Tag Archives: Sam Adams

Sam Adams New England Style IPA and Sam ’76

It has been a rough couple of years for the Sam Adams brand. While their parent company Boston Beer has had some success with their hard cider, tea and seltzer business their share of the beer market has slipped. As big beer buys out craft brands and takes them national and the explosion of small local breweries continues the national and regional craft brewers are feeling heavy competition from both sides. One small but important step that Sam Adams has taken over the last year was re-establishing their home base in Boston. Their Jamaica Plain brewery now features a full taproom, there are rumors flying of another site in progress, and Sam Adams is now the official beer of the Red Sox and Fenway Park. This had led to a substantial amount of positive press and Sam Adams has attempted to keep the ball rolling by releasing a couple of exciting new beers. The first is their take on the trendy New England style IPA, a hazy and hop forward beer with low bitterness. The second is Sam ’76, an innovative beer that is a blend of an ale and a lager. Both beers are available now on draft and in cans (FYI-The Sam ’76 was a brewery provided sample).

Sam Adams NEIPASam Adams New England Style IPA pours hazy light yellow with a solid white head. The aroma is a solid burst of fruity hops. The flavor is also very hop forward, notes of tangerine, papaya and stone fruit along with minimal bitterness. This is balanced by a mild malt backbone, hints of white bread and crackers. Sam Adams NEIPA is light and easy to drink, and at 6.8% ABV, has moderate alcohol for the style. The finish is crisp with some lingering hops. This is a solid New England style IPA, I’ve had better versions, and I’ve had many worse, but you’ll have a tough time beating this price point (~$10 a 4/pk). The big challenge for Sam Adams will be making sure drinkers get fresh beer, if this is sitting around on shelves for months I imagine it will degrade quickly. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Sam Adams Sam 76Sam Adams Sam ’76 pours clear light yellow with a massive white head. The scent is mild, grassy hops and pale malt. Sam ’76 is balanced, light and easy to drink. There is solid hop flavor, notes of lemon, herbs and orange along with a crisp bite. This is complemented by a light malt backbone, touches of cereal and bread dough. The finish is crisp and very clean with minimal aftertaste, sessionable at 4.7% ABV. This is a really nice beer, flavorful and super drinkable. The rumor is that Sam ’76 is going to be a key beer in the Sam Adams deal with the Red Sox and I can see why, I could crush a few of these at Fenway on a warm summer day. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Previous Sam Adams Reviews:

Sam Adams Brewing the American Dream 2017, Sam Adams 26.2, Sam Adams Hopscape and Fresh As HellesSam Adams Rebel RawSam Adams Rebel RouserSam Adams Double Bock, Sam Adams Cold Snap, Sam Adams Octoberfest



Sam Adams Brewing the American Dream

Sam Adams releases a number of variety packs over the course of the year, usually changing them with each season. This month they also released a special new pack, called the Brewing The American Dream Collaboration Pack. This 12-pack features two bottles of Boston Lager along with two bottles each of five new collaboration beers. Each collaboration is with a brewery that helped get their start by participating in the Sam Adams Brewing for the American Dream program, which provides training and loans that helped make these brewers dreams a reality. Profits from this 12 pack will be funneled back into the program to help the next generation of American brewers get started. I was very excited to try the beers in this pack (disclosure: they were provided by Sam Adams). Here are my thoughts on each shown in order of how much I liked them, starting with my personal favorite.

Sam Adams Tea Party SaisonBoston Tea Party Saison: Collaboration with Woods Beer Company in San Francisco, CA. Boston Tea Party is a saison brewed with yerba mate tea, coriander and grains of paradise and fermented with the yeast strain used in Sam Adams Kosmic Mother Funk. My favorite beer in the pack, funky yeast on the nose and tons of flavor from the fermentation, apple, pear, a little acidity along with the distinct flavor imparted by the Brettanomyces. The spices add complexity without overwhelming the beer, and the finish is dry and just a touch tart. A complex but still easy to drink saison.

