Precursor: I am in no way a “beer expert” and I won’t claim to be. I do however know when a beer tastes good and when it doesn’t, and that’s what this post is based on. Enjoy!
Overrated: Samuel Adams Boston Lager
Sam Adams, stop scowling at me and go make a better lager.
Yes, we have all seen the million Sam Adams commercials that run year-round on TV. Jim Koch, founder and owner of Sam Adams, stands there and pretty much tells you that his beer is made with the best ingredients, tastes the best and smells the best. Apparently it’s pretty much the greatest invention short of a cure for cancer. Now, I don’t have a total bias against Sam Adams like some do. I actually really enjoy some of their brews (namely the Summer Ale, Winter Lager and Octoberfest). This one just doesn’t do it for me. One would assume that if they were going to offer one of their beers year round, they would at least pick a good one. Well, they didn’t.
Here is how their website describes the Boston Lager:
“Complex and balanced with a beautiful hop aroma.
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. That unique flavor is the result of a perfect combination of our signature hand selected ingredients and a traditional four vessel brewing process.
Samuel Adams Boston Lager uses only the finest ingredients including two-row malted barley and Bavarian Noble hops. The sole use of two-row barley not only imparts a full, smooth body but also gives the beer a wide spectrum of malt flavor ranging from slightly sweet to roasted.
We also take great pride in the Noble hops we use. They’re hand selected by Jim Koch and our brewers from the world’s oldest hop growing areas. Although they are among the most expensive hops, their unmistakable aroma and taste is essential to Samuel Adams Boston Lager. The Noble hop varieties of Hallertau Mittelfrueh and Tettnang Tettnanger add a wide range of floral, piney and citrus notes, which are present from the aroma, through the taste, and all the way to the lingering smooth finish.”
After reading that description, here are my gripes:
1. I don’t really care how your beer smells. I plan to drink this beer, not snort it. Granted I would rather my beer smell like beer than cat piss, but I don’t think that’s an outrageous expectation. Normally, after beer is brewed, it smells like beer. So you don’t need to go bragging about that.
Side note: I actually went to the Sam Adams brewery in Boston once. They gave us a bunch of free samples and there was this guy on a microphone talking about all the beers. For every one he would ask us to smell the beer and give us this huge back story. By the time he got to “smell the beer”, my glass was empty. Sorry sir, but beer is a beverage, and I put beverages in their proper place: my stomach.
2. As you can see I’ve underling the part above about using the “most expensive hops”. This makes sense, as I now understand why their beer costs so much. Look, I might not be a poor college student anymore, but asking me to pay $20+ for a 12-pack is ridiculous. And if you are going to charge me that much, the beer better be really good. This one is not.
3. The other part I underlined was their claim of the “lingering smooth finish”. I’ll give them this, the beer certainly has an interesting finish, and it’s not a good one. It’s dry. Really dry. I drink beer to quench my thirst, not make myself feel like I just went on a death march through the Sahara. They love to brag in their commercials about this being a great “dinner beer”. Well if I drank a Boston Lager with an overcooked, dry piece of chicken, I don’t think I’d be able to swallow it. This is probably the last beer I would drink with dinner.
So Jim Koch, if you read this, go back to the drawing board with this beer. That or make Octoberfest your year-round offering. Just a suggestion.
Underrated: Kona Longboard Island Lager
If I am reading this correctly, and I think I am, it looks like they give you a placemat with all of their beers to try at once. That is awesome!
If you’ve never heard of the Kona Brewing Company, I highly suggest you check out their website and buy some of their beer the next time you are grabbing a six-pack. Kona is a Hawaiian brewing company that is relatively young, founded in 1995. According to their website, they brew about 13 styles of beer, but I do not believe they are all available for purchase here in the continental U.S.
Side note: Don’t take no for an answer on this kind of thing. If there is one thing my buddy Doug has taught me, it’s this: if you really want a beer, there’s a place that will get it for you.
One of the brews that is offered here in the states is the “Longboard Island Lager”. Below is the Kona website’s brief description of the beer:
“Longboard Island Lager is a smooth refreshing lager fermented and aged for five weeks at cold temperatures to yield its exceptionally smooth flavor. A delicate, slightly spicy hop aroma complements the malty body of this beer.”
That’s actually a very apt description of the beer. The one word I would certainly use to describe this beer is “smooth”. It’s exceptionally smooth and refreshing. It also makes for a great “summer beer” for those of you like me who prefer to not drink something with fruit in it (i.e. Blue Moon, Shocktop) most of the time. As with Sam Adams, it’s not cheap, but in this case I at least feel like I am getting my money’s worth.
According to the Kona website, they mass-distribute the following brews in the continental U.S.: Longboard Island Lager, Fire Rock Pale Ale, Pipeline Porter, Wailua Wheat Ale and Big Wave Golden Ale. I have only seen the first three either on tap or in the grocery store, and I would whole heartedly recommend any of those as they are all excellent beers (side note: don’t get the Pipeline Porter in bottles, it’s much better on tap like most porters).
Kona, my hat’s off to you! Recommendation: send more of your beers stateside! Cheers!