Eat, Drink Beer, and Be Married

Brewlywed_JIMThe beer has been brewed. The justice of the peace has been booked. And Jim is working on his best man toast. It’s time for Samuel Adams Brewlywed Ale.

Last summer we celebrated the tradition of brewing for weddings with Brewlywed Ale, a Belgian-style “bride ale” available one-day only at our Boston Brewery. And on June 26th, we’re inviting everyone back once again for the chance to get their hands on this year’s batch, available for purchase exclusively on this day at the brewery. We’ve brewed just 300 cases of this 750mL cork-caged specialty beer so if last year is any indication, people will be lining up early for their chance to purchase a bottle or a couple of cases. Read More

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.

New Albion Ale Has Arrived!

January marks the beginning of another exciting year of brewing for Samuel Adams with many new releases scheduled, but perhaps none more exciting than the return of New Albion Ale! First brewed almost 40 years ago by Jack McAuliffe, a Navy veteran, this American Pale Ale was the product of Jack’s desire to replicate the quality, great tasting beers he had enjoyed while serving in Scotland and other parts of Europe.New Albion 6Pack & Pint

Brewed solely with American Cascade hops (why? Because that was all that was available to Jack at the time), New Albion Ale is a golden American Pale Ale that holds a distinct citrus hop note and subtle piney character. A delicious brew, it’s no wonder New Albion Ale inspired so many of the Pale Ales we drink today. In case you missed it, checkout the video from our brewing day with Jack back in July.

In 1976, Jack McAuliffe was quietly starting the American craft beer revolution when he opened the New Albion Brewing Company in a former agriculture warehouse in Sonoma, CA. Jack’s first brew, New Albion Ale, is the original “micro-brewed” beer that started it all. When he got started, no one was selling small-batch brewing equipment. So Jack (a skilled engineer who studied physics and became an engineer after his Navy days) built a three-level brew house of 55 gallon drums that utilized nature’s most accessible energy source: gravity. Jack would lug all the ingredients he needed up a ladder (including heavy bags of hops and malt) to the top level where he would start his brew. The entire brewing operation was homemade, including the copper tube cooler that Jack made and utilized gravity to move the brew through the different brewing vessels. Primary fermentation was in four open drums; which was kept in an air conditioned room. After five to seven days, the beer was racked into 55 gallon drums on their sides with little fermentation locks.

After the beer had settled (typically another week or two), Jack would hand-pump the beer into a ‘bottling tank’ where it sat before bottle filling and cap crowning, which as you guessed it, was done by hand. For the six years Jack was brewing, he remained close to his passion by creating a loft above the brewery floor for eating and sleeping.

Jim and Jack look through vintage New Albion artifacts.

Jim and Jack look through vintage New Albion artifacts.

As for the name New Albion, you have look back to the late 1500’s of British history for an answer. While exploring the west coast of North America on his ship (the Golden Hinde), Sir Francis Drake landed on what is believed to now be northern California. Drake claimed the land for England and named it Nova Albion. As Jack recalls the time in history, almost 300 years after Drake landed, an Englishman established the Albion Brewery in San Francisco (better known today as Bayview-Hunters Point) because of a strong water source found on-site. So when you look at your New Albion bottle or 6-pack carrier, you’ll notice the label (the original design to what Jack used) displays the Golden Hinde departing the now San Francisco Bay area.

Unfortunately like many start-ups in the late 70’s/early 80’s, Jack was forced to close New Albion in 1982 because he could not obtain the additional financing needed to expand his operation. The U.S. was in an economic downfall and the idea of lending money to a craft beer brewer (the first of his kind at that) was unspeakable. As Jack recalls it, banks just didn’t understand what he was doing… they couldn’t wrap their head around the idea of a small brewery. (My, how the times have changed…)

But this month marks the return of New Albion Ale and we’re excited to share this historic brew with you. We used the same malt, hop, and even the same yeast strain (thanks to University of California – Davis, who preserved Jack’s yeast strain profile) to recreate this brew to its original form. We hope you enjoy it (be sure to check out our Find a Sam page to help you find some near you), and when you’re enjoying remember that you are truly tasting a piece of craft beer history! Cheers!

