Tuesday, 28 February 2012

"Boston Lager" - A Follow Up


The Brewer's Guardian had an article on the story I spoke about yesterday -about Sam Adams Boston Lager being brewed by Shepherd Neame. I was quite struck by this quote from Sam Adams founder Jim Koch. The articles says that Koch also has a message for any doubters: "Taste it. Unless you’ve become wedded to slight oxidation it’ll be better. It will be a better Samuel Adams than you’ve been getting because it’ll be fresher."

Now let's dissect that statement.  Firstly "it will be fresher". Unarguable. Secondly "it will be better"  presumably because fresh beer tastes better. OK.  And lastly, though he says it first,  "Unless you’ve become wedded to slight oxidation it’ll be better"  Right. So all Sam Adams beer is slightly oxidised, which presumably means that much imported beer is slightly oxidised? Presumably many beer geeks forking up top dollar for all these fancy imports are, in some cases at least,  getting slightly oxidised beer?  Of course, many are so strong and strongly flavoured that it will scarcely show and hardly be noticed, but does anyone observe staleness in imported beers?

 Not that this should matter to any great extent (some would argue that cask conditioning is all about serving oxidised beer) as long as people are happy with what they are drinking.  But it is instructive to know it.

Read the Brewer's Guardian article here.

9 comments:

Matt Curtis said...

I buy a lot of American IPA's and love them dearly and I am lucky enough to have tried them on both sides of the pond. Most of the time they still taste fantastic and fresh but I have had a few bottles that have been flat and dissapointing but this is inevitable due to the way that they are packed and mosy importantly the way they are handled during shipping. I'll keep buying imports though because I love the beer.

The freshest and best imported US beer that I've had has been in cans, funnily enough.

Cooking Lager said...

"Fresh Beer" worked for the budweiser brand.

chriso said...

I've certainly had a few bottled US beers over here that tasted a bit "old" to me. But, on the other hand, having lived on the other side of the pond for a while, I sometimes had the same experience there too. However, the fact that relatively few US brewers provide any indication of best before, or bottling, dates makes drawing any meaningful conclusions rather difficult.

Velky Al said...

The funny thing with that comment is the "wedded to slight oxidation" part, because if you ask many an American beer "geek" they will tell you that all European Pilsners are "skunky" and that's part of the "style".

Clearly they have never had Pilsner Urquell from a tankove system in Plzen or they would know it isn't supposed to taste like it does when pasteurised and shipped thousands of miles in sub-optimal conditions.

RedNev said...

Fresh is good? Yet for cask beer, fresh is bad, apparently ~ maturing in the cask, and all that. Sorry, I've read the post twice, and I can't really work out what it's about.

Jeff Alworth said...

To sort of echo Velky Al, I'll say that Americans receiving British beer are sadly all too familiar with oxidation--and other age-related faults. I live in Oregon, which is 2,900 miles from New York, itself 3,500 miles from London. By the time a bottle of beer has swum the Atlantic and ridden in the back of a truck for nearly 7,000 miles, it's not in the condition the brewery intended.

(Sometimes beers make stopovers for weeks or months to rest in un-air-conditioned warehouses in places like Texas.)

Boston Lager is a light--sorry, I forgot who I was talking to--strong lager, but within two weeks, it will have lost its crisp snap. Another two months and it will have turned muddy. If I owned a brewery, I wouldn't even bother to ship beer overseas unless it was six or seven percent. But having beer brewed there? That's a very good idea.

Tandleman said...

Nev - I think the point is quite clear. It is that for processed beer, freshness is important. For cask beer, there is a different argument.

Jeff. Important points about distances, storage and time there. Let's hope Shep make a good fist of it.

Leigh said...

Strangely, I'm looking forward to trying a 'fresh' SA - even a quasi-SA brewed in the UK - to see what it's like -purely out of interest. Very valid points re: condition, and one that we've been discussing a lot lately. Watching with interest....

Erlangernick said...

Heh. Jim Koch used to market SABL with its freshness dating based on how all that imported Eurobeer was stale, even mentioning floaties in the bottle as evidence. Fair enough.

But to counter Jeff's point, as an Oregonian now living in Franconia, I can say that I encounter a fair bit of oxidised Franconian beer in Franconia, even well within its EU-required best-by dates. Seems some breweries have some issues with oxygen in their antique bottling lines or something.

I used to enjoy bottled Eurolager pretty damn fresh in OR, largely indistinguishable from what it is over here anyway, to the extent that I think the shipping-over-the-pond beating up regular strength beer is quite exaggerated. Or I'm just lucky. Or I have a wooden palate.