Sam Adams Oats McGoatsOats McGoats Stout: Collaboration with Brewery Rickoli in Wheat Ridge, CO. Oats McGoats is a gluten-reduced oatmeal stout. A little roasted barley on the nose, and full dark malt flavors, milk chocolate, toffee, espresso. A little bit of herbal hops round out this full bodied but still easy drinking beer. You would have no idea the beer is gluten-reduced, it’s a tasty and flavorful stout.

Sam Adams ThreeNinety BockThreeNinety Bock: Collaboration with Roc Brewing in Rochester, NY. ThreeNinety is a Helles Bock brewed with Mosaic and Hallertau Mittelfrueh hops and named after the distance between Boston and Rochester. This is a super drinkable maibock, crisp and clean. The crackers and bread from the malts meld well with grassy and herbal hops. I enjoyed the beer, but I would have liked to see the fruity Mosaic hops shine through a little more, it would have made it a little more unique.

Sam Adams Time Hop PorterTime Hop Porter: Collaboration with ChuckAlek Independent Brewers, Ramona, CA. Time Hop is a hopped up porter brewed with Zeus, Chinook, Cascade and Goldings hops. Dark chocolate and black coffee notes from the malt combine with grass, pine and lemon from the hops. Smooth, drinkable and not too boozy at 5.3% ABV. I have mixed opinions on this beer, it was a interesting take on a porter with the extra hops, but not what I usually love about the style. Hop-heads might love this beer, for me it was just OK.

Sam Adams Desert KaleidoscopeDesert Kaleidoscope IPA: Collaboration with Bosque Brewing in Albuquerque, NM. A West Coast IPA brewed with Zeus, Cascade, Mosaic and Ekuanot hops. This IPA features solid hop flavor, notes of pine, lemon and grass along with substantial malt, with touches of honey and caramel. I would have liked some more hop aroma, for me that pungent aroma is make or break in an IPA and I didn’t get enough of it here.

Previous Sam Adams Reviews:

Sam Adams 26.2, Sam Adams Hopscape and Fresh As HellesSam Adams Rebel RawSam Adams Rebel RouserSam Adams Double Bock, Sam Adams Cold Snap, Sam Adams Octoberfest


Sam Adams 26.2

There are few things more authentically Boston than the Patriots Day/Marathon Monday holiday. The holiday is really only celebrated in Boston, most of the city has the day off, the Red Sox have the only 11 AM game of the year and a bunch of overly motivated and/or crazy people run for 26.2 miles while spectators drink beer and cheer them on. The day has taken on even more meaning after the events of 2013, and the galvanizing effect that the attack had on the city. It makes sense that a quintessential brewery like Sam Adams would brew a beer in honor of the Boston marathon. Sam Adams has brewed 26.2, a gose with sea salt and coriander, since 2012, initially as a draft-only local release but now also available in bottles. Proceeds from the beer benefit the Greg Hill Foundation, which works to support survivors of the marathon attacks. The people at Sam Adams were nice enough to send me a few bottles along with a sweet glass.

Sam Adams 26.2Sam Adams 26.2 pours a clear light orange with a solid white head. The scent is mild, some bready malts and spice. This is a very refreshing and easy to drink beer without any overpowering flavors. The malts add notes of whole wheat bread, biscuits and grain. The spices are subtle, some salinity in the finish and a hint of coriander. The hops add touches of grass and lemon along with a crisp bite. Gose is traditionally a somewhat sour style (the acidity can very greatly, especially in American versions), but I get almost no tartness here. Sam Adams 26.2 is a solid beer, I could definitely put back a few after running a race (not a marathon, I’m not nearly crazy enough to try that), or even better while I am watching other people run the course from Hopkinton to Boston! Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.

