I always imagined Boston would be one of America’s great brewing cities. New England has garnered such notoriety for craft brewing I thought the region’s gateway city would be leading the charge. I was surprised to find out that that Boston, or rather Massachusetts as a whole, is still relatively restrictive in its alcohol laws which seems to have stifled the growth in craft brewing that has flourished elsewhere. Nonetheless, during my short time there I realised the strides that Bostonians have made on behalf of craft beer.
The mighty Samuel Adams. As a Brit it is fair to say that Sam Adams, along with its west coast IPA counterpart, Sierra Nevada, brought the new world styles of beer to popularity in the UK. Boston lager was an unheard of style but landed perfectly to coax my generation, 90s / naughties lager lads, away from Stella and Carlsberg when the only other alternatives were English ales with their old man image. Refreshing, cold and fizzy but also malty and offering a deeper flavour profile: Samuel Adams helped open up beer and made flavour a sought after commodity.
With all that in mind it was a pleasure to pay homage at the Samuel Adams brewery. Local beerophiles I spoke to were somewhat sniffy about Sam Adams and its ‘brewery’. In truth the core range isn’t brewed here anymore, it isn’t even brewed in the state, and the tour is more a basics-of-brewing than an actual brewery tour. But what’s wrong with that? It is presented in an engaging way and your guide highlights Samuel Adams’ place in craft beer history. Founder Jim Koch took the plunge with a commercial brewery in 1984 and hasn’t looked back since.
This facility is where they test new brews and if you’re lucky, as I was, you can take part in a blind taste test to help their R&D. A few small samples and in return you give some touch screen answers on your thoughts… suddenly very easy to overthink what you’re tasting.
At the end of the tour the group shares pitchers of 2 beers, and because we were there with City Brew Tours we got a 3rd. Of course there was the malty ruby red of their signature Boston Lager. We also had a taste of the Summer Ale, a slightly hoppy wheat beer. Lastly I went for the New England IPA, a light and citrusy brew in the New England tradition that keeps it much more sessionable than a west coast counterpart. All very enjoyable, none breaking the current mould but there is no escaping this brewery’s importance for every craft beer we drink today.