Friday, June 28, 2013

Samuel Adams is playing catch-up

I think that one of the ways to tell the difference between a beer geek and a beer snob is when you talk about Samuel Adams Boston Lager.  Beer geeks like myself think it's a fine beer.  While it might not be our favorite, we'll never turn it down, and we'll be more than happy to have one at the bar if the only other options are Bud/Miller/Coors.  Beer snobs snub their noses at it.  You know, since it's not a high-alcohol, dark, or heavily-hopped ale, it's not good.  Never mind that it's intended to be a session beer, where you can knock back a few without getting plastered, or drink it as a perfect compliment to just about any kind of meal.  Many beer geeks even got introduced to the world of craft beer through Sam Adams, and I know that for me, it was a regular in my fridge when I first started getting into it.

I've only had one of their beers that I thought was bad, and that was the Cranberry Lambic that used to come in their Winter mix pack.  (They seem to have wisely stopped including that one.)  The Cherry Wheat was much better than expected but not good enough to keep around the house.  Other than that, from their Boston Ale to their Honey Porter to their Blackened Lager, everything they made was a pretty solid example of the style.

Still, I haven't bought a whole lot of Sam Adams lately, no matter which style we're talking about.  The primary reason is that most of the beer I drink is my homebrew.  Still, I like to pick up a little something here and there when I go to Costco (where the beer selection went from decent to crappy to excellent in the few years I've been shopping there).  However, the kinds of things that catch my interest are more along the lines of what a brewery like Stone is doing.  If you're not familiar with them, their most ubiquitous offering is Arrogant Bastard.  I remember trying that one when I was a noob, and while I was able to finish it, I couldn't exactly tell you that it was something that I liked a whole lot.  I tried one again recently though, and gosh darnit but it was tasty.  I've also recently enjoyed their Imperial Russian Stout, Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale, and the Cali-Belgique.  These are all pretty bold beers, and definitely not for the type who might say:  "Oh sure, I love craft beer!  I drink Blue Moon all the time!"  (Nothing wrong with Blue Moon, even though they hide the fact that they're made by Coors, but that's a pretty easy-drinking beer.)  If you like that kind of thing, then Stone is the brewery for you.

There are, of course, other interesting breweries out there, like Dogfish Head, where you never know what craziness they'll come up with next.  The wifey and I had the good fortune to eat at one of their restaurants when we were back East last summer, and I got to try quite a few of their beers.  The food was pretty good as well.

I wonder if other beer geeks are like me though, as we're trying some of the bolder, more experimental styles that the craft breweries have to offer.  I wonder this because I finally bought something from Sam Adams today - my first time in a while.  It was their Small Batch mix pack, which contains a Barleywine; a dark ale with cocoa, chipotle peppers, and cinnamon; a Gingerbread Stout; and a Sahti.  They all sounded interesting, but it was the Sahti that got me to buy the mix pack.  For those of you who don't know, it's a Finnish style, and it's not exactly a style that you see around a lot in California.  I don't know of any craft breweries who even make one.  It's nice to say that even though I live in the suburbs, I have access to many styles of beers from all over the world, but this is the first time I've seen that style.  I'd tell you what I think, but it's currently cooling in my fridge.

Sam Adams has really been catching my attention lately, so it's not so surprising.  Shoot, now that I think about it, I'm lying when I say it's been a while since I bought any, but I don't want to go back and fix what I wrote.  I picked up a six pack of their IPL - instead of an India Pale Ale, it's an India Pale Lager.  Sounded too interesting to pass up, and while I probably couldn't figure out on my own that it was a lager and not an ale, it was a pretty darn good beer.  Aside from that, I've been tempted to pick up some of their other mix packs, as the varieties that they're offering are getting more and more interesting.  At a party recently, I had their Maple Pecan Porter, and I'll be damned if that wasn't one of the best porters I've ever had.  It has me curious to pick up their next Fall mix pack, as they have a Pumpkin Ale in it.

When craft brewers like Sam Adams and Sierra Nevada were starting out, it was good enough that they were making beers that were actually, you know, good.  Seems like now they have to be interesting as well if they want to compete in this marketplace.

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