The indispensable tool for the Massachusetts adult beverage trade.

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By Andy Crouch
The story of Jim Koch, his Boston Beer Company, and Samuel Adams Boston Lager, is of American success framed through the lens of a constantly evolving beer industry. A former management consultant, Koch transformed his small beer business into one of the largest brewing companies in America. The story behind Boston Lager, and his family’s six generations of brewing experience, is deeply ingrained in craft beer lore.

Boston Beer now runs two small breweries in the city, with its famous pilot brewery in Jamaica Plain and its showcase downtown brewery and restaurant, which opened in 2020. Tens of thousands of beer fans visit the JP brewery, where the detailed tour details the histories of both the company and brewing in this section of Boston.

Change is a constant at Boston Beer, even as it navigates its fourth decade in existence. The company is less known today for beer than it once was, with products such as the juggernaut Twisted Tea and Truly Hard Seltzer now largely defining Boston Beer’s sales growth. In mid-2019, Boston Beer purchased longtime friendly competitor Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales for $300 million. In early 2023, Boston Beer announced something unthinkable: a new flavor for its flagship Boston Lager, the one reportedly based on his family’s recipe. The company took pains to say that the recipe hadn’t changed, just that the “remastered” version would be “brighter,” “easier drinking,” and “cleaned up.”

The brewery recently celebrated its 40th anniversary with a party and lots of beers, both new and old. The festivities included a collaboration with Rhonda Kallman, the current owner of Boston Harbor Distillery and a critical early employee and salesperson for Boston Beer. Together Kallman and Sam Adams brewed RyePA, a rye IPA aged in the distillery’s Putnam Rye whiskey barrels.  Let’s take a look at a selection of offerings from the iconic brewer.

alcohol by volume 5.O%
Boston Lager was always a difficult beer to categorize, even for Boston Beer. At various times, the brewery entered it into competitions as an Alt beer, a Vienna Lager, a Continental Pilsner, and others. This new version of Boston Lager pours a vibrant copper amber hue with a light off-white head with solid lacing. The aroma remains very similar to the original version, filled with toasted malts and some light spiciness from noble and slightly floral hops. The flavor remains decidedly malt-forward, with light toasted notes and slightly earthy hops, that give off a bit of a peppery finish. Most drinkers won’t notice much of a difference with this classic flagship as it cruises into its fourth decade of popularity.

alcohol by volume 0%
Simply put, Just The Haze is one of the best non-alcoholic beers you can currently find in the American marketplace. Many non-alcoholic beers suffer from a recurring set of obvious flaws, including the common unfermented wort aroma and flavor. The NA beers often look the part but fall apart on closer observation. This is especially true in hoppier styles, where the pleasant aromas and flavors hops deliver quickly drop out leaving only a mess of unfermented characters. Just The Haze pours with a light hazy character and a shock white head. The aroma brims with bright tropical fruit notes, including stone fruits, coconut, and mango. The flavor lacks any of the off-notes common in NA beers, with a nice wash of light malt followed by some tropical fruit notes and finishing nice and dry. For a brewery well-known for sparking and leading the high alcohol beer wars of the 1990s and early 2000s, with such bangers as Utopias, Triple Bock, and Millennium, Boston Beer is leading the vanguard of great non-alcoholic beers.

alcohol by volume 5.3%
One of the classic American seasonal beers, the first sight of a pint or can of Samuel Adams Summer Ale signals the coming of warmer months. An American Wheat Ale brewed with a blend of orange, lemon, and lime peel, Boston Beer adds a touch of spice from Grains of Paradise and pepper from West Africa. It pours with a hazy golden hue and a decent off-white head. The aroma hits with touches of wheat, lemon, grapefruit, and a touch of spice. Well-carbonated, Summer Ale achieves a solid balance between the citrus fruit notes, like wheat backbone, and a light bitterness on the finish. A light grassy noble hop character, it’s a perfect beer for a summer day.

alcohol by volume 28.O%
Long the undisputed king of high alcohol brews, Utopias is a monster of a beer. Possessing a dizzying 28-percent alcohol level, Utopias is unlikely like any beer you’ve ever had. Resembling more of a cognac or a tawny port and priced well north of $200 per bottle, Utopias is the ultimate special occasion beer. With a rich tawny caramel color and pouring absolutely still, Utopias resembles a spirit and is often best enjoyed the same way, a mere two or three ounces at a time. The aroma fills with warm alcohol notes, a complex blend of vanilla, unadulterated sweet caramel malt, and oak. Served at room temperature, the first sip coats the tongue with the flavors of cognac but with the velvety body of a thick stout. With its eye-popping price point, Utopias is a beer to be shared on special occasions among friends and family.

Boston, Massachusetts
Samuel Adams beers are available from Atlas Distributing and Commercial Distributing Company