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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Sam Adams: Life is like a box of Sam...

When I first decided to blog and review my way through a 12 pack of Sam Adams "Summer Style" beer while connecting the activity to American history, I anticipated finishing up within a week or two. It was just a quick way to review some Summer beers, and celebrate Independence day, but I've had some "interruptions" and so here we are in August still going at it...

Through out the month of July I've been watching a couple of different shows about the American Revolution. Among those programs is the HBO series, John Adams. The next best thing to a series on Sam Adams. It's an interesting show with a unique perspective, but completing the series on DVD seems to be taking me as long as finishing that Sam 12 pack is.

The last few weeks have brought professional stress, a death in the family, an ill friend, petty squabbles with acquaintances, a break in and theft of personal property from my car and home, improved friendships, reunions with long lost friends, and the birth of my son. That last one made everything else all seem minor. My point, however, is life gets busy and has it's ups and downs.

A wise man once said, "Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna to get..." Those are words of wisdom, just ask John Adams... OK, I guess quoting a fictional character, and then telling you to confirm the validity of his quote by asking a long dead historical figure his opinion is unfair, but then again, so is life...

In the series John Adams, you get to follow President Adams through out our nation's birth, during a time of revolution, onto a period of nation building and political infighting. The story weaves the nations triumphs and challenges with his own personal life, which was also filled with ups and downs, joys and sorrows.

This poor guy dealt with an unfriendly news media, a sick daughter with a no-good husband, a dead beat son who drinks himself to death, the death of his wife, and his own failing health. He also served as the Vice President and THE President of the United States, successfully avoided a war with both England and France despite strong partisan politics, and sired a son who would also become the President of the United States. As his life came close to an end, he became obsessed with accurately documenting the history of the revolution and his own part in it, ultimately coming to the conclusion that his writings were "rubbish". And finally, he dealt with losing the friendship of his dear friend, Thomas Jefferson, only to reclaim it the last decade or so of his life via a now famous series letters. Talk about ups and downs...

"People and nations are forged in the fires of adversity," said John Adams...

If every box of chocolate has caramel filled candies as well as those nasty coconut filled candies, so too does ever Sam Adam's Summer Style variety pack have it's gems and it's duds. Perhaps life is like a Sam Adams variety pack after all? Some good and some bad...

In the interest of wrapping this up, I shall expedite my reviews of the remaining beers...

Beer: Sam Adams Hefeweizens
Served: From a weizen glass
Location: My kitchen

Some words from Sam Adams: Unfiltered wheat ale, fruity, bright, with a crisp flavor of wheat. Samuel Adams® Hefeweizen beer is a traditional spin on a classic American craft brewing style. The brewers of Samuel Adams® used both malted and unmalted wheat, and two row Pale barley for a clean malty, cereal note. This bright, fruity wheat ale is unfiltered, retaining a natural haze from malt proteins, crisp, bright flavors of wheat, and fresh, fruity ester complexity from our proprietary ale yeast. Accentuated with Noble Spalt-Spalter hops, Samuel Adams® Hefeweizen has an elegant and pleasant bitterness, finishing smooth and clean.

Style: American Pale Wheat Ale

Style Description from our friends at BeerAdvocate.com: A generic form of flavored beer, some breweries actually use real fruit or veggies, though most use an extract, syrup or processed flavor to give the effect of a particular fruit or vegetable. Usually ales, but with not much ale character to them and commonly unbalanced. Malt flavor is typically hidden with a low hop bitterness to allow the fruit or vegetable to dominate.

(This beer comes in at 5.4 % abv)

1. Appearance - A pale, cloudy, dark gold. Honestly, it's a little dull looking, but it presents an ample head. After the head subsides, the residual carbonation is mild.

2. Smell - I detected a sweet floral aroma. (A note on smell - I have a very limited sense of smell, that comes and goes, so my opinions on beer smells should be taken with a grain of salt... That being said, my nose must have been working that day!)

3. Taste - Crisp and sweet with a slightly bitter dry finish. Wheat with a lemon zest, possibly from the yeast, think wheat bread toasted with citrus flavored jam lightly spread on it...

4. Mouthfeel - A little sticky, almost sugary stickiness. Not a heavy beer, but sticks to the toung.

5. Drinkability - Goes down easily enough, despite the stickiness. Not bad, but not great either. Certainly not the best weizen I've ever had, might be better with food. That being said, I think a good beer should be able to stand on it's own.

Drinkability Scale from 1-10: 7 (Goes down easy, but there's plenty of better beers out there.)

A note on opening and pouring this beer: I didn't realize you would need to mix this beer up to get the typical unfiltered look in your glass. (Where's a good robot when you need one?) I failed to do this on my first pour and that tasting was pretty bad. Good thing the case came with two of each

On to the next beer...

Beer: Sam Adams Pale Ale
Served: From a bottle in a pint glass
Location: In my dining room, ooh how formal...

