Craft beer is not always synonymous with small breweries, I for one would include Budvar in my world of craft brewers simply because they use traditional ingredients and continue to make their, oh so lovely, lager traditionally, without cutting costs and corners by using maltose syrup or that nebulous ingredient in Pilsner Urquell and Gambrinus, "hop products". Likewise Fuller's in the UK is a craft brewer, and here in the US companies like the Boston Beer Company, who trade under the brand name Samuel Adams, would also qualify despite the fact that their beers are readily available and for all intents and purposes mass produced.
I have something of a soft spot for Samuel Adams because their Summer Ale was the first beer I had in the USA when I first came in 2007, it was also the first beer I had after 6 months abstinence in an attempt to lose weight (I lