I did my stand-up schtick at the Comedy Studio in Cambridge on Thursday night and I had all day Friday free. Where should I go in Boston- a city full of historical and cultural attractions- the Museum of Fine Arts, which has the most Monets outside of Paris? The New England Aquarium, home of over 7,000 aquatic animals from around the world? The John Hancock Observatory on the 60th floor of New England’s tallest building? Faneuil Hall? Freedom Trail? Beacon Hill? The Old North Church?
I went on a brewery tour.
I’ve always wanted to go on a brewery tour- I’d heard about the free beer at the end- I just never took the time. I’ve had plenty of opportunity. When I lived in Columbus I drove by a Budweiser plant every day. Maybe I was afraid I might go back for the same tour every week: “Good to see you again, Mr. Ditzel!”
So I grabbed the chance to take the Sam Adams Brewery Tour. The Sam Adams brewery is located in Jamaica Plain, a working class neighborhood in south Boston. I thought it would be huge, with millions of bottles shooting by. I even bought a pair of work gloves at Home Depot just so I could pop one on a bottle like Laverne and Shirley. But this brewery didn’t have any bottles. They only brew draft beer. The building was small- like they decided to make beer in a Jiffy Lube.
First you watch a video narrated by the founder, Jim Koch. He’s the guy you hear on all those radio commercials. He explained how the Koch’s have been in the beer business for 150 years and how the first born son of each generation became a brewmaster. He said he really didn’t care if his oldest, a daughter, also became a brewmaster.
They used to feed her beer-flavored baby food, push her around in a
stroller made from an empty keg, and lull her to sleep by singing “99
Bottles of Beer on the Wall”. But there’s no pressure to go into the beer business.
The tour is free but they ask for a $1 donation, 100% of which is donated to charity. With the amount of Sam Adams product I’ve purchased over the years, I feel like I should get some of that kicked back. I’ll call it The Joe Ditzel Foundation.
The video is ten minutes long. The actual tour isn’t much longer. I guess they’ve learned people don’t care that much about how “the sweet liquid wort is then moved from the Lauter Tun to the Brew Kettle and brought to a boil.” They just want the free samples.
We settled in the beer-tasting room which looked like a little bar. They gave us a small glass about half the size of a regular beer glass. You get to keep the glass but I don’t know what you are going to use it for- certainly not beer. Beer should be consumed from big, frosted mugs the size of your head.
First they poured us a glass of Samuel Adams Boston Lager. This is their flagship brand, representing 60% of their sales. I represent 35% of the 60%. Then we tried a lighter flavor our tour guide described as a “summer-time lawn mowing” type of beer. I don’t have a lawn. I prefer to call it a “summer-time sand in my shorts” type of beer.
Next we had the Double Bock brand. Bock is the German word for billy goat. It’s called Double Bock because it feels like a goat kicked you in the head a couple of times. That was enough for me. But then they got serious.
Samuel Adams Triple Bock is the Darth Vader of beers. They only let you sample a little bit because it is 17% alcohol. It looks like Pennzoil and smells like a mixture of George Foreman’s Bar-B-Q Sauce and Vick’s Vap-O-Rub.
The literature has this description: “Triple Bock is crafted with
ingredients common to all fine beers, but with a difference — it contains four times the amount of malt used in Samuel Adams Boston Lager. Noble aroma hops, two-row barley malt, and select yeast strains are recombined in the brewing of this special beer. Maple syrup is added to the kettle.”
A beer you can pour on pancakes!
Still, it was too much for me. I’m not much on beer you can stand a spoon in. The only people in the tour group that liked it were two guys from Australia. I asked one of them about Foster’s- you know, Australian for beer?
His face sunk in like he had swallowed a lemon tree.
He said, “Foster’s is terrible, mate. No Australian drinks it. It is not even made there.”
If that is true, you have to hand it to Foster’s. They have an excellent marketing campaign. I know people that drink nothing but Foster’s. They say “hand me another oil can!”, a reference to the shape of the Foster’s can.
But I’ve had beer that really IS oil- Samuel Adams Triple Bock. Keep a case in your trunk. Just in case the old Chevy needs a few quarts.