Some words from Sam Adams: Samuel Adams® Pale Ale is a delicious, lighter bodied beer with a delightfully fresh taste. Its unique blend of two row malts add a rich harmony of sweet flavors that are complimented by the traditional earthy hop character imparted by authentic British hops. The fermentation character of the ale yeast adds a rich bouquet of fruit and ester notes that add another layer of complexity to this popular style.

Style: English Pale Ale

Style Description from our friends at BeerAdvocate.com: The English Pale Ale can be traced back to the city of Burton-upon-Trent, a city with an abundance of rich hard water. This hard water helps with the clarity as well as enhancing the hop bitterness. This ale can be from golden to reddish amber in color with generally a good head retention. A mix of fruity, hoppy, earthy, buttery and malty aromas and flavors can be found. Typically all ingredients are English.

Average alcohol by volume (abv) range: 3.8-6.0%

(This beer comes in at 5.25 % abv)

1. Appearance - Copper in color, nicely carbonated topped with a fluffy head.

2. Smell - Sweet malty smell with a slight hoppy finish. (A note on smell - I have a very limited sense of smell, that comes and goes, so my opinions on beer smells should be taken with a grain of salt... That being said, my nose must have been working that day!)

3. Taste - Sweet roasted malt coupled with a mild hoppiness leading to a dry finish.

4. Mouthfeel - Medium to full bodied, but goes down easily with a crisp finish.

5. Drinkability - A refreshingly pleasant upturn in the Sam Adams Summer Style case. Over all a satisfying beer, not over powering, great for those that like their Pale Ales with a more moderate hop flavor. I really like this beer, a great alternative to Bass, but not the best Pale Ale out there. Hop-heads may be left wanting, but all in all a well balanced beer.

Drinkability Scale from 1-10: 8.5 (Enjoy a few at your favorite pub.)

On to the next beer...

Beer: Sam Adams Boston Lager
Served: From a bottle in a pint glass
Location: In the living room
Some words from Sam Adams: Samuel Adams Boston Lager® is the best example of the fundamental characteristics of a great beer, offering a full, rich flavor that is both balanced and complex. It is brewed using a decoction mash, a time consuming, traditional four vessel brewing process discarded by many contemporary brewers. This process brings forth a rich sweetness from the malt that makes it well worth the effort. Samuel Adams Boston Lager® also uses only the finest of ingredients including two row barley, as well as German Noble aroma hops. The exclusive use of two row barley not only imparts a full, smooth body but also gives the beer a wide spectrum of malt flavor ranging from slightly sweet to caramel to slightly roasted. The Noble hops varieties, Hallertau Mittelfruh and Tettnang Tettnanger, add a wide range of floral, piney and citrus notes, which are present from the aroma, through the flavor, to the lingering smooth finish. We take great pride in the Noble hops used in our beers. They are hand selected by Jim Koch and our other brewers from the world's oldest hops growing area. Among the world's most expensive, they cost twenty times as much as other hops.

Style: Vienna Lager

Style Description from our friends at BeerAdvocate.com: Named after the city in which it orginated, a traditional Vienna lager is brewed using a three step decoction boiling process. Munich, Pilsner, Vienna toasted and dextrin malts are used, as well wheat in some cases. Subtle hops, crisp, with residual sweetness.

Although German in origin and rare these days, some classic examples come from Mexico, such as: Dos Equis and Negra Modelo. A result of late 19th century immigrant brewers from Austria.

(This beer comes in at 4.75 % abv)

1. Appearance - Light amber gold with a creamy head that clings to the glass. A nice looking brew.

2. Smell - Sweet malty smell, some floral notes detected from the hops. (A note on smell - I have a very limited sense of smell, that comes and goes, so my opinions on beer smells should be taken with a grain of salt... That being said, my nose must have been working that day!)

3. Taste - Sweet malty caramel flavor. A bit of hoppy bitterness mixes with the sweet flavor to end with a slight bite. A hoppy finish but not over bearing for those of you not in love with all things hop related.

4. Mouthfeel - Medium bodied, satisfying and refreshing. A "go-to" beer for any occasion, and probably the "gate way beer" for many of us that have moved away from macro beers into the world of craft beer.

5. Drinkability - As stated above, satisfying and refreshing and perfect for any occasion. Coming in at 4.75% ABV, this also makes for an outstanding session beer.

Drinkability Scale from 1-10: 9 (Keep a sixer in the back of the fridge in case of emergencies.)

A note on this tasting: A few days after we brought my son home, a few friends came over to visit with us and meet the new family member. (No the little one pictured above is not my son...) My buddy Mike, who you may have seen pictured on my blog in the past, agreed to enjoy a Sam Adams Boston Lager with me and toast the fact that I was now joining him in the world of fatherhood. As I said, this beer is perfect for any occasion...

Just one more beer to go: Sam Adams Boston Ale
Stay tuned for the final review and some closing thoughts on Sam and John Adams...

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