Q & A With Sam Adams Founder Jim Koch: Loan Program for Food & Beverage Business, Advice on Opening a Brewery + Beer in a Can
|Courtesy of The Boston Beer Company|
|Jim Koch at a Speed-Coaching Event|
JK: The craft brewing community is very close knit but in order to make it even stronger it is so important to collaborate with each other and learn from one another. We're proud that our Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream is helping to do just that. Each year the program awards one brewer a Brewing and Business Experienceship that lets him or her work in-person with our brewers here in Boston for a couple days.
Additionally, they get to meet with different members of our team who are involved in marketing, sales, procurement, legal, and design, to name a few. People always find it surprising that we help out our "competition," but what is important to recognize is that as craft brewers we all benefit by working towards the same goal of offering full flavored, quality beers to beer lovers across America.
ON THE BOSTON BEER COMPANY
SI: What was your initial vision for The Boston Beer Co.?
JK: My number one goal was to make a great beer that was better than what was generally available at the time. I originally set out to start a small brewery in Boston and my business plan was to brew 5,000 barrels. I never imagined that Samuel Adams would grow like it has. Clearly the market was looking for a new and different type of beer and we're very proud to have played a role in helping to bring full flavored, quality beer to beer lovers across America.
Although we have grown, people may be surprised to know that Samuel Adams is still just one percent of the beer market.
SI: The Barrel Room and Extreme Beer series are expanding the horizons of Samuel Adams, do you have a hand in brewing these unconventional ales or do you leave it to your brewers?
JK: While we have a great team of brewers, I'm involved with the creation of every beer, and to this day taste every batch of beer brewed to ensure it meets our high standards.
Innovation and experimentation are key at our Boston Brewery. We love what we do and believe in quality, creativity and innovation. I empower and challenge our brewers to develop new beers, new ways to brew and use unique ingredients. I enjoy pushing boundaries with extreme beers, interesting ingredients and with brewing and aging processes. It's my life's work -- to elevate people's thinking about beer and to push the boundaries of traditional brewing -- in order to offer beer lovers an inspired drinking experience.
When I first brewed Triple Bock [in 1993], it was the first "extreme beer" and the first beer to really stretch the definition of beer altogether. Then, I brewed the first batch of Utopias [in 2002], which was definitely a beer by definition, but its flavor profile resembled a fine port wine or Cognac. Since then, we've brewed several limited release batches of Utopias, and with each batch we've continued to push for more complexity and strength, producing astonishing brews with alcohol levels reaching 29 percent alcohol by volume for our 2012 10th Anniversary brew.
SI: How do you feel about the ABV wars, and post-Utopia wannabes. What do you think of the West's conspicuous lack of sessionable beer?
JK:I think the definition of a session beer has changed over time, and now everyone has a different opinion on what a session beer is. When I began brewing Boston Lager in 1984, it was referred to by some as an extreme beer. Times have changed -- this year we released our 10th Anniversary Samuel Adams Utopias, which reached an unprecedented 29% ABV. But the bottom line is that when we brew, taste, not alcohol percentage, is our number one goal. Nowadays craft brewers are going to extremes and drinkers continue to experiment. At Samuel Adams we continue to push boundaries but always make sure to focus on creating quality, full flavored beers that we really want to drink, regardless of the ABV level.
SI: Boston Beer Co. has a strong connection to the history of brewing. Besides the Revolutionary period of Samuel Adams, what era of bygone beer-making would you visit?
JK: I think it would be fun to visit the Industrial Revolution era -- more pubs came into existence, and as people migrated into urban areas the industrialization of beer became a reality. But to be honest, there is no better time than the present to be a craft brewer and a craft beer drinker. I feel lucky to be a part of today's craft beer revolution that's being led by American breweries.
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