Sam Adams (and other larger craft brands) are in an interesting place in the evolving beer culture, trying to balance the needs of their regular customers with the fickle tastes of beer geeks. Many of these beer geeks got their start drinking Boston Lager and Sam seasonals, but some shy away from the brand now, and the increased competition in the market has hurt Boston Beer Company’s bottom line. It will be interesting to see how they adapt, I would love to see them brew fewer regular releases and then start a line of experimental/one-off brews to flex their creativity and excite the beer geeks. One of the core parts of the Sam Adams lineup has always been their seasonal beers, Summer Ale, Octoberfest and Winter Lager have represented their respective seasons for as long as I can remember. The one seasonal that has been through many iterations is the spring, they have tinkered with a number of options without settling on one. This spring Sam Adams is doing something slightly different, they are going to have two seasonal beers. In January and February you can try Hopscape, a hoppy wheat beer, while Fresh As Helles, a Helles lager brewed with orange blossom, will be available in March and April. They were kind enough to send me some samples of both, they will be sold on draft and in 12 oz. bottles
Sam Adams Hopscape pours a hazy straw gold with a minimal white head. The scent is mild, some citrus and pine from the hops. You also get some hops in the flavor but not as much as I expected, notes of grass, lemon and resin along with a crisp bitterness. This is balanced by some malt flavor, hints of wheat bread and cereal. Hopscape is light bodied, very easy to drink and not too boozy at 5.5% ABV. The finish is crisp and clean with just a touch of hops lingering on the tongue. I like the idea behind Hopscape, wheat beers can mix very well with New World hops, but I really would have liked more hop flavor and aroma. Hoppy Boston score: 3.75/5.
Sam Adams Fresh As Helles pours a clear bright orange with a solid white head. The scent is a mixture of bready malts and floral hops. The flavor is well balanced with a clean lager drinkability. The malts add touches of biscuits, crackers and bread dough. This is complemented by a solid hit of noble hops, hints of cut grass and herbs along with a crisp bite in the finish. I don’t get much orange blossom flavor, I wouldn’t have picked out the ingredient if it wasn’t on the label. Fresh As Helles has the clean finish you expect from a lager, and at 5.4% ABV you can put down a few. These precise and flavorful lagers are a specialty for Sam Adams, many of their best beers fall into this category, and I’ll definitely enjoy a few of these as winter turns into spring. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.
Previous Sam Adams Reviews: