Beer Review: Samuel Adams Boston Lager

AMERICANS are brilliant. They leave some of the best comments on this blog. And they keep mentioning a beer that they like called ‘Samuel Adams’. At long last, that beer has started turning up in British shops. It’s great that they finally sorted out distribution in this country. But it leaves me with a problem. If I ‘review’ it and like it, my Sam Adams loving friends will be delighted. If I try it and hate it, then my polite and informative American readers will be somewhat irked. Still, it’ll be fun to see what happens. So, for an expensive £1.19 pence, on a very fine line, here is a bottle of Samuel Adams Boston Lager.

Samuel Adams Boston Lager bottle

As bottle’s go, it’s brown and fairly plain. For some reason, the stuff you normally read on the back-label is up on the neck label where you wouldn’t normally think to look for it.

Samuel Adams Boston Lager front of neck label

For added quirkiness, they split paragraph with the first half on the left and second half on the right of the “Samuel Adams” logo. But quirkiness is good. I like that.

Samuel Adams Boston Lager left of neck label

It’s good to read the sort of description that you normally find on an ale. About the care, attention to detail and recipe that goes back generations.

Samuel Adams Boston Lager right of neck label

Rotating it around to read the rest, and it keeps getting better. We get the names of hops. And interesting, those aren’t names I remember reading on anything I’ve tried so far. So extra marks for distinctive ingredients.

Then they take the risk. “No other American lager matches this rich robust and complex taste”, finishing with a pretend signature from Jim Koch. The cynic in me says that that means it’s only average because of the dire state of American brewing. The optimist says that there’s plenty I’ve not tried yet, and that Samuel Adams Boston Lager must be something special. Either way. It’s a brave statement.

Down on the front-label, and there’s a big, traditional looking roundel.

Samuel Adams Boston Lager front label

…a label that gives me déjà vu. I’ve seen it before somewhere…

Family Guy Pawucket Patriot Ale

I think it looks good. And so does the Samuel Adams one.

“The Boston Beer Company”, “Product of USA” and “America’s World-Class Beer” all add to the sense that this should be good, and not mass-produced fizz.

Oddly, the small print is tucked into two flappy bits either ride of the roundel. One the left is the address of The Boston Beer Company in Boston, Massachusetts. On the other side is some recycling information for other countries and the all important vital statistics. This is an unusual 355ml bottle. Until you realise that it was designed with fluid ounces in mind, which case one of the numerous online converters brings it to 12 oz. Does that sound normal to you? The alcoholic volume is 4.8% which is unremarkable for a lager. Neither strong nor weak.

Is there a back label? Yes there is. Is it worth reading? Not really.

Samuel Adams Boston Lager back label

It is literally a list of importers. Here in Britain, the rather excellent Shepherd Neame of Kent arranged this bottle’s arrival on the shop shelves.

So, what does Samuel Adams Boston Lager taste like? Will I like it as much as our friends over the pond do? For the sake of the comments at the end of this post, I sure hope so.

Samuel Adams Boston Lager poured into a glass

The fun and quirky touches keep coming. On the underside of the bottle-top, yes, the side that’s inside the bottle, is a proudly displayed “#25 Brussels Gold 2000 International Award Winner”. Well done chaps.

In the glass, it froths up, but the head collapses fairly sharpish into a lumpy layer. Must say, I was surprised at how dark it is. It’s a kind of copper-y amber colour with an almost cream head. It looks well carbonated, but not too fizzy.

What does Samuel Adams Boston Lager smell of? First reaction was “it smells good for a lager”. Almost every pilsner style lager beer I’ve sniffed has some variation on the malted barley formula. Very few stretch that into something distinctive, but Samuel Adams Boston Lager seems to have managed it. Unbelievable, I think it smells of hoppy spiciness and biscuit malt. Normally, you’d only read those words in a review of English ale.

What does Samuel Adams Boston Lager taste like? The first sip is a good one. A very good one in fact. Much like the smell, it’s almost like drinking ale. Some people won’t like that, but I do.

To elaborate a bit, because it is an ale, it still can’t manage much in the flavour department. All I can pick up there is a hint of savoury malty. It’s the aftertaste where Samuel Adams Boston Lager comes to life and where it makes a bold stride away from the crowd. The finish is tingly, tangy, salty, hoppy and spicy and a little bit malty. All this makes it bitter overall, but balanced and with a long and quite smooth finish.

With most of the bottle now gone, what am I enjoying about Samuel Adams Boston Lager? Thankfully, quite a lot. I love how different it is to almost every lager I’ve tried. That scores it serious points for distinctiveness. I love how it’s a lager trying to be an ale. I like the hoppy taste that you normally have to buy an expensive bottle of ale for. I like how it looks and smells different. I like how not many people this side of the pond know about it yet. And I like what a funny size it is, sitting uncomfortably between smaller and bigger Euro bottles on the shop shelf.

