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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Lighter Side of Sam Adams

Sherman on the Mount
By Rick Sherman

Craft Brew, Micobrew, Brewpub. Terminology in any subject can be tricky. Any given profession or hobby has its own insider language that can be somewhat intimidating to the novice. Beer is no exception. First of all there is the distinction between Ale and Lager. What's the dif? (Basically, it's in the yeast. Yeast used in lagers do their wondrous work at lower temperatures. Beyond that, ales tend to be more flavorful and fuller bodied than lagers. But not always.)

Then we have the various styles of beer: IPA's, Pale Ales, Stouts, Porters, Pilsners, Kolsch, Belgians, Wheat, Altbier, Oktoberfest, Brown Ale, Old Ale, Strong Ale, Imperials. Then within each style are various sub-categories: Smoked Porter, Chocolate Stouts, Black IPA's, Cherry Wheat and so on. One can also delve into the merits of German vs. Belgian vs. English vs. American beers (we are not talking about the mega-brewed American beers here.)

Then there are the abbreviations: ABV (Alcohol By Volume), IBU (International Bittering Units), SRM (Standard Reference Method - referring to the color of beer), OG (Original Gravity), FG (Final Gravity).

SRM Chart which designates a beer's color.

It all can be somewhat confusing and a bit intimidating. I have a brother-in-law who drinks nothing but meg brew light lagers who lumps everything else under the blanket heading of "weird beers." ("I don't know how you can drink that shit, it's like drinking tar!")

So what constitutes a craft beer? For that matter, is there a difference between craft brewery and microbrewery?  The American Brewers Association defines a craft brewer as "small, independent and traditional." It cannot be more than 24% owned by another alcoholic beverage company which itself is not a craft brewery. "Small" is defined further as not producing more than 6,000,000 barrels per year. A sub-category of Craft Brewing is the Microbrew. To be considered a microbrewery, the brewery can produce no more than 15,000 barrels per year. A brewpub is one which both brews and sells the majority of its beer on the premises.

But perhaps the most important requirement for inclusion in the craft brew club has to do with the ingredients which go into making the beer. The mega-breweries use corn and rice as adjuncts in place of barley-malt. This allows them to make a much cheaper product, but it also makes for a much less flavorful beer. To be considered a regional craft brewery the brewery must produce and all-malt flagship beer or have at least 50% of it's production all-malt beers or "beers which use adjuncts to enhance rather than lighten flavor."

This month we take a look at some beers brewed by the Boston Beer Company - more familiarly known as Sam Adams. The Boston Beer Company is the largest craft brewer in America. As far as their standing with all American brewers, they are the fifth largest. The top five are: 1.Anheuser-Busch, 2.MillerCoors, 3.Pabst, 4. Yuengling, 5. Boston Beer.

Sam Adams produces an amazing array of styles. Their flagship Sam Adams Boston Lager is one of the better straight-up lagers you'll find and they make a light that is actually drinkable. While these are probably their best selling beers, they are by no means their best beers. Today we'll take a look at what we are calling the "lighter side" of Sam Adams. Next month we delve into what I have deemed "Best Mixed 12 Pack EVER!" as we check out their IPA Hop-ology.

We met this month at the Clarks' place, where the Salmon River meets Lake Ontario. Herb, ever the gracious host, served some Old Marcus fresh from the tap while we awaited the arrival of the rest of the crew. Old Marcus, brewed locally by Middle Ages Brewing in Syracuse, NY, is a favorite of ours, so it was an excellent beer to enjoy before we got down to business.

The selection from Sam Adams gave us a chance to do something we wouldn't normally do if left to our own devices: drink summer seasonals and lighter (but not lite!) style beers. Actually, these beers resulted in some lively debate.

