraft brewers have debated putting beer in bottles vs. cans for years.  On one side of the aisle, you have purists who think that cans are meant to carry mass domestic beer. On the other side, brewers who see the benefits – a can is lighter weight, blocks out sunlight and enables you to take beer places where glass bottles aren’t allowed.  There’s even a website dedicated to “news and reviews for the canned beer revolution.”

I’m the first one to admit that I’ve been a purist about putting Sam Adams in a can.  I wasn’t convinced that the beer would taste as good as it does from a bottle.  I had flavor concerns based on my own experiences. 

The debate has moved from brewers to our drinkers, and we threw wood on the fire a few weeks ago when word got out that we’ve decided to put Boston Lager in cans.  We saw comments posted to beer forums, mainly from craft beer drinkers who welcome the change.  The feedback on Facebook was mixed and fans repeatedly asked the same question: why?

So I thought I’d take this opportunity to address some of those concerns and explain why we’re making a change.

Why now?

My friends, Dale Katechis and Marty Jones at Oskar Blues, pioneered the process of canning craft beers, and I’m grateful for their early ingenuity. They took a chance when many brewers, including myself, stuck to using good ole’ glass bottles.  Over the years, as can technologies continued to improve, more and more craft brewers decided to offer their beer in cans.

I knew that when I took this leap of faith, I wanted to do it in a way that would be true to Sam Adams.  So two years ago we put together a team including our brewers and an industrial design firm to see if there was any way to improve the standard beverage can for the taste of a full flavored beer like Samuel Adams Boston Lager.

To me, the standard beverage can is sort of like the standard pint glass. It works just fine and is familiar and reliable. But, as the generic option, it may not be the best choice for a more flavorful beer. Eventually, we brought in sensory experts to validate our new can design. The goal: to develop a new can design that would give our drinkers the best tasting Sam Adams in a can. The result of several years of research and testing is a new design, which we’re calling the Sam Can.

What’s the benefit of a can?

Ask any craft brewer that puts their beer in cans and they’ll tell you the same thing.  First and foremost, you can take cans to places where bottles can’t go like the beach, hiking, golfing, boating and BBQs.  Cans also protect the liquid from sunlight and oxidation which can compromise the flavor of the beer.

What’s different about this can?

The new can design aims to provide a drinking experience that is a little closer to the taste and comfort of drinking beer from a glass. What you’ll notice:

  • The larger, wider lid helps open your mouth allowing for more air flow during the drinking experience.
  • The can opening is located slightly farther away from the edge of the lid, placing it closer to the drinker’s nose to help accentuate the hop aromas.
  • The hourglass ridge creates turbulence (like our patented Perfect Pint glass) which “pushes flavor out of the beer” and the extended lip places the beer at the front of your palate to maximize enjoyment of the sweetness from the malt.
The larger, wider lid helps open your mouth allowing for more air flow during the drinking experience.

The larger, wider lid helps open your mouth allowing for more air flow during the drinking experience.

All of these aspects of the new can work in concert to allow more airflow – and most importantly aroma – which enhances the flavor of the beer (have you ever tried tasting food when you’re stuffed up and can’t smell it?).

Our new can design required a million dollar investment in special equipment tooling along with time, research and testing.  We think that the difference will be a subtle but noticeably better drinking experience than the standard beverage can.  The Sam Can Is probably less of an improvement over the standard beverage can then our Perfect Pint glass is over the standard pint glass. It may seem a little crazy to make that kind of investment, but we felt the small improvement in the drinking experience was worth the expense.  We make decisions based on the beer, not on the bottom line.

Why are so many people down on cans?

There are a lot of myths out there about putting craft beer in cans.  We’re not the only ones that have faced it.  Other brewers, like our neighbor down the street, Harpoon Brewery, also took to their blog and ably addressed some of the top myths that drinkers raised when they announced they were installing a canning line.

But at the end of the day, the choice is up to you and your personal preference.  And as brewers, we work hard to bring you options.  Don’t get me wrong, if I had the choice, I’d always opt for drinking craft beer out of a glass.  But sometimes that isn’t an option – like when you’re backpacking, playing golf, or on a boat.  For those occasions, the Sam Can is an option.

