Friday, February 15, 2008

Now what are you going to say about Sam Adams?

I was at the Brickskeller Strong Beer tasting in January when a brewer for Coastal/Dominion, in fact only four months with them, got up to speak. An audience member seemed almost gleeful to interrogate and castigate him about the Anheuser-Busch connection.

And this of someone who had nothing to do with the sale and who was just happy to be making good beer.

The audience hissed the interrogator down.

But now, think of the messianic animus tossed Jim Koch's way. He's the owner of the 'sell-out' Boston Beer Company, makers of Sam Adams. And then, read this, posted on the brewery's website:

For a couple of months now, we’ve all been facing the unprecedented hops shortage and it’s affected all craft brewers in various ways. The impact is even worse on the small craft brewers--openings delayed, recipes changed, astronomical hops prices being paid and brewers who couldn’t make beer.

So we looked at our own hops supplies at Boston Beer and decided we could share some of our hops with other craft brewers who are struggling to get hops this year. We’re offering 20,000 pounds at our cost to brewers who need them.

Specifically, we are able to spare 10,000 pounds of East Kent Goldings from Tony Redsell, a top English grower featured by Michael Jackson in Michael Jackson’s Beer Companion (page 75 has a picture) and 10,000 pounds of the German Noble hop Tettnang Tettnanger from small farms in the Tettnang region in Germany. These are both type 90 pellets from the 2007 crop and are the exact same hops we brew our own beers with.

We’re not looking to make money on this so we’re selling them at our cost of $5.72 a pound plus $.75 a pound to cover shipping and handling for the Goldings and $5.42 per pound plus $.75 a pound to cover shipping and handling for the Tetts. They’re packed in 22# foil bags, boxed four bags to a box in 88 lb. boxes and will be shipped from cold storage.

The purpose of doing this is to get some hops to the brewers who really need them. <...>

We hope this makes brewing a little easier for those hardest hit by the hop shortage.

Samuel Adams® Hop Sharing Program


  1. I've always been fascinated with the early animus towards Jim Koch.! He didn't brew his own beer; he contracted another brewer to make it and used his money to nuture the other important components of good beer...distribution and marketing.

    This smudge campaign went on for years until he startd to win a couple of awards at the GABF. Of course that wasn't good enough and the rumors started circulating that he had bribed or stacked his way to the winner's circle.

    Now I have my theories where all this purism began, who subtley insinuated that Koch's way was the wrong way, but I do know this...when he started advertising in all the Papazian/BA/Zymurgy/New Brewer rags, suddenly he wasn't a bad guy. Hell, hhe was even being quoted in these mags.

    He started the LongShot event for homebrewers and yet still, go over to one of the beer rating sites and there continues to be a lingering animosity towards Koch, the latest being that it's somehow it's his fault that homebrewer Mike McDole’s LongShot winning double IPA couldn't (wouldn't) be made. Forget the fact that the brew uses something like 11 varieties of the more esoteric and unavailable hops; somehow it was Koch's fault. In actuality, McDole agreed with Koch to wait until next year when the hops might be available for the brewing of the IPA.

    So yeah, now how will the geek squad react because Koch's releasing a boatload of hops to brewers? Should be interesting.

    On a sidenote; When I was writing Beer & Food: An American History, I contacted Boston Beer Company to see if I could use a few of their beer/food recipes in my book. Koch's people liked the book's theme and the next thing you know, Jim Koch's writing the foreword for the book.

    What makes this interesting, and to me, shows how open and approachable Koch is, I had the hardest time trying to work with another brewer icon (HINT: West Coast, trolleys)) who was more interested in preserving his place in American brewing history than helping out a broken-down beer writer. Honestly, I never got to talk to him since his staff seemed more interested in me devoting page after page about "him" rather than the theme of the book.

    Koch, on the other hand, embraced the larger scope of the book, beer and food and its place in American brewing and culinary history and didn't try to have me instead write a chapter devoted just to him.

  2. Amen, Bob. I'll be checking out your site soon.

    I wonder if the folk who blacklist craft brewers in which big brewers have an ownership interest apply the same standards to their favorite Belgian and other European beers. I'm given to understand that many European breweries are owned by just a few large beverage corporations.

    However, I have my own issue with Coastal/Dominion, which I don't think has anything to do with A/B: I can no longer buy my longtime standard household quaff, Hop Pocket Pils, and that's a shame.

  3. Jeffrey,

    "I wonder if the folk who blacklist craft brewers in which big brewers have an ownership interest apply the same standards to their favorite Belgian and other European beers."

    And we know who "the folk who blacklist..." are, don't we? It is they who caused the initial friction about Koch and now have the balls to take people off their list of fine craft brewers just because they have the business savvy to work with bigger brewers.

    But when you create these stupid labels and try to pigeonhole brewers into these boxes, all you do is add more divisiveness to the industry. I'm sure, however, that these breweries who were dumped from the "craft brewer" list aren't losing any sleep over this. If you can enlarge your operation, expand your beer's distribution, introduce your product to a larger audience, and still maintain the integrity of your product because of an intelligent business deal, so much the better.


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