My sister and her boyfriend came to Boston for their summer vacation checking off the city on their ballpark tour of America! I spent some time taking them around the city and showing off some of my favorite spots, but they wanted to make sure to do something that I had never done before. Boston is the hometown of Sam Adams beer, and being that it was so close to the 4th of July, what’s more American than visiting the brewery!
Sam Adams Brewery is located off of the Stonybrook T stop on the orange line. Literally only a few minutes walking distance from the stop, there were signs clearly mapping how to find the entrance of the building for all visitors. The Stonybrook T stop is in the middle of Jamaica Plain so if you’re visiting from out of town and driving, there’s also plenty of free parking at the brewery as well as the neighborhoods.
Unpopular opinion: I’m not a beer drinker/I just don’t like beer. Which is probably really odd since I work in the food and beverage industry but growing up, I had never been a fan of carbonation. So I don’t drink soda, energy drinks, beer, champagne, the like. I’m weird, I know. But that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the art of brewing! I took a beverage concentration in college where I took a class totally dedicated to beer and how it’s made so this trip was right up my alley!
We arrived to the tour 5 minutes before it was going to start which was so great. It gave us the chance to peek around the lobby where there were display cases of old memorabilia, trivia questions on the walls, Sam Adams post cards to fill out, brewing magazines and cliche “I was at Sam Adams Brewery” backdrop to take your pictures in front of! Trust me, I find nothing wrong with cliche. The more cliche, the better in my opinion.
The tour began with a brief history of the company which was surprisingly only started back up in 1985! Named after one of our founding fathers who also indulged in making “craft” beer (he was such a hipster), the company was run by the Koch family who used their favorite recipe concocted by their ancestors from as early as the 1870’s! Sam Adams first started producing only their classic Boston lager but have since branched out and has over 50 varieties sold in all 50 states with production breweries in Pennsylvania, Connecticut and of course Massachusetts.
Our tour guide was really personable and friendly and she really worked the crowd for participation and laughs. She first took us to an open presentation room where I promptly scooted myself to the front to be able to hear her better and really get involved in what she was saying. Standing in front of large wooden barrels, she explained what beer is made of! Any guesses? Here’s an equation to help map it out in short:
Water + Malt + Yeast + Hops = Beer
These four ingredients in a million different varieties, fermenting times, agitation methods, yeast strains, etc etc etc are what make up the thousands of beer found on the market! In the barrels were different kinds of malt. Malted barley is typically the grain used in beer and it can be roasted to different temperatures to achieve a variety of flavors. We tried pale malt which was, guess what, roasted to a light and PALE color; we also tried caramel malt which was most commonly used amongst all Sam Adams beers as well as chocolate malt which was roasted very dark thus tasting more along the lines of coffee or burnt popcorn. All malt is used at different ratios and combinations to make the best beer!
The last barrel was filled with Cascade hops. No, not hops covered in laundry detergent. But rather it’s just the name of the specific kinds of hops which are added towards the end of the brewing process to add a bittering agent to the beer. From each of the barrels, we were able to eat all three types of malt but were strongly advised against tasting the hops. But instead, to get the essence of the flavor, we rubbed the hops in our hands crinkling them like tissue paper placing the essential oils of the hops on our hands. A deep whiff really gave you a better understanding of hops flavors, but it also makes you look like a fuckin’ weirdo. OH WELL.
Once this was finished, we stepped back into the fermentation room/functional portion of the brewery with all the fancy machines! The grains get added and mixed with water and yeast. The yeast then feeds on the natural sugars found in the malted grains resulting in carbon dioxide and flavor maturation. The whole process of making and explaining beer is so tedious so I’ll spare you some of my college knowledge. Plus, I just don’t know it off the top of my head so I’d have to go digging through old notebooks and aint nobody got time for that. But basically the beer was soaked in warm water, some of the liquid was then heated hotter to temper in raising the overall cooking temperature of the dish and then the hops are added before it runs through the “whirlpool” which helps to separate the solids from the liquids. The beer then is called “green beer” meaning it was unaged and fermented. None of those carbonated bubbles formed and the flavor is sub-par. At this point, the beer ferments for a handful or more of days and can also be transferred to oak casks to manipulate the flavor even more!
The best part of the tour however, was when we went into the tasting room and did a “formal” tasting of three different kinds of beers! We were each given a small Sam Adams glass that also doubled as a souvenir. Pitchers were filled at the front and then passed back allowing each person to decide how much (or in my case, how little) beer they wanted to take. We first tasted their traditional Boston Lager followed by their summer ale and chocolate stout beer. We learned quickly about clarity of a drink and what that means as well all different flavor profiles. We stood in the back which was also a perk because we received half full pitchers of beer that didn’t need to go to anyone else! So we could’ve continued drinking until the pitcher was gone! But we were nice enough to send it back up to the guys who were clearly looking to rage at 11:30 in the morning!
Overall, the tour only totaled about 45 minutes or so and finished in the gift shop with typical Boston/Sam Adams tchot-keys. I would highly recommend this tour to anyone! It runs purely on donations only and the tours don’t require a reservation so you could continue to go time and time again until you own a personalized set of Sam Adams souvenir glasses for that next party you’re throwing! Check it out if you haven’t already!
Check back Tuesday to see what I did for Independence Day! ‘MURICAAAAAA! Have a great weekend, friends!