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Monday, January 29, 2007

December 2006 - Sam Adams Winter Pack

For this months Memphis Beer club we are going with one of the great "craft" breweries in the United States, Boston Brewery. I'm sure everyone has heard the story about Jim Koch raise to fame brewing his Great-Great father's beer recipe. Boston Lager was introduced on Patriot's Day in 1985. Patriot’s Day was traditionally observed on April 19, in honor of Lexington and Concord, the first battles of the American Revolutionary War. However, like everything else, in 1969 the government moved it to the third Monday in April to provide a 3 day long-weekend. Three months later Sam Adams Boston Lager was named the best beer in the United States at the Great American Beer Festival.

This award was right about the time the "Craft Brewing" was making a come back and by 1995 there were over 600 craft brewers. That number of has increased every year and is closer to 2,400. In 2006 the Boston Beer Company produced 10 varieties of beer year-round: Boston Lager*, Sam Adams Light, Boston Ale, Pale Ale, Cherry Wheat, Cream Stout, Brown Ale, Hefeweizen, Scotch Ale, Black Lager* and Utopias. It also brews five seasonal beers: Double Bock (Jan - Mar), White Ale (Jan - Mar), Summer Ale (Apr - Aug), Oktoberfest (Aug - Nov) and Winter Lager* (Nov - Jan). In addition Samuel Adams also produces a winter pack that includes Old Fezziwig Ale*, Holiday Porter* and Cranberry Lambic*. (* beers tasted this month). The winner of the 2006 Beer Lover's Choice award is the Honey Porter and will be available in the Brewmaster's Collection in 2007.

In the summer of 2006 Sam Adams releases a Brewer Patriot collection that included four beers that 'Honor the Fine Tradition of American Brewing of our Founding Fathers' which include the Traditional Ginger Honey Ale, James Madison Dark Wheat Ale, George Washington Porter and 1790 Root Beer. I bought three of these Patriot Packs over the holiday and I'm looking forward for the right night for a small tasting.

Now let’s talk about the beer. We had all had some of these beers from Sam Adams, but never as part of a tasting. Of course we started with the Flagship beer, Sam Adams Boston Lager. The original beer was named after Jim Koch’s Great-Great Grandfather Louis Koch. Jim stated that “I renamed my beer after the patriot Samuel Adams, who helped lead the American Revolution and was a brewer by trade. (All pub owners were breweries back in the 1700’s)I thought the name was assertively American”

As always this beer delivered on taste. Is has a very full bodied and complex malt flavor and a deep golden amber color. The malt flavor is slightly on the sweet side, but the Nobel dried hops give it a rich floral and piney aroma. The beer poured smoothly with a nice lasting 2” head. I had forgotten how much I like this beer and it’s no wonder why this beer is everywhere and should be enjoyed more often.

Next we sampled the Sam Adams Winter Lager. As all winter Lager these is a rich warm malty beer. By increasing the malts per liter brewer’s pushed up the potency of this brew to warm up a beer drinker’s soul. Winter Lager is a Weizenbock that was invented in Germany and brewed for religious holidays. Bocks were primary brewed by Germen monks to provide essential nutrients for the long fasting period during lent.

Sam Adams Winter Lager was the company’s first seasonal offering as it still one of its best sellers. Because it is a Weizenbock it is brewed using generous quantities of malted wheat. This gives it a crisp finish that is different from traditional bocks. Like the Boston lager it has a rich malty flavor and beep brown to amber color. The hint of orange peel paired with the roasty sweetness of the malts makes this a beer that is well balanced and warms up your insides on a cold night, or day.

The Samuel Adams Black Lager is a great example of a Schwarzbier. We first had a ‘Black Lager’ almost a year ago at the South of the Border tasting with Xingu. Xingu stated that the oldest reference to a ‘Black Lager’ dated to the Amazon region in the 1550’s. However there are references to a “Brunswick Mum” in the 1390’s in Germany. Even thought most of these beers are extremely dark in color they are a distant cousin of Porters and Stouts.

Porters and Stouts are highly hopped ales that were invented in Britain, Schwarzbier is lightly hopped and is fermented using a bottom fermenting lager yeast. The roasting of several malts is what gives this smooth malty beer its deep black color. Sam Adams Black lager uses this bottom fermenting traditional method to produces is Schwarzbier. I’m only able to pick up the Black Lager in the Brewmaster’s 6 pack, but it is worth it for this beer. This beer is a deep ruby black with a sweet malty flavor. Due to the limited amount of hops this dark beer has a nice dry finish.

We have tried a lot of different beers the last few months and this is the worst beer we have tried hands down. I thought Steel Reserve would win the title, but the Sam Adams Cranberry Lambic is the Grand Champion. I know Sam Adams states that it’s not a Belgium style lambic, but why make such a bad beer instead. The tag line from Same Adams is “Tart and sweet, with complex fruit and vanilla notes.” It should be “Another fruity beer that taste like ass”

This style of beer is named for the Lambic region in Belgium where it was originally developed. Lambics are wheat beers that are traditionally brewed using native fruits and an open fermentation, a process where the unfermented wort is left in an open vessel in the brewhouse and is fermented by the wild yeast in the air - this process lends the beer its uniquely fruity fermentation character. That night was going so well until this beer.

The Sam Adams Holiday Porter is a good example of a British Style porter. They use a combination of five malted barley in the brewing process. The use of Carafa malts gives this porter a smooth roasted malty character. Like the traditional British style a generous portion of English hops, East Kent & Fuggles, gives this beer a great hop aroma and finish.

In 1802, a writer named John Feltham wrote a version of the history of porter that has been repeated hundreds of times since. Unfortunately, very little of Feltham's story is backed up by contemporary evidence. His account is based upon a letter written by Obadiah Poundage (who had worked for decades in the London brewing trade) in the 1760´s. Unfortunately, Feltham badly misinterpreted parts of the text, mainly due to his unfamiliarity with 18th century brewing terminology. Feltham claimed that in 18th century London a popular beverage called "three threads" was made consisting of a third of a pint each of ale, beer and two penny . About 1730, Feltham said, a brewer called Harwood made a single beer called Entire which recreated the flavor of "three threads", and which became known as "porter". It took its name from its popularity with the thousands of street and river porters (but not market porters) of London, who drank it to refresh themselves as they carried goods and parcels off and on ships in the Thames and around the streets of England's capital.

Sam Adams Holiday Porter deep rubbish black porter that was first introduced in the Sam Adams Classic Winter pack in 2204. This Holiday Porter is a smooth porter which combines a roasted malty start with a nice dry hop finish.

The last beer of the evening was the Old Fezziwig Ale, a spiced winter beer. This is another rich malty beer from Sam Adams’s Winter Pack with a big spice finish. Sam Adams state that this is the “Big Christmas Cookie” of beers, but I disagree. I was not looking forward to this beer after reading that is has a spiced flavor of cinnamon, ginger and orange peel, but once again I was pleasantly surprised.

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