Wasted: How the craft-beer movement abandoned Jim Koch (and his beloved Sam Adams).

Discussion in 'Beer News & Releases' started by Vav, Jan 5, 2015.

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  1. Vav

    Vav Initiate (190) Jul 27, 2008 Illinois

  2. OneDropSoup

    OneDropSoup Meyvn (1,086) Dec 9, 2008 Pennsylvania

    I didn't know that Jim Koch "birthed" the craft beer trend & is its "undisputed king".
  3. hustlemuscle

    hustlemuscle Initiate (0) Jan 13, 2004 Ohio

    Beer bars aren't the problem for Sam Adams, BW3s is the problem. Last time I went I had a DFH 60 minute. 5 years ago, Sam Adams was the best I could hope for.
  4. BoldRulerVT

    BoldRulerVT Initiate (0) Oct 2, 2013 Vermont

    This is interesting and supports Koch's earlier arrogance and dismissiveness towards beers like Heady Topper. He said Heady Topper is boring and uninteresting beer. Whether you love Heady or not, that's just such on off base take on it and the fact that he hates the innovation craft brewers are now known for and that he is stubborn in brewing middle of the road beer kind of tells you where Sam Adams is going.
  5. Hodgson

    Hodgson Initiate (136) Nov 17, 2014 Canada (ON)

    Where did he say that? I'm surprised if he did as he has always seemed a collegial guy, the way he participates at The Great American Beer Festival events, for example, or helping to reissue Albion Ale.
  6. hustlemuscle

    hustlemuscle Initiate (0) Jan 13, 2004 Ohio

    It is kind of mind blowing to read an article about craft becoming too hoppy in Slate that was regurgitated last week and this one talking about how Boston Beer is dieing because they don't brew good enough IPAs.

    But let's face it, Boston could brew Heady and people would discount it because Boston brews it.
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  7. yemenmocha

    yemenmocha Poo-Bah (2,878) Jun 18, 2002 Arizona

    I think he has some good points to make, and it is really disgusting how the fads and such have had their influence and deemed the more "macro" craft beers uncool. The increasingly large youthful part of craft beer demographics are largely ignorant of (recent) history of craft beer too, which doesn't help.
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  8. yemenmocha

    yemenmocha Poo-Bah (2,878) Jun 18, 2002 Arizona

    you hit the nail on the head. I've injected Sam Adams offerings in my blind tastings with friends and laughed my ass off at how well received some of their beers were. My prank (and sad that it is regarded as a prank) is overdone now because people ask which one is the Sam Adams in the mix. But yes, a significant chunk of craft beer consumers are rejecting them on reasons other than the taste of their beers.
  9. AnalogErik

    AnalogErik Initiate (0) Jul 23, 2013 Minnesota

    Maybe it is because his beer isn't as good as other offerings out there, and that he never kept up with the movement.

    It is also funny, because they have just recently (few years) started pushing out beers like Rebel IPA with "craftier" labeling, and a design (both flavor profile, and marketing) designed to get back into the 'craft beer scene'.

    His beer is just a step between adjunct lager and specialty craft. He should embrace the space. People took his ideas and pushed them into a new space. I don't see Leinenkugel whining about not being considered craft.

    P.S There are plenty of other, better breweries, that have been doing "Craft" a lot longer, with a lot less whining, with a lot less recognition.
  10. OneDropSoup

    OneDropSoup Meyvn (1,086) Dec 9, 2008 Pennsylvania

    I think part of it is the regular "been there, done that" mentality of any trend, but like the one rep from Vizeum said in the article, there's a suspicion of insincerity among young consumers, & Boston Beer - the company, not Koch individually - has plenty of marks against them in that column (contract brewing, branding, trend-chasing).
  11. MaltLickyWithTheCandy

    MaltLickyWithTheCandy Initiate (0) Apr 22, 2013 Maryland

    He has no right to criticize a private establishment's decision to not serve his product. If i remember correctly, this is America, land of the free market. So he can shove his opinions up his ass.
  12. DrRambis

    DrRambis Initiate (0) Jan 10, 2014 New Jersey

    I don't know, I though Mr. Koch came off as very arrogant and sour in the article...I think its mostly the story in the beginning about complaining about beer options, interrogating the bartender and then going to inspect the fucking tap lines for freshness. Seriously unacceptable as a customer in a business. Now that also might be just how its being portrayed. If the manager invited him in the back than its a bit different. That's the problem with this article though: some quotes and a bunch of here-say.