Previous Sam Adams Reviews:

Sam Adams Hopscape and Fresh As HellesSam Adams Rebel RawSam Adams Rebel RouserSam Adams Double Bock, Sam Adams Cold Snap, Sam Adams Octoberfest


Sam Adams Hopscape and Fresh As Helles

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-hopscapeSam 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-hellesSam 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:

Sam Adams Rebel RawSam Adams Rebel RouserSam Adams Double Bock, Sam Adams Cold Snap, Sam Adams Octoberfest

Sam Adams Rebel Raw

I am a huge fan of the show Top Chef, I have watched every season. When I started grad school and was trying to live in Boston on a small stipend I taught myself to really cook (beyond grilling and a few other simple dishes) and I used food TV as a source of inspiration. There are a few types of contestants that always seem to pop up on a Top Chef season. There is the cocky chef who brags about all of their awards and accolades only to get knocked out of the competition early. There is the chef with poor time management who is always running up to the last second and occasionally leaves ingredients off of the plate. Then there is the clearly talented chef who has problems editing themself, they routinely second-guess and overcomplicate their dishes and it’s usually their downfall. This chef immediately came to mind when I tried Sam Adams Rebel Raw. This beer is an attempt by Sam Adams to compete with the popular DIPAs that result in beer geeks waiting in line for hours or following delivery trucks. Rebel Raw is a hop-bomb and is meant to be consumed extremely fresh, ideally within 35 days of the canning date. Rebel Raw uses 7 different varieties of hops and weighs in at a monstrous 10% ABV. It is available as an occasional release to a limited market in 16 oz. cans (the lovely people at Sam Adams were nice enough to send me a sample).

Sam Adams Rebel RawSam Adams Rebel Raw pours a hazy orange with a massive off-white head. The scent is a solid burst of hops, citrus fruit and resin. The flavor is very hop forward, notes of grapefruit, passion fruit, guava, pine and cut grass along with a full hop bite. This is balanced by substantial malt flavor, notes of crusty bread, crackers and caramel. You also definitely taste the booze, it isn’t overpowering but it’s present. Rebel Raw is medium bodied and a sipper by necessity at 10% ABV. It finishes with a bitter bite along with some lingering hop flavor and warming alcohol. This is where my Top Chef comparison comes in, there are a number of things to like about this beer but I think it’s a little overdone, more doesn’t always equal better. If they dialed back the hops just a little and brought the booze down to ~8% I think I would have enjoyed it more. As is it’s good beer with the potential to be great with a little tinkering. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.

Previous Sam Adams Reviews:

Sam Adams Rebel RouserSam Adams Double Bock, Sam Adams Cold Snap, Sam Adams Octoberfest

Sam Adams Rebel Rouser

I love to post reviews of new beers soon after the beers are released, but unfortunately it doesn’t always work out. A good example is the Sam Adams Rebel IPA series. When they released the original Rebel IPA I intended to write a full review, but the timing didn’t work out (I tried it at a bar and didn’t take notes and then didn’t grab a bottle in a timely manner). I was also going to do a big review on all of the Rebel IPAs when Sam Adams released Rebel Rouser (their DIPA) and Rebel Rider (a session IPA) earlier this year, but every time I stopped at a bottle shop they would be out of one or the other. These beers were an interesting change in strategy for Sam Adams. They had resisted brewing a West-coast style IPA for many years and now they have three beers that fall into this bucket. Sam Adams founder Jim Koch tries to focus on brewing beers he enjoys drinking and has been critical of this style of hop-bomb IPAs in the past. I imagine the market for these beers, combined with poor sales growth amongst some of Sam Adams other styles, led to this change in philosophy. I thought Rebel IPA was decent, solid hop flavor but not very bitter, compared to its contemporaries it might be more of a pale ale than an IPA but that’s a minor quibble. I had heard good things about the new beers, especially the double IPA Rebel Rouser, so I finally got to try it and do a formal review. Better late than never I guess. Sam Adams Rebel Rouser is brewed with 7 varieties of hops and is available year round on draft and in 12 oz. bottles.