Sherman off the Mount


THE BEER FACTS: 5.3% ABV, 7 IBU's  Style:American Summer wheat ale. Malts: 2-row pale malt blend and malted wheat. Hops: Hallertau Mittlefrueh Noble Hops. Additional stuff: Lemons and Grains of Paradise.
WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: This summer seasonal uses malted wheat, lemon peel and Grains of Paradise, a rare pepper from Africa first used as a brewing spice in the 13th century, to create a crisp taste, spicy flavor and medium body. The ale fermentation imparts a background tropical fruit note reminiscent of mangoes and peaches. All of these flavors come together to create a thirst quenching, clean finishing beer perfect for those warm summer days.

POUR:  Decent head, average staying power, maintains nice lacing

COLOR: Pale Yellow, unfiltered

AROMA: Spice/floral wheat beer aroma. No overpowering aroma

BODY: Thin/light   

TASTE: Sweet, lemony and spicy. Light.

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: "Leave it on the shelf."

COMMENTS: "It tastes like summer shandy; It's definitely a wheat; It is really light; It lacks boldness; It surely is lemony; Not very memorable."


THE BEER FACTS: 5.3% ABV - 23 IBU - Style: Ale brewed with Cherries; Malt: 2-row pale malt blend, Munich 10 and malted wheat.  Hops: Hallertau Mittlefrueh Noble Hops. Additional Stuff:

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: The sweet fruitiness of the cherries is balanced against the crisp cereal note from the malted wheat and the subtle citrus flavor from the Noble hops. A touch of honey is also added for sweetness. The end result is a sweet, refreshing beer that is light on the palatebut long on complexity.

POUR: Moderate head with not much residual lacing

COLOR: Fairly pale yellow

AROMA: Sweet with a definite cherry aroma

BODY: Light/thin

TASTE: Sweet, with strong notes of cherries

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: Most felt they would "leave it on the shelf"

COMMENTS: "It tastes like Saratoga Cherry Soda; My wife would drink this; I'd drink this over the Summer Ale; It's too sweet; Reminds me of the Maraschino cherry on the top of a sundae; Tastes to me of Smith Brothers Cough Drops."


THE BEER FACTS: 4.9% ABV; 34 IBUs; Style: Pilsner; Malts: 2-row pale malt blend, Pilsner malt; Hops: Hallertau Mittlefrueh, Tettnang Tettnanger, Spalt Spalter, Saaz, Hersbrucker Noble Hops.

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Samuel Adams Nobel Pils is brewed with all 5 Noble hops for a distinct hop character and fresh taste. Deep golden in color with a citrusy hop aroma, Samuel Adams Noble Pils is a traditional Bohemian Pilsner. The honeyed malt character from traditional Bohemian malt is balanced by delicate yet pronounced citrus, floral and piney notes from the Noble hops. The winner of our 2009 Beer Lover's Choice election, this beer was chosen by over 67,000 drinker for its crisp complexity and refreshing taste."

POUR: Decent head that dissipates rather quickly, leaving a good lace

COLOR: Wheat

AROMA: Yeasty

BODY: Light/thin

TASTE: Fairly balanced with a nice bitter finish. Tehre are notes of primarily floral and pin from the noble hops in the batch.


COMMENTS: "I could drink that in the summertime; Lights up the mouth; A decent beer; I see it as a lawnmower or boat beer, especially at 4.9%; It has a nice bitter finish; If I weren't a hop head and hops freak, I'd really like it; It's the best pilsner I've ever had; Has a clean finish."


THE BEER FACTS: 5% ABV; 15 IBU's  Style: German Kolsch; Malt: two-row pale malt blend, wheat, and Bohemian pils malt; Hops:Spalt Spalter and Strisselspalt. 

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Light and fragrant, Samuel Adams East West Kolsch has a floral and herbal character that balances the refreshing German Kolsch style. A classic Kolsch is less bitter than a pilsner with a slightly fruity and sweet biscuit note. For our version we wanted to create a bright fresh flaovr by aging the beer on a bed of Jasmine Sambac, a fragrant night blooming flower from Southeast Asia. The Jasmine creates a delicate floral aroma and flavor for a wonderfully complex and refreshing brew."

