An Open Letter to Sam Adams Founder, Jim Koch
By: Patrick Berger
According to a recent article by Andy Crouch in Boston Magazine, Jim Koch, the founder of Sam Adams Brewing Company is feeling left out of the craft beer craze. In fact he's downright angry, going as far as throwing a fit at a Boston beer bar for being left off their menu and leaving the bar manager in tears.
You can read the full article here , but if you're reading my stupid beer blog you probably already have. Although I doubt he'll ever read it, I've decided to pen a letter to Jim and let him know what I think.
Dear Jim Koch,
My name is Pat Berger and I'm a huge fan of yours. I've been following you and your brewery since the late 80's when I started home brewing and really getting into beer. Your Boston lager is both drinkable and flavorful with a soft malt background and a spicy noble hop finish. It does an equally great job at accompanying food as it does quenching a powerful thirst on a hot day. It is truly a great beer. As a veteran bartender it was often the Boston Lager I would crack open at the end of a long and grueling shift while I cleaned up and pondered life.
Your contributions to the popularity of craft beer cannot be measured in this short letter. From brewing tasty beer available almost everywhere to your integral part in the formation of the Brewers Association and even sharing hops with small brewers during the hop shortage in 2008. You have truly paved a trail for others to follow. Seeing your commercials back then made me so happy. Finally a beer I would actually drink was on TV.
But before you say thanks, I have a confession to make. I don't carry any of your products at my 2 beer bars. Now before you yell at me, make one of my managers cry and start checking for freshness dates in my cooler, let me explain.
I used to carry your beer at Paddy Long's, my humble temple to beer and bacon here in Chicago. We had the Boston lager in bottles and would rotate in some of your specialty releases on draft. The specialty releases were great. There was a wonderful Nordic Sahti ale called Norse Legend brewed with juniper that I absolutely loved, but alas I was the only one who drank it. Undeterred I continued to put your beer on draft. We poured a wonderful Belgian IPA, a double bock, and even a barrel aged barleywine all of which I thought were world class but people just weren't interested.
I started to realize Sam Adams had an image problem. Now I'm not an expert in marketing like you are but it seemed to me that your beer had become so ubiquitous that it had lost it luster. Apparently you can't be available in every sports/dive/pickup bar in America and still seem interesting when you're on a tap list with the latest/greatest/rarest craft beers around. I know this wasn't your intention but selling more beer than any other craft brewer in history surely was. I guess you can't have it both ways but once again, I'm no expert in marketing.
Then one night I went to grab a cold Boston Lager out the fridge after a long shift and it didn't taste right. I checked the label only to discover that it was out of date. No one was drinking it but me and stale beer is against our ethos so we stopped carrying one of the godfathers of the craft beer movement. I know it's not right but it's reality. I run a business and if a beer sits, we drop it. Although it saddened me, I felt I had no choice.
Beer is the most marketed product on Earth. You know it better than most. People watching you float a bottle cap on a head of beer, huffing hops and swimming in a beer dunk tank helped make you the billionaire you are today. I just wish there was some way to combat Sam Adams current image problem. I don't have a Harvard education like you so I haven't been able to come up with any solutions. I mean how on Earth can you make all of these hipster beer nerds, with their mighty social media followers, start talking about your beer again. I mean you'd have to start some kind of grass roots campaign involving the media that states your case without making it sound like a one of your commercials. Oh wait.......you sly dog, you've out foxed us again.
P.S. If you ever come to one of my bars to scream at my managers till they cry and try to tell me what to put on tap, I'll punch you right in your billionaire balls.