    Maybe its also his obvious disdain for the products that are making him the most money. I would think he would be happy that Twisted Tea and Angry Orchard keep his business afloat. If anything that should allow him to stay truer to his beer roots and away from those nasty "catty" ipas. I get being embarrassed about the beer side of the business depreciating but pride will embarrass you and most of all Mr. Koch comes of as extremely prideful in this article. While it wasn't a total ambush job the whole article kind of smacks of ambush journalism.
  13. harperman69

    harperman69 Initiate (0) Feb 11, 2009 Tennessee

    Leinenkugel isn't whining because it's owned by Miller.
  14. Geuzedad

    Geuzedad Disciple (385) Nov 14, 2010 Arizona

    I have never been a big fan of theirs but they have released beers over the years I have considered well done and have enjoyed. I know that Sam Adams and to a little lesser extent Sierra Nevada were the first beers I remember intruding into my universe of BMC swill. SN Pale was the first "crafty" beer I ever drank and followed it up with offerings from SA. I will not go as far as to say Jim Koch is the God Father of all things craft but I will say his lineup was one of the first all those years ago to pull my head out of the trough of BMC swill and make me realize I could drink something better.
  15. tylerstravis

    tylerstravis Initiate (0) Feb 14, 2014 Colorado

    I'm pretty sure it's a demand issue. I certainly know I would never order a Sam Adams at a beer bar with 50 other beers, I am sure most people feel that same. If the customers were beating down the door for Boston Lager, I'm certain they would tap it.
  16. BMMillsy

    BMMillsy Initiate (0) Feb 16, 2012 Florida

    I'm not sure you understand how this America thing works...
  17. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (2,427) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    :astonished: It's also the land of free speech - Koch has as much right to criticize private businesses as any "Beer Advocate" does. Without that right, this website itself would not exist (or, at least, would be a lot less active and not very interesting).
  18. tkdchampxi

    tkdchampxi Initiate (0) Oct 19, 2010 New Jersey

    My BIG PROBLEM with Boston Beer Company is that they make TOO MANY different beers that are INCONSISTENT in quality.

    I don't think BBC can't make good beer - I think i don't want to roll the dice on trying their new beers, because I have no idea if it will be a hit or a miss. I believe the article refers to this and calls it a reputation for "questionable quality."

    **Aside - I recently had the Kosmic Mother Funk (KFM) Grand Cru and thought it was delicious, but it was extremely hard to find and this is an example of an exception that proves the rule - that BBC's best beers aren't actually what is associated with the company
  19. LambicPentameter

    LambicPentameter Initiate (0) Aug 29, 2012 Nebraska

    The paragraph in the article directly after the paragraph cited by OP seems to align with the attitude that @BoldRulerVT is suggesting Jim Koch has. This passage certainly doesn't sound like a "collegial guy" to me:

    "Staring at the beer menu, Koch began to criticize the selection. More than half of it, he said, wasn’t worthy of being served—inadvertently insulting the establishment’s owner, who unbeknownst to Koch was sitting next to him. Then Koch interrogated the beer manager about the offerings. Unsatisfied with the answers, Koch complained about the beers so intensely that an employee at the bar teared up. Koch rose from his seat and walked into the keg room, where he started checking freshness dates on his competitors’ kegs."

    I mean, assuming this passage is accurate, that comes off as an extreme case of sour grapes. I especially love the "inadvertently insulting the establishment's owner" part. Only inadvertent because he didn't know he was sitting next to him. Not because his actions were unintentionally insulting. It's so bombastic sounding that it's almost hard to believe it's 100% true.

    Here's the thing--Boston Lager is a good beer. And I agree with the sentiment above that as interest in beer has grown over the past decade or two, there has been a tendency to leave so-called "boring" beers by the wayside as everyone fawns over rarity and envelope-pushing additive-laden barrel-aged "extreme" beers. But for me, the problem with Boston Lager isn't that it's not one of those "extreme" beers, it's that there are other so-called standard beers that I'd much rather reach for if I'm not looking to have some crazy envelope-pushing experience. If I want a Vienna Lager, then yeah, Boston Lager is a pretty damn good choice. But more often than not, a basic Pale Ale is what I'm going to reach for if I'm not in the mood for something crazy.
  20. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (2,427) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    Sounds like a "re-interpretation" of Koch comments like this one:
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  21. Hodgson

    Hodgson Initiate (136) Nov 17, 2014 Canada (ON)

    I agree with the posts above which state that Sam Adams isn't as hip as it was. But this is inevitable in most businesses, except for Heinz ketchup or Coke and Pepsi, say, but beer is not like that.