When will we see the new can?

We’re currently in the process of installing a new canning and hope to conduct a test run within the next couple of weeks.  If all goes well, the plan is to release Boston Lager and Summer Ale in cans early this summer.  Our fingers are crossed.

The Paradox of Popularity…

Unless you’re a brewer you probably missed the “Beer Advocate” thread last week bashing several craft breweries for being over-rated. Seemed to me the criticism was really about popularity not quality. Today’s craft beer lovers are on a hunt to discover the next new thing and, as brewers, most of us are trying to create interesting new beers.  That’s great – we all love making new beers – but that doesn’t mean that an established and successful beer is any less great because it’s been around for a while and has attracted a big following.

My friend Sam Calagione was one of the targets. I’ve known Sam a long time, and I’ve brewed beside him, so I know how innovative he is, and how committed he is to quality brewing. Dogfish Head beers are terrific. Period.  The sales of Dogfish Head have grown because the beer is crazy good.  Period.  No true lover of craft beer should have a problem with his success, in my honest opinion.Someone else dissed him because he had a TV show about his brewing adventures and his brewery.   Hey, Sam happens to be a very interesting and engaging guy.  And he works his ass off.  Because he has the energy and drive to get himself and DFH on the Discovery Channel, he has done all craft brewers a service. He was also promoting all craft beer through his efforts.  I thank him for doing that.  And if that means he was taking craft beer to the masses, more power to him. 

I remember, and survived, the years when craft beer was this odd little corner of the beer cooler visited only by homebrewers and crazy beer geeks that everyone else ignored.  That might sound cool and romantic.  Actually, it sucked.  It was hard to stay in business and many of the early craft brewers didn’t make it.  I think it’s great that craft beer has entered the beer drinker mainstream.  Craft beer has become popular today because craft brewers are making great beer.  I don’t know of any craft brewer who succeeded by selling out and making crappy beer.  I can think of some who failed by neglecting to make great beer.  Can I offer you a Pig Pounder?  Or a Brewski?

I took some offense myself from one lengthy post saying that Sam Adams used to be a great beer until they grew and started using cheaper ingredients and the quality slipped.  That pissed me off because it couldn’t be further from the truth.  I should know since I still select those ingredients.  Let me give you one example.  When we were much smaller, we selected our hops after the larger brewers had already made their selection, we accepted the same growing practices that everyone else did; we processed the hops in an industry standard procedure, etc.  Today, we’re the largest buyer of noble hops in the world.  So we select our hops first.  We’re important enough to our farmers to ask them to keep those hops on the vines longer to maximize the aromatic oils we want for Boston Lager.  We have a proprietary pelletizing process that requires freezing the hops down to forty degrees below zero to preserve the integrity of the lupulin glands. We couldn’t do those things when we were tiny.  Things like these may not be cool and cute but they do make better beer. I could go on and that’s just the hops.  And the same thing goes for other craft brewers.  Ask any craft brewer if his or her quality has improved or has declined as he or she got bigger or more established.  I know what the answer will be.

Brewing Savor Flowers in 2011

The fact is that it’s possible, even admirable, to grow beyond tiny while improving your quality. Sam Calagione did it, and I believe Sam Adams has done it. I think Samuel Adams Boston Lager is better today than it was in 1984 or 1995. And I think 60 Minute is better today than ever.  Thanks, Sam.

I remember losing a high profile Boston restaurant account in 1985. The chef/owner was upset because we had gotten “too big”.  At that point we were in eighty places in the entire world.  To him, that was too big. I realized that some people will judge you primarily on your size and availability, not on whether you make great beer.  So I decided to ignore people like that and grow anyway.  To me, great beer comes from the quality of the ingredients and the recipe, and the skill, passion and commitment of the brewer.  When I lose that passion and commitment, I’ll stop making beer.  It hasn’t happened yet.

We’re lucky to be in the middle of a big growth curve for craft beer and I’m glad to see the growth. Many brewers have worked very long hours for many years to get us to this place. Let’s appreciate the category’s growth instead of taking aim at honorable, independent brewers just because their beers have become well known or widely admired.