I enjoy traveling and seem to be doing more and more of it. Whether a trip is personal or business I always try and look for local beer, Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t (cough!, Italy).
Last week I headed to Newport, Rhode Island for the wedding of one of my best friends. I decided to add on a couple of nights in Boston since I was so close (the East Coast is so compact!). And, being in Boston, there was one place I had to go – Boston Beer Company, the home of Samuel Adams beer.
The Boston facility is one of three breweries that Boston Beer owns, the other 2 are in Cincinnati, Ohio and Breinigsville, Pennsylvania. By far the smallest, most of the Boston facility’s production goes into kegs and is distributed locally to accounts from Fenway Park to Doyle’s Bar, the first bar to ever pour Samuel Adams Boston Lager. Boston is also the only one of the three that offers tours.
My tour was led by the very funny Jameson Alcorn. I don’t know if has the same patter for every tour but if he does, he hides it well (he says he gets better as the day goes on. I have to take his word since I was on his first tour of the day). Dry and hilarious, with a wealth of knowledge about beer in general and Sam Adams in particular, Jameson made the tour worth the price of admission (free with a $2 suggested donation that goes to a couple of local Boston charities). Jameson was ably backed up by Sardou Nerette, a former healthcare systems employee who has only recently joined the Sam Adams family. Sardou is very happy with his career change.
The tour began with a review of the Reinheitsgebot, the German Beer Purity law of 1516 which allowed for only hops, barley, and water in German beer. Its replacement, the Provisional German Beer Law, recognizes yeast, wheat malt and cane sugar, too. When speaking of the malt and hops, Jameson passed around samples of several different types of malt (pale, caramel and chocolate) for us tourists to smell and taste along with some hops. Hops for smell only though. Straight hops are not delicious.
After the ingredients review we moved along to the brewing area, which was surprising small. The tuns were beautiful examples; copper and gleaming. As I said earlier, most of the production here is kegged. Bottling, when done, is by-hand. Brewing is discussed, questions are answered and we move on to the drinking segment of the tour.
We taste (drink) three of the many beers brewed by Samual Adams. The first is the iconic Boston Lager (4.9% abv, Hallertau Mittelfrueh and Tettnang Tettnanger Noble hops, and Samuel Adams two-row pale malt blend and Caramel 60), the one that started it all. In 1984 Jim Koch made a beer in his kitchen based on an old family recipe from the 1860s He knew he had something special and built a company based on that beer.
The Boston Lager still holds up. A little malty, a little hoppy. Perfectly balanced. I had forgotten how easy it is to drink this beer, even after a very late night with a friend from the wine business.
The second beer of the morning was the Octoberfest, a marzen-style beer. It lives up to its roots with an abv of 5.3% and a full, malty flavor with just a hint of hop bitterness to keep it clean.
And the last beer was the Harvest Pumpkin Ale (abv 5.7%). Made with over 11 pounds of real pumpkin per barrel you can actually taste pumpkin. There are some pie spices used in the brewing but they show up in the beer as an accent; not overpowering the flavor of the beer.
If you want to check out the brewery yourself, hours and tour times are on the website. I highly recommend taking the train (Orange Line, Stony Brook stop). Even locals have a hard time getting there by car and parking is very limited.
PS A special thank you to Carmine Polisei from Boston Beer Company. It was great!