    I wish the seasonals of Sam Adams that are spiced were not, this doesn't assist them, IMO. The Latitude is pretty good but there was something about it I didn't enjoy, not the hops but something else, I'll have to try it again.
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  22. msween21

    msween21 Initiate (177) Jan 2, 2013 Massachusetts

    Although I tend to agree with yemenmocha and others that defend Sam Adams, that's just not what people are looking for when they go to a place like Row34. I enjoy a Boston Lager, but I can get it at the gas station down the street from my house. Most of the time they're the best choice on the menu. But when I go to a place with a pretty extensive tap list, I'm looking for something a little different.
  23. Hodgson

    Hodgson Initiate (136) Nov 17, 2014 Canada (ON)

    Assuming all those quotes are accurate, well I do have some surprise there, yes. Maybe he had an off-night or something else explained it, not sure. But in the past he has been very much a part of building craft beer as a category, not just his own, IMO.
  24. Hodgson

    Hodgson Initiate (136) Nov 17, 2014 Canada (ON)

    Well, they could carry one of Sam Adams many other brands, but if they don't, they don't, it is their right. The thing is familiarity breeds contempt as the old expression goes, not literally in this case of course, but in the sense people want something new all the time.
  25. KevTurnersBootburn

    KevTurnersBootburn Initiate (0) Jan 19, 2014 Massachusetts

    I love their Noble Pils and would buy it regularly if they sold it in 12 pack cans or even 12 pack bottles at a better price. Hard to justify 18 dollars for 2-6 packs of that vs other daily drinker type beers like Sierra Nevada you can get for 14 dollars. I also NEVER see that beer on draft anywhere. Seems like they are too focused on pushing their core beers which I have always thought were awful. Rebel IPA is terrible too, shocked to read that was a successful launch.
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  26. Hodgson

    Hodgson Initiate (136) Nov 17, 2014 Canada (ON)

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  27. bleakies

    bleakies Disciple (384) Apr 11, 2011 Massachusetts

    Sounds like Koch has read a thousand threads on this site complaining about unsatisfactory beer options and insufficiently informed servers at bars and restaurants.
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  28. stonermouse

    stonermouse Initiate (0) Aug 16, 2006 Massachusetts

    I like the fact that he and his company are getting a kick in the ass. Koch is clearly super intelligent and competitive, and this is the type of atmosphere that usually gets the best out of great entrepreneurs. I, for one, quite enjoy many of BBC's offerings and am intrigued at the future.
  29. Hodgson

    Hodgson Initiate (136) Nov 17, 2014 Canada (ON)

    I tend to agree with you. I never really thought the basic lager was that great and the seasonals by and large aren't, either. They make many other beers that need to have more tap exposure, especially, e.g. the Noble pils, the Stock Ale, and also that Imperial stout from a few years ago, I think it was a Baltic style, outstanding beer.

    I do think they should consider paring the large number of beers they brew and re-launching the seasonal selection and I would ditch the spiced ones.
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  30. MaltLickyWithTheCandy

    MaltLickyWithTheCandy Initiate (0) Apr 22, 2013 Maryland

    Don't we all.......
  31. LambicPentameter

    LambicPentameter Initiate (0) Aug 29, 2012 Nebraska

    Fair enough, although I don't think he comes off especially well in the article that @jesskidden cited either. Certainly not nearly as disrespectful as he does in the quote I cited (and to your point, it may not be completely accurate), but it also has a sort of sour grapes feel to it.

    I'm skeptical anytime someone says "there's no skill in brewing [insert particular type of beer]". I have a hard time believing you can discount *any* category of beer as requiring no skill. There are beers in every category that are good and some that are bad. I'd say the good ones require some skill. Koch is right that there is a glut of IPAs on the market (to which Sam Adams is contributing, I might add...), but his comments sound like a criticism of the style, when his own company makes a few of their own. It's a bit disingenuous.
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  32. ericwgbeer

    ericwgbeer Initiate (0) Jan 23, 2010 Pennsylvania

    I would LOVE to know which beers Koch thought weren't worthy of being served.
  33. Hodgson

    Hodgson Initiate (136) Nov 17, 2014 Canada (ON)

