Samuel Adams Brewery Tour

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You have a very limited amount of free time in the artistic and historical metropolis that is Boston. What would you do?

Well, of course you would. Obviously, I didn’t do that.

You get on the Green Line so you can hop on the Orange Line which stops somewhere along its way at Stony Brook Station, on the southwest of the city’s transit grid by the pictorial transit maps.  Where that actually is doesn’t matter.

You exit the station expecting to find some sort of commercial complex.  There’s a park in front of you, but it’s not an industrial park.  You look around and see… houses.  Old ones.  Which is typical of what can be viewed of Boston when traveling on the MBTA.  Somewhat perplexed, you exit the station to your left onto Boylston St, and after a short distance you then turn right on Amory St.  Hmm.

This sure seems a likely place to locate a nationally recognized brewery.  Not.  But, there are some signs of alcoholic influence in the yard to your right.

What lovely faces made into TV.  Just remember, without a governing covenant for a neighborhood association, any home is qualified to become a Folk Art showcase. 

Moving on, you shortly take a left onto Porter St. which hopefully will instill some confidence that your path is sure.

Soon enough, this begets the question of whether our TV artist is taking advantage of the more professional artist up the street.  Forthwith:

But wait! There’s more!

Metal prostitutes, silver polar bears and mechanical dogs, oh my!  Should you run?  Let’s take a closer look at the pups; you can’t be too careful in this neighborhood:

You’ve got some serious Frisbee mangling jaws of death there.  Okay, dare you proceed and take a turn onto Germania St.?

Hey!  Where did all the houses go?  A big entry fence, old commercial looking buildings… this might be the place!  Yep, there’s even a sign on the building on the right.

Well, not so fast.  Actually, the brewery is located in the building on the left.  The larger buildings in the background and on the right have other tenants.  But that’s okay.  There are no mechanical dogs nipping at your heels, and you’ve arrived at your desired destination, the Samuel Adams brewery.

It cleans up nicely, doesn’t it?  Actually, this is a faux-entrance.  The real one is just to the left:


See? They leave the door open for you.  Inviting.

In Atlanta, Sweetwater and Red Brick breweries both tailor their “tours” to the after-work crowd, with the intent of making them a social occasion.  You pay for admittance and use tickets for whichever beers they have on tap.  They offer a “tour” for those who have the interest; many do not.  After all, it’s just a bunch of stationary tanks and pipes.

Sam Adams, on the other hand, offers tours during normal business hours during the week and between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturdays.  And I got there at 10:30; the MBTA is pretty efficient.  The streets were fairly empty during the short walk, but that’s because everyone was already inside the brewery awaiting the start of the tour – a crowd of about 40.

As it turns out, tours are so popular that they’re held each half hour.  Andrew, our tour guide, explained that there was no charge, but they do provide bins for donations which are distributed to two local charities.  Andrew, it should be noted, is an excellent tour guide.  Even if all of his wink and a nod one-liners are canned, he does a great job of keeping it fresh.  Of course, he gets to drink beer in his job, too.
Factoid:  Samuel Adams holds a 0.8% market share in the U.S., but it’s the largest American owned brewery.

We began in a corner, where Andrew described the main four ingredients used in their beer:  barley, German Noble hops, yeast, and good ol’ Boston water.  Sam Adams prides itself on making the vast majority of their beers with these traditional ingredients.  Other ingredients, called adjuncts, such as corn and rice, are used heavily by other breweries. 

 Varieties of Hops and Barley

Rather than just hearing about these ingredients, however, the brewery is kind enough to include pictures on the walls of the fields from which the hops and barley are harvested.  Cool, right?  Well, not as cool as little plastic cups passed around with the goods in them.  We were encouraged to take a few hops in our hands and rub them together to inhale the fragrance, which, under Andrew’s advice, is rather more pleasant than tasting them in their natural form.  Sure enough, hops smell as distinctive as IPAs taste.  But they make your hands sticky.  And with a crowd of 40, they make a mess on the floor.

UtopiasSamuel Adams is actually the brand manufactured by Boston Beer Company.  They own two other breweries (Cincinnati and Breinigsville, PA) and contract their manufacturing to several other facilities where all their bottled products are made.  Aside from the tours, this facility is used to make their draught beer and experimental blends.  Also, they make Utopias, a very special product, indeed.  It’s sold in bottles upwards of $200 each.  Why?  Well, as compared with their lager at 4.9% alcohol, Utopia has 27% alcohol which is enough to be illegal in 10 States.  And though rightfully a beer, it’s said to have the flavor of cognac.  For your pleasure, here’s a picture of it now, aging in wooden barrels for about a year:

Next stop:  The brewing area.

Above are malting, mashing, and other such reactors, and below are the tanks where the yeast is added.

And after all is said and done, the brew is held in, well, holding tanks.

Stainless steel is just plain exciting, isn’t it?  Well, the tour guides know this as well, and with no protestation, off to the tasting room we merrily go.

Now, rather than a grand rush to the taps, Samuel Adams treats their tour, briefly, like a wine tasting (less the cheese).  Andrew’s assistant poured multiple pitchers of beer, which were distributed to the tables.  Andrew then spoke of the beers’ characteristics, What a job!which was followed by much rejoicing and friendly table camaraderie. 
We sampled the traditional Samuel Adams lager, their just released Summer Ale (wheat based), and the draught-only, Boston metro area-only, Boston Brick Red.  The last was described as being an Irish red stout, though it wasn’t that robust.  All were very good.  Of course.

As we had entered the tasting room, another group was entering the brewery area, including perhaps 60 people.  We spent a good while in the tasting room, and I began to wonder when they were going to kick us sam_adams_prefect_pintout for the benefit of the next tour group.  As it turns out, they have two tasting rooms so that they can alternate with each tour.  Smart, eh?

Lastly, we find that the exit door empties into the Samuel Adams gift bazaar, where T-shirts, tap handles, hats, jackets, and whatever else that can have a logo placed on it can be purchased.  Although I received a free juice sized souvenir glass for the sampling, I succumbed to their marketing and purchased the $8 “perfect pint” glass, for… well, having it on a shelf most of the time.  And a T-shirt.  I’m such a sucker.

Overall, it was a very well done tour and a worthy diversion if you’re interested and in the Boston area.  A small sampling of beer, whatever the time of day, did not, however, prepare me for a fellow subway passenger’s headphones blasting hip-hop accompanied by Scottish bagpipes.  Eh?

1 comment :

  1. I am impressed! You got the use of the word adjuncts correctly. I appreciate the facts you gave out. I did not realize it is America's largest American-owned brewery.

    Glad you had a good time & thanks for the post!