Brewery Name: The Boston Beer Company (Samuel Adams)
Type of Brewery: Retail Brewery
Location: 30 Germania St, Boston, MA 02130
Facebook: Samuel Adams
Background: Everyone knows Sam Adams at this point. They were one of the original “craft breweries” that helped bring craft beer into the mainstream. Forget Miller, forget Budweiser...Sam Adams made it “cool” to drink small-batch craft beer. Since then, they’ve grown into an empire, brewing and selling dozens of different beers and introducing many Americans to their very first beer that doesn’t say “light” on the side (although it’s worth noting that Sam Adams Light isn’t half bad either). Sam Adams made it cool to be a craft brewer, and today’s craft beer scene owes a lot to what Sam Adams started doing over three decades ago.
Growlers: Yep. You can buy growlers in the gift shop. Often, you can get growlers of beer at the brewery that you just can’t find anywhere else (when we went, Sam Adams 26.2, the beer they brewed in honor of the Boston Marathon, was still available).
The Beers: One of the best things about touring the Sam Adams brewery is that it ends with a tasting. And I don’t mean they pour you a pint of Boston Lager and call it a day. They sit you down (if it’s nice weather--and it was for us--they even bring you outside to their beer garden) and walk you through what beer tasters look for in a beer, and how they judge them. It’s very cool experience that adds an educational component to the whole thing. No one can judge you for drinking too much beer if you’re learning while you do it, right?
Anyway, while Boston Lager is the leadoff beer in their four-beer tasting, what makes this so cool is that they also include a couple of experimental beers. These are beers that the brewers are playing around with, and which might later make it into the regular rotation. When Pete last visited the Sam Adams brewery, he was able to taste a beer that would later go on to become the first beer in Sam Adams’ lucrative Rebel IPA series--now a staple in beer stores throughout the country. This time, we were able to taste:
Boston Lager: The classic. The beer that started it all. It’s hard to go wrong with Boston Lager. It’s a drinkable and enjoyable staple, and you’ll rarely find a moment where there isn’t at least a six-pack in my fridge. There are other Sam Adams beers that I like better, but there aren’t many that are as versatile. It’s a gameday beer, it’s a barbecue beer. It’s a summer beer, it’s a winter beer. It’s just solid across the board.
Summer Ale: I’ve consumed a lot of Summer Ale over the years, and it always seems to find its way into my cooler come summer. It’s got a lemony sweetness to it that makes it a drinkable beer even for people who don’t usually drink beer, and those that do drink beer will find it a sweet and refreshing beer perfect for cooling down on a hot day.
Berliner Weisse: The first of the experimental beers that we had, this was a little bit of a surprise. Kind of off the beaten path for Sam Adams, it has a little bit of tartness that creeps up on you on the back end. Although I admit that I (and I think York, our resident lover of sours) would have liked to see a little more sourness in this, it’s hard to deny that it’s a drinkable beer.
India Pale Lager: With IPAs being all the rage these days, it was pretty cool to see Sam Adams take a crack at a something a little different (besides, Sam Adams already conquered the IPA market with the Rebel series--so why not try to grab the IPL market as well?). Malty in character and surprisingly light for a dark beer, this was an interesting take on a style that not a lot of breweries are making a priority right now.
Vibe: The Samuel Adams brewery offers a different sort of experience: whereas some of the breweries we’ve reviewed have been centered around offering patrons a place to kick back and relax for a few hours, Sam Adams is more about giving you an authentic brewery experience--and really letting you know what Sam Adams is all about.
The earliest tour offered by Sam Adams kicks off at 9:40 in the morning--which turned out to be the perfect time for us, since we met up in the city extremely early. The entryway to the brewery is actually pretty cool. It’s lined with awards that the brewery has won, contains a case filled with old bottles from past beers they have brewed, art made with bottle labels, and so on. It really is a celebration of the storied history of Sam Adams, and that was pretty cool.
The tour itself is relatively self-contained: most of the tour takes place inside the brewing area, where you can see the tanks and equipment used to brew Sam Adams beer. The Boston location isn’t the main brewery, but instead is used to produce a lot of Sam Adams’ experimental and small-batch beers. As the tour progresses, you can see the brewers moving in and out of the area, checking gauges and performing quality control. It’s pretty cool!
During the tour, you’ll also learn a lot about beer. You’ll learn about how beer is flavored, what role hops have in the brewing process, and even get to sample some barley. The guides break things down pretty effectively, and even I felt like I came away from the tour with a better understanding of what makes the brewing industry tick. Fun as it is to just drink beer, it’s also nice to be able to feel like you’ve learned something.
Dogs: Sadly, no. The brewery isn’t really a place to hang out for a long period of time anyway, though.
Price ($ to $$$$$): $$ (although it’s free if you just do the tour)
Food: No, but you can find Doyle’s around the corner, which was the first location to carry Samuel Adams beer.
Final Thoughts: If you go in with the right expectations, Sam Adams offers one of the most unique brewery experiences around. Few breweries are so open about their brewing process--let alone willing to let you walk around the area where it actually takes place. The fact that they offer you a free tasting of some of the newest experimental beers to cap things off is just awesome. So while this isn’t a place to hang out and spend the day, it’s a place worth visiting and a tour WELL worth experiencing. If you’re in Boston, I recommend giving it a try!
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