What aren’t I like about Samuel Adams Boston Lager? Fortunately for the comments section of the post, not that much. First, I’m burping more than usual, so it’s a gassy drink. It is quite bitter and strong tasting, so I won’t be getting any girls to try it any time soon. Incidentally, if you are a girl who likes Samuel Adams Boston Lager, leave your thoughts in the comments. It’s also unlikely to appeal to the committed lager drinker, unless you’re using this as a stepping stone to real ale. That puts it in an awkward spot between what you think of as lagers and ales. It’s not as crisp and refreshing as other good lagers and not as complex and flavourful as ale. It’s also rather expensive.

How can I sum up Samuel Adams Boston Lager? It is that rare thing. A lager that truly is different. One of those few that thinks it’s an ale. It is better than any of the mass-produced American lagers I’ve tried by miles. I’m going to buy it again.

Rating: 4.15

Have you tried Samuel Adams Boston Lager what did you think of it? Can you correct any of the mistakes that you’ve spotted in my ‘review’? Do please leave your opinions, recommendations and places to buy, here in the comments section.

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10 Responses to “Beer Review: Samuel Adams Boston Lager”

  1. Samuel Adams Boston Lager dons new label for its 25th Anniversary | Beernews.org Says:

    [...] link above is what you will see in the U.S. If you want to see the European version, head over to Hywel’s Big Log post on the brew from two weeks ago, jam-packed with six different angled photos of the brew. Posted [...]

  2. smitlee Says:

    I’m a girl & I love Sam Adams Boston lager. First drank it in the states & was hooked, although now my favourite drink is Badgers Champion Ale.

  3. mike Says:

    “cynic in me says that that means it’s only average because of the dire state of American brewing”

    American brewing is quite poor overall, at least in the mass production end. There are some very good products coming out of microbreweries here that cater to those that expect a little bit more out of their drinks. Samuel Adam’s is quite good and I’m glad you enjoyed it, hopefully you will be able to get ahold of some of their other brands like the winter lager. Here’s some info:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boston_Beer_Company

  4. John Gunning Says:

    I used to drink Rolling Rock! Check it out. Also, the west coast version of Sam Adam’s is Henry Weinharts…

  5. Lee Says:

    funny thing is….it IS a mass-produced american lager. the Boston Beer Company ceased to be a craft brewery 20 years ago.

    They crank out 2 million barrels a year and 4 other breweries make it for them under license.They really try to cram it down our throats here in the states with excessive and annoying advertising.i cant justify the $9/6 12oz. price for the rather boring taste and average ABV.

    Yuengling, Ballantine Ale or anything by Dogfish Head is far better.

    Theyve become so snobbish…they think that their 23% ABV Sam Adams Utopias is worth $300 a bottle.

    Dogfish Head World Wide Stout 18% blows it away for $10 a bottle.

    Sorry…i honestly think the europeans that came over here and started breweries failed back home and got kicked out.Europe has FAR superior beers/ales/wines/scotch etc.

    American beermaking is only excellent on the craft/microbrew level. The mass producers are only interested in your $$$

    If anything…theyre the best tasting out of the mass producers,but thats not saying much…A-B is coming on strong with new dark lagers and wheat beers that taste halfway decent and is better priced.

    • Mike Brannon Says:

      First of all, Yuengling??? I’ve never had a worse beer in my life. I avoid it like the plague. I do agree with you about Dogfish Head. I quite like their 60 minute IPA. But ABV is not what makes a beer boring or interesting. Samuel Adams Boston Lager is in no way boring.

      BTW, did you spend $300 on a Utopia? The reason I ask is that you said that Dogfish Head World Wide Stout blows it away, so you must have tried one. If so , is your buyers remorse on the Utopia coloring your opinion of Sam Adams?

      Try the Noble Pils that just came out a couple of months ago. Also if you can get hold of a Winter Classics Collection 12 pack, it contains two of my favorites; Old Fezziwig Ale and Holiday Porter.

      Bottom line is that Sam Adams is a first class beer, and thank God that we have a major brewery in America that crafts a quality product.

      • Darrel Says:

        first off to the author of the review I have to agree I think some people haven’t realized that for a mass produced beer Sam Adams is keeping it legit with quality AND quantity this is my go to beer at a restraunt as it won’t let me down with a meal and a great session beer if you want something that’s between a lager and between an ale this is an excellent choice as for the yuengling statement I hate to join in on the flame war but that shit taste like drinking greenbeans alcohol and water

  6. b marvin Says:

    it’s a great beer

  7. Dawn Says:

    I am female and I just tried Samuel Adams Boston Lager for the first time tonight. To give you a quick background, I have never been a beer drinker. To me, it all smelled like urine. I like hard liquor and sweet mixed drinks. :) But I got this for my husband so he could try it. He didn’t care for it, but I really like it! The smell reminds me more of wine than the beers I’ve smelled before, and the taste is smooth. I think I’ll be drinking his six pack. :)

  8. paul Says:

    Whats up with the under the cap information?

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