Sam Adam's Boston Lager is one of those beers that a lot of people associate with the term "craft", though it is of course brewed in its millions of barrels in the US. It is very widely available in the US and elsewhere in the world, including the UK. I learn though that Sam Adam's lager, for the first time ever, is to be brewed abroad under licence and the UK will claim that honour. Shepherd Neame will brew and package all UK Sam Adams lager under licence at Faversham, replacing imported stuff and substituting European size 33 and 50cl bottles for the American 35.5cl ones.
The reasons given are interesting: "The primary aim is to improve the freshness of the Sam Adams we’re offering to British beer drinkers," said Boston Beer's founder, Jim Koch. Now I have often wondered about the freshness of imported beers as I watch people hand over infeasibly large amounts of money for them and there you seem to have it - there is in the industry a doubt raised about the freshness of beers such as these, to the extent that brewing under licence is being undertaken. There is another aspect to this too. Graeme Craig, Shepherd Neame’s sales and marketing director, said "We’re seeing growing interest in the US craft beer scene and we both felt this was a better way of doing things rather than an elongated supply chain."
So. The best way to provide drinkers with craft beer from abroad is to brew it here? Really? Or is Boston Lager a craft beer at all? Was it ever? When did it cease to be? Or when will it cease to be? One thing is for sure. The term "craft beer" is one that the big brewers and marketers see has some legs. But in exploiting it, will they devalue it, rendering an undefined term even more vague than it is already? It also seems to this writer at least, that conflating US and UK definitions may make an already rocky road a touch rockier.
Time will tell, but is this really a good move? Is Samuel Adams no longer craft, but just a brand? Questions, questions.
Clearly this is a move for a "craft" beer that is in effect little more than a commodity beer, but as a believer in the thin end of the wedge.......
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink. He also judges beer at both the International Beer Challenge and the World Beer Awards.
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