    Well, I think he is really saying that IPA as it's emerged in recent years has a uniform character. I am a very experienced beer drinker and even to me, "they all taste the same". Okay please note the quotes: in other words, I'm exaggerating to make a point, but still I think he has a point there. Of course, the market wants what it wants, and his company as any other will have to come to terms with that.
  34. JLaw55

    JLaw55 Meyvn (1,484) Jul 10, 2014 Missouri

    Dann Paquette, a veteran brewer and cofounder of Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project, agrees, telling me there’s now an “annoying young hipster attitude toward beer. It’s the same sort of attitude that you find in music. ‘Oh, that brewery was so last year.’ People want to try new stuff all the time, [and] there are two sides to the coin on that for Boston Beer. They’re so big nationally, but I’m sure they’d love to be back on the scene in these beer bars.”

    I think this is the main culprit of Boston Beer's woes. You can call it whatever you want; hipster, scenester, snobbish, elitist, etc. To me it all falls in the same group, and is a huge portion of not only the beer market but many others as well. If something becomes too big, or too popular, or to 'mass produced' then this group sees it fit to turn it's back on whatever that brand or item was. No matter if it actually tastes good, sounds good, etc.

    Does that mean that everyone loves Boston Lager, no. I understand some just will not like the flavor, but I would put my dollar behind the main problem being that the hipster movement has turned it's nose up at Boston Beer due to size and not due to flavor.

    Unfortunately, this hipster movement has become a huge part of the market today and I am afraid will keep building. The problem with this is that if it continues to do so, you will see some great brewers and beers getting hurt along the way. You can turn your nose up to a certain beer if you like, but I give my money to those that taste good. Not those that are trendy or hip. I just hope that this 'trend' does not damage any beers that I enjoy spending my hard earned dollars on.

    I find this a very funny and honest experiment that I have wanted to try myself. I absolutely believe that if more people did this, the same thing would happen with others. I am curious though, what were some responses you received when they realized they had been duped? Was it a realization that it was a good beer? Or an excuse fest as to why they made the positive comments they did?
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  35. mnapier

    mnapier Disciple (304) Feb 26, 2004 Washington

    I think the article hits on a few missed points.

    1. Is a publican required to include a local craft, that is served everywhere? Living in Seattle, Georgetown's Manny is ubiquitous. Which inspires craft-only bars to occasionally pass on a keg or completely exclude it from their rotation. I guess this is a side-effect of being successful.

    2. 'If you don't see your beer on draft, make something more persuasive.' Jim's experience is not going to change unless the brewery is willing to focus on recovering those (interested) who've moved on.

    Interesting article about the largest craft brewery issued a reality check.
  36. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (3,374) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    A lot less whining? Maybe you forgot Schell's response to the Brewers Association a while back -- resulted in these changes: http://www.brewbound.com/news/gatza-new-craft-brewer-definition-prioritizes-ownership-size

    Note the section that links the response. And this is not to denigrate your opinion of Schell's in any way (they brew terrific beer), but sometimes the squeaky wheel does get the grease.
  37. bleakies

    bleakies Disciple (384) Apr 11, 2011 Massachusetts

    If Koch were really that concerned about the preferences of the minority of beer drinkers who fixate on the newest/rarest/biggest/most innovative brews, he wouldn't have arrived at that "billion-dollar fortune."
  38. Domingo

    Domingo Poo-Bah (2,773) Apr 23, 2005 Colorado

    I'm actually a big fan of SABL, but I typically don't order it at places with huge tap lists simply because I can get it anywhere. I'm at those places for the multitudes of other beers that aren't available at chain restaurants, fast casual places, every liquor store, etc.
    Boston Beer brags about making 50 beers - the way you're going to get into the serious geek places is to push those other items. Why not push the barrel room and small batch lines?
  39. yemenmocha

    yemenmocha Poo-Bah (2,878) Jun 18, 2002 Arizona

    Depends on the person. Ranges from "you fucker" to "wow I guess I'm going to have to throw this in to my rotation sometime". And I've been doing this since early 2000's, before any Sam Adams commercial depicted people tasting the beer blindly. I do the same with Sierra Nevada beers.
  40. halo3one

    halo3one Initiate (0) Jun 6, 2014 Georgia

    I don't know about that. Goose Island isn't small and BCBS doesn't seem to have any issues with "hype." And they're owned by AB on top of that.
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