I spent some time last night at Sam Adams’ For The Love Of Beer promo at 99 Sudbury, the event space downtown. I much enjoyed the event, Jim Koch was there and I had never met him so it was a chance to exchange a few words. I also asked him a beer historical question, which he gave a good answer to, explained further below.
There were some unusual draft offerings, my favourite was the Gratzer. It was a letter-perfect version of the smoked malt Polish style, 4.4% abv with a clean, natural smoky quality and light body. Best of the new offerings that night, IMO.
Grumpy Monk was 55 IBUs and 6.5%, excellent and not Belgian-like but more like an India Pale Lager, a bigger brother to Sam Adams Lager. It had a similar hop profile but the background taste seemed slightly different. (Could it be a higher-gravity version of Boston Lager? Not sure).
Sam Adams Boston Lager is always a winner for me, I’ve mentioned it frequently as a benchmark of pre-adjunct, 19th century quality. Apart from being full of taste, it has its own signature, no other lager out there, local or imported, is like it.
The Chai Saison was a little sweet for me with cardamon and big spicy flavours. I had a taste of Rebel IPA but have never warmed to it, BBC might consider a reformulation.
The food was ample and suited the beers: e.g., wings, cheese thingies, fish tacos, all well-made and not greasy.
Jim Koch made a short but effective address and spoke about being a pioneer in the industry and having visited Toronto in the late 80s when he met Jim Brickman, whom he rightly saluted as a Canadian pioneer. (Brickman is still at it I understand at Brick Brewing in the Kitchener-Waterloo area*).
Jim Koch was very complimentary to Ontario craft brewing. He noted there are almost 300 breweries here now and it represents a high per capita even by American standards. He mentioned how North America has become a world magnet for quality brewing and diversity of taste and style.
Since I have been studying American 19th brewing in-depth, I asked him why his family’s lager recipe (handed down from the 19th century Koch Brewery) is all-malt when so much of German-American brewing went adjunct back then. He said the first Koch to brew in St. Louis started in the 1860s and never even learned English. Albeit an immigrant in St. Louis, he was brewing in a German world and before adjunct became popular. That accords with my knowledge, as lager brewing started about 1840 and had a 30 year run toward national acceptance before scientists stated to promote raw cereals in the mash.
I should say too that the relatively dark colour of Sam Adams Lager fits into the lager norm in America then: the standard lager was more a Vienna colour than the light blonde it later became under “Bohemian” influence.
It was nice to see Greg Clow there as well. Greg very kindly encouraged me years ago to take up the blogger’s pen and gave tips on formatting for online writing. His site is very useful as a repository of beer news, local and international, in a fast-changing scene.
*Note: In fact Jim Brickman is no longer with Brick, see Greg Clow’s comment below. Thanks to Greg for this info.