 

New Albion Profile:

Style:                American pale ale

Malt Varieties:   Two-row pale malt blend

Hop Variety:      American Cascade

IBUs:               30

Color:               Deep golden / 9 SRM

Alcohol:            6.0% ABV

Yeast:              New Albion ale yeast

First Brewed:    1976; rebrewed for the first time in 2012

Availability:       Limited Release starting January 2013. Find New Albion Ale near you by visiting our Find a Sam page.

 

5-Step Appraisal:

Appearance:  Deep gold
 
Aroma:  Subtle malt character with the pleasant citrus-floral notes from Cascade hops
 
Flavor:  Upfront cereal and malt notes with a spicy, fruity, and light pine character; clean but moderate bitterness
 
Mouth feel:  Medium-bodied
 
Finish:  Finishes with a little sweetness from the malt and a lingering citrus-orange, floral, and spicy hop flavor

Raising a Pint to Beer Bloggers

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!

Until then…Cheers!

Looking Back on SAVOR 2012

After a few weeks of catching up on operations here at the brewery, I’ve finally found a couple minutes to jot down some thoughts about the endless food and beer wonders at this year’s SAVOR event. For those not familiar with SAVOR, it’s a beer festival unlike any you may have attended before. As the website describes, SAVOR is a “must-attend for craft beer aficionados and foodies alike” and as an avid fan of both, this event definitely lives up to the description. SAVOR takes place in the beautiful National Building Museum in Washington D.C. (again, this isn’t your everyday beer festival) and 75 breweries are there pouring their brews with appetizers that compliment each style. The food and beer combinations that come together never cease to impress me and they seem to get better each and every year (I’ve been each of its five years of existence). You may recall the collaboration brew we released with Dogfish Head Craft Breweryat last year’s SAVOR event.

Grumpy Monk Belgian IPA paired with Burrata on toast with arugula pesto and lemon zest.

Events like SAVOR exemplify the fusion of these two movements and demonstrate the boundless creativity in the craft beer community. I frequently tell friends who want to jump into cooking with beer, the flavors offered from beer are much more complex than wine and there really is no way to make a dish unpalatable because of the addition of beer. I can honestly say I’ve never created a dish with beer that I didn’t enjoy. Sure recipe tweaks and changes are a part of being a good cook, but removing beer as an ingredient is never an option for this cook. I knew I was onto something when my friends started planning what they were drinking on a Sunday afternoon during football season based on what I was cooking. Trust me, if you knew this crew, you’d understand how proud a moment it was.

This year I wanted to bring an array of  flavors to SAVOR for attendees to try. We brought our Samuel Adams® Grumpy Monk (from our IPA Hop-ology variety pack) because of its unique contrasting flavors between its spicy clove & fruit notes of Belgian yeast and hoppy bitterness of an IPA. Grumpy Monk was paired with Burrata (a fresh Italian cheese) on toast with arugula pesto and lemon zest which helped cleaned a drinker’s palate with every sip. We also brought a beer that is special to me, Samuel Adams® Oyster Stout, which is brewed with actual oyster’s (15 pounds to be exact) from Wellfleet, Massachusetts, a popular vacation destination where I spent my summers since I was old enough to remember. The roasted flavors with a hint of saltiness in this dry stout were paired with prosciutto wrapped in grilled asparagus and shaved manchego to create an excellent balance in flavors.

Among other brewers in attendance, here are a few (of the many great) pairings that stuck out to me:

  • Smoked Vienna Lager from Bell’s Brewery Inc. (Paired with Duck confit taco, queso fresco, pickled cherry)
  • Indra Kunindra from Ballast Point Brewing Company (Paired with Coconut macaroon, whipped crème fraiche and lemon zest)
  • Highway 78 Scotch Ale aged in Scotch Barrels from Stone Brewing Company (Paired with Butterscotch cheesecake)
  • Noble Rot from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery (Paired with Warm Maryland Blue crab; shaved cauliflower curry; pickled grapes and lavosh cracker)

Our Brewery Ambassador Coordinator Adam and Jim share a laugh at this years SAVOR.

