We’d like to present to you, a first hand account of a tour at Samuel Adams in Boston, MA, but our intern Sam K. If you are interested in an internship position with The Full Pint, please follow this link. We encourage people with all types of experience and perspectives to apply. Cheers!
I have twice had the pleasure of attending the Sam Adams brewery tour, and have been thoroughly impressed on both occasions. The tour begins at the nondescript Boston Beer Company location in Jamaica Plain, just outside of Boston proper. If you’re visiting, you can get there on the orange line of the T, Boston’s rail system. As with many popular breweries, try to call ahead to get a feel for how packed the tours are for that day, as it can be very crowded and you may have to wait if you arrive at a peak time. Before the tour begins my group and I waited in the lobby area to get out of the cold, which is covered in information about Sam Adams and some of their awards in glass cases. The whole area is filled with banners hanging from the ceiling with awards their beers have won. The tour guide even pointed out that Sam Adams has an award for “winning the most awards.”
At the appointed time the guide gathered the tour group together and first asked for donations, so be sure to have some cash on hand. All the proceeds from the tours go directly to local charities; a great way to give back to the community. The guide then lead the group into the brewery and over to where the magic happens. The guide explained to us the whole process of making beer, pointing out the mash kettles and fermentation tanks. The Boston brewery is quite small for the output that the Boston Beer Company generates, though they have another brewery operating in Pennsylvania. At this point the guide then leads the group over to another area where he passed around a few jars of malt. You are given the opportunity to smell and taste what I assume is Sam Adams’ two-row pale malt as well as a chocolate malt. The tour guide also passed around some jars of hops and asked us to place some in our hands and rub our hands together. You can get a feel for the resinous quality of the hops from the texture on your hands and the room gets a nice floral odor.
From here, our tour went into the tasting room but not before picking up a small Samuel Adams glass which was used in the tasting. The tasting consists of three beers: Sam Adams’ Boston Lager, Cherry Wheat and a seasonal brew. The first tour I took in the fall had the Oktoberfest, and the winter tour had their Winter Lager. The tour guide passed around pitchers of each beer with which we filled our tasting glasses. The guide explained the four parts of tasting a beer: appearance, aroma, taste and mouthfeel. The Boston Lager was first, and damn was it fresh. I assume most people have tried Sam Adams before, but the Boston Lager is a Vienna-style lager using only reinheitsgebot sanctioned ingredients. The guide explained that they serve the Boston Lager first to demonstrate a medium-bodied, well-balanced beer where you can really taste the sweetness of the malt on the front of your palate and the bitterness of the hops at the back. After came the Cherry Wheat, which has a very strong cherry aroma. The tour guide used the Cherry Wheat to explain how aroma and taste intertwine, as you can take a sip of the Cherry Wheat holding your nose without tasting any cherry, but if you release your nose as you swallow, your palate is overwhelmed with cherry flavor. Lastly, the seasonal beer is a good way to talk up Sam Adams beers and chat with the group about what they think about the beer after their tasting lesson. I loved the Oktoberfest, which is incredibly rich with sweet, roasted malt. The Winter Lager is a little subdued and I didn’t get much of the spice, but it was nice and warming for a cold winter day in Boston.
The tour guide drank his portion of the beer out of one of Sam Adams’ Perfect Pint glasses which he talked up throughout the tasting. You can buy one in the gift shop, but as the guide pointed out, you can take a trip over to Doyle’s Cafe just a T stop away and order any Sam Adams beer, and with your tour slip you can take the Perfect Pint glass home for free. Strangely though, almost no Sam Adams beer is sold on their premises and they have no bar. You can buy any or all of their Barrel Room Collection beers in the gift shop (American Kriek, Thirteenth Hour Stout and New World Tripel), but otherwise you’ll have to find a store to pick up any of their brew.
Overall, the tour is definitely worth a trip. Though my recapitulation of the tour is more informational, the tour guides are great. Some of the guides’ jokes were reused between the two occasions I toured the brewery, but most of them seem to just be the product of the guides’ sense of humor. There’s not as much of the authentic feel of talking directly to someone who brews the beer or having the chance to sit down and chat, but for a brewery with as many visitors as the Boston Beer Company the tour has to be routine. After the tour my friends and I went over to Doyle’s Cafe and had a pint with some of their house-made clam chowder. It’s all part of the Boston tourism deal, and hey, it’s basically free and you get a souvenir tasting glass with some super fresh Sam Adams beer.