POUR: A better than decent head, which was fairly white and lingering.

COLOR: Wheat

AROMA: Clean and floral

BODY: Less than medium, but fuller than light/thin


COMMENTS: "Inoffensive; It may quench your thirst; I liked the Pils better; It tastes like a Kolsch; Clean and smooth; If you had somebody who hadn't drunk beer before, you could give them this and they'd like it; Completely balanced; It may well be the best Kolsch I've ever tasted."


THE BEER FACTS:  Samuel Adams' flagship brew - 4.9% ABV; 30 IBUs; Malts: Samuel Adams two-row pale malt blend and Caramel 90. Hops: Hallertau Mittelfrueh and Tettnang Tettnanger Nobel Hops

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: Samuel Adams Boston Lager is an excellent example of the fundamentals of a great beer, offering a full, rich flavor that is both balanced and complex. The unique flavor is the result of a perfect combination of our signature hand selected ingredients and a traditional four vessel brewing process.

POUR: A decent head, decent staying power

COLOR: Golden amber

AROMA: A slight aroma of hops, but you wouldn't say it has a hoppy smell

TASTE: Just below medium

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: "I could drink this!"

COMMENTS: "It's the old stand-by at many restaurants; An excellent lager; One of the better lagers you're going to get; There's sweetness in this; It is enjoyable, And that's saying a lot! (considering we're talking about a lager)."


THE BEER FACTS:  4.2% ABV; 16 IBUs; Style: Belgian Pale Ale; Malts: Samuel Adams Two-Row Pale Malt Blend, Gambrinus Honey Malt; Hops: Hallertau Mittlefrueh Noble Hops, Hersbrucker, and Strisselspalt.

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Samuel Adams Belgian Session takes a traditional Belgian beer and brews it with a twist to create a crisp, lighter version of this classic style. Thsi limited-release is specially brewedto be light and refreshing for the summer. Fruity, slightly spicy flavors from the Belgian yeast are balanced by toffee and caramel notes from our blend of malts. The hops contribute a citrus character that rounds out this enjoyable brew."

POUR: A decent off-white color head

COLOR: honey

AROMA: spicy

TASTE: Spicy - probably cloves, and notes of bread

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: Toward the "Leave it on the shelf" end.

COMMENTS: "Why do they put coriander and cloves in beer? It's like a dessert beer; Granny Apple pie and a Belgian Session; There's something a little different here, like fresh linen; I like the label; There's a little cherry back-taste - like a dark black cherry; It's better than Cherry Wheat."


As any reader of this blog knows, lighter beers, fruit beers, wheat beers are not really our pints of choice. We like hops, and lots of 'em. 
~Not surprisingly, our overall favorite of Sam's lighter side was the Nobel Pils. Everyone felt it had a nice hop punch to it that put it several notches above your average Pilsner (in our collective humble opinions). 
~We enjoyed the East-West Kolsch and thought it would be a pretty decent session beer and one of the better examples of the Kolsch style. 
~Samuel Adams Lager is always a fine "standby beer." We all agreed that it was by far superior to any other straight-up lager (think A-B and Miller/Coors flagship beers) in that it actually has flavor and some hops presence. 
~ The Summer Ale was a pretty typical summer ale - lemony and light. Not a beer for us, but many people like this style and it is very popular.
~ Ditto with the Cherry Wheat. Some actually preferred this to the Summer Ale. Again, as mentioned, I have known people who absolutely love this beer. I am not one of them.
~The Belgian Session was also not one we would seek out. Again that dreaded word: light! We like craft beers because they are NOT light. But of the three that scored "Leave It On The Shelf," this was the one we'd be most likely to pick up.

Up Next Samuel Adams Hop-Ology IPA Mix

Two words: Oh boy!

The BOTB Guys

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