Sam Adams Rebel RouserSam Adams Rebel Rouser pours a deep orange with a moderate off-white head. The scent is solidly hoppy, mostly citrus fruit and a little pine. The taste is also pleasantly hop-forward, notes of resin, lemon, grass and orange. The hop flavor is accompanied by the characteristic hoppy bite, not aggressive but noticeable. There is enough malt for balance, just a touch of caramel and whole grain bread. Rebel Rouser is very clean for a bigger beer, even at 8.4% ABV the beer goes down smooth without boozy flavor. Overall this is a really well done beer. I’ve had better DIPAs but they are usually much more expensive than this. This is probably my favorite beer amongst Sam Adams new hop-forward offerings. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.

Previous Sam Adams Reviews:

Sam Adams Double Bock, Sam Adams Cold Snap, Sam Adams Octoberfest

Some Thoughts on Sam Adams

Sam Adams Double BockEarlier this week Andy Crouch wrote an extensive article on Boston Beer Company/Sam Adams, their founder Jim Koch, and the company’s place in the current craft beer scene. I highly recommend reading the article if you haven’t (find it HERE), it provides a number of different perspectives on the brewery, it’s history and the changing marketplace. After reading it I have a few opinions to add and thoughts that warrant more discussion.

1. The opening scene in which Jim Koch is berating employees at Row 34 for not serving his beer seemed a little contrived. You can find Sam Adams beers in 80-90% of the bars in Boston, why go out of your way to meet at a trendy local bar that doesn’t serve their beer? That being said, Jim Koch doesn’t come off very well in the scene, insulting the people working at the bar and the beers that they do serve.

2. The people interviewed from Deep Ellum and Lord Hobo about why they don’t serve Sam Adams also come across as a bit disingenuous. The main reasons they don’t serve the beer is that it is widely available, people go to those bars looking for new or hard to find beers, and they pay a premium price to drink them.

3. I don’t understand the obsession brewers have with craft beer snobs, referred to as “hipsters” in this piece for reasons I can’t understand (don’t hipsters drink PBR ironically instead of craft beer?). The people who only care about what is cool and hard to find, and obsess about those trendy beers, actually make up a very small portion of the drinking public. Unfortunately these few people also seem to speak with the loudest voices on social media and beer related sites. It is no wonder that the same people who can waste an entire Thursday waiting in line for a rare beer release also have free time to comment repeatedly on every single Beer Advocate thread. I have an entire post in the works on this, just haven’t had the time or energy to get all of my thoughts in order in a way that isn’t too insulting.

4. I am not sure what the future holds for Sam Adams, but this article neglects to mention that they are not only still making a boatload of money, their profits are growing. You’d think from reading the article that Sam Adams was a dying brand, but the opposite is actually true. Granted, a lot of this growth is in cider/tea (as the article mentions), but Sam Adams is the biggest craft beer brand in the country for a reason.

5. I enjoy many Sam Adams products, Boston Lager and Noble Pils are great and many others are very good, especially when you factor in the price point. I think Sam Adams will continue to dominate the market as a cross over brand for people who want more flavor and complexity than light macro lagers, but are not quite ready for DIPAs and sours. That is a huge number of people by the way, most of the craft beer enthusiasts I know started out drinking Sam Adams and similar beers before branching out.

6. If Sam Adams really wants to make a dent in the “beer snob” market they should take a page from some of their local competitors. Harpoon stays innovative with their 100 Barrel Series, small batches of experimental beers that are always interesting and often great. Sierra Nevada just did their beer camp where they did collaboration beers with smaller breweries from all over the country. If Sam Adams scaled back some of their non-canonical offerings (they make a ton if you didn’t know from their barrage of commercials) and focused on more innovation and collaboration they might make inroads with some of the people who think the brewery is too big to still be considered craft.

Those are my major thoughts and takeaways, happy to hear anything you all have to add!