Hopefully, this has helped whet your appetite for all that’s possible with food and beer combinations. I can’t stress enough how easy and fun cooking with beer can be and the amount of variety that beer offers as an ingredient. They key to success (at least for me) is a love of beer and food, a creative imagination, and no fear of failure.

I’ll be sure to check back in with some fun pairings I’m working on… especially during football season!

Cheers!

A Science we Enjoy: Hop-ology

You may know that each year, Jim and our brewing team make a pilgrimage to Bavaria to hand select the hops that will be used in Boston Lager. However, our curiosity and obsession with hops doesn’t end there as we’ve been experimenting with many newer varieties of late which led us to explore new and different combinations of beer styles and regional hop varieties.

In 2011, we rolled out a limited-edition Latitude 48 IPA Deconstructed pack.

Last year, we brewed a limited-edition Latitude 48 IPA Deconstructed pack, which featured two beers each featuring one of the five varieties of hops (Hallertau Mittelfrueh from Germany; East Kent Goldings from England; and Ahtanum, Simcoe, and Zeus from Washington state’s Yakima Valley).  Tasting these 5 beers side by side was a great way to experience just how much impact different varieties of hops can have on the taste of a beer.

This year, we’ve taken that exploration in different direction. Our IPA Hop-ology variety pack is a hop lovers dream. Each IPA in this package takes the wonderful hop character that is familiar and builds upon it with layers of complex flavors inspired by unique combinations of ingredients and/or fusion with other beer styles.

Hop-ology is perfect for getting together with fellow hop heads and sampling the entire line and the spectrum of flavors available in IPAs today. Brews included in IPA Hop-ology, in the order we recommend sampling:

Whitewater IPA (5.8% ABV • 60 IBUs • 14 SRM) – This hazy & flavorful brew fuses two styles with a twist of our own. We brought together the crisp wheat, citrus orange peel, and spicy coriander of a white ale with the big hoppy grapefruit notes of an IPA. Our addition of apricots brings the combination to a new level creating a slight sweetness to balance the hops.

Grumpy Monk Belgian IPA (5.7% ABV • 55 IBUs • 10 SRM) – A spirited reinvention of a Belgian tradition. To the monk’s dismay, their long held traditions can be broken. We reimagined the distinctive spicy clove & fruit notes of Belgian yeast by combining it with the brazen hoppiness of an IPA. The citrusy, piney, and earthy hops are balanced by a hint of malt sweetness for a complex & playful brew.

Latitude 48 IPA (6% ABV • 60 IBUs • 20 SRM) A unique IPA brewed with a carefully selected blend of hops from top German, English, and American growing regions all located close to the 48th latitude within the “hop belt” of the Northern Hemisphere. The intense hop character is balanced by a slight sweetness and full body from the malt blend.

Tasman Red Red IPA (6.75% ABV • 60 IBUs • 40 SRM) – Bold, lively, and a bit rugged. This wily red IPAgets its character from Tasmanian hops that are full of grapefruit, pine, and earthy notes woven throughout the taste. The hops are balanced by a core of roasty malts that provide a rich body with hints of toffee. This flavorful brew is rounded & smooth with a dry, citrusy hop finish.

This years IPA Hop-ology, a limited-release 12-pack of six different IPA styles!

 

Dark Depths Baltic IPA (7.6% ABV • 55 IBUs • 60 SRM) – Dark, fierce, & blustery. Across the cold and brackish Baltic, the English porter was transformed from a mild ale to a dark complex lager that confounds definition. Immersed in dark, roasted malts and a bold citrus hop character, these big contrasting flavors have the underlying smoothness of a lager for a rugged and mysterious brew.

Third Voyage Double IPA (8.5% ABV • 85 IBUs • 24 SRM) – Bright & intense with a vivid hop punch. Inspired by Capt. James Cook whose 3rd voyage made him the first to navigate a treacherous route from England to New Zealand to the Pacific Northwest. We used Cascade hops from each of these regions for a brew that’s citrusy, earthy and full of bold character.

Getting thirsty? Visit our beer finder page to locate these limited-time variety packs near you!

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.