Here is my take on Sam Adams. Honestly, I generally don't enjoy the taste of their beers. But their heart is always in the right place. They clearly value their craft, and just because I don't agree with their tastes doesn't mean I don't respect their process. Also, they were pioneers of some pretty radical stuff, bringing a lot of European styles into the mainstream American beer vocabulary. Plus, they are independent, so the fact that they have taken a small Boston-area brewery and turned it into a publicly traded company in around twenty years is impressive. They never compromised and never sold out. Their president Jim Koch is a jovial and enthusiastic face in the craft beer industry, and his beers have been responsible for a lot of people allowing themselves to become more adventurous with their palates. I myself owe a great deal of my endless search for new tastes to them. Let's face it: when you don't know much about beer, a honey porter or cherry wheat is pretty mind-blowing. These beers, and several others of theirs, redefined my beer vocabulary and expanded what I thought I knew about beer. So thanks Sam Adams. I'll be sending you the bill for my jaundice medication.
In addition to all of this, many people have mentioned how they are a pretty good barometer on trends. Well, as if to cement this reputation, they are getting in pretty early on one of the hottest (and best and tastiest) trends on the market now: barrel-aging.
The first barrel-aged beer I ever had was Brooklyn Black Ops, a dark, 10%-plus alcohol stout aged in a bourbon barrel, and I would definitely recommend giving it a whirl if you can find it/afford the exorbitant $20 per bottle your local Whole Foods says it is worth. The flavors a barrel can impart are just not replicable any other natural way, and barrel-aging is an art that I am excited to see re-grow. After being mostly lost for decades, the art of barrel-aging inevitably has not been perfected by our generation of brewers, and so I imagine these brews getting better and better as time goes on.
As reported on Wicked Local (come on Boston, you're better than thaaaa . . . nevermind), the Boston Beer company is creating a line of barrel-aged beers cleverly titled the Barrel Room Collection. I would imagine the Barrel Room is filled with old-timey telescopes and that it looks a lot like something out of Myst. Is that just me? Anyway, they have just released the first three beers in the line: American Kriek (a kriek is a beer fermented with cherries that skews sour), the New World Tripel, and the Stoney Brook Red. Additionally they are busting out the fun bacteria and obscure yeast combos to give these beers unique flavors in addition to the barrels. I have to say, I'm dying to try these. Sad thing is, they are only going to be sold in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Colorado . . . . Okay Massachusetts I get, but New Hampshire? Colorado?
I live in NYC assholes. I demand satisfaction.
Conversely, I have no interest in their Utopias collection which was apparently aged in a bank vault. No. I'm just hating. I desperately want to try them. But $150? Let's be real. That's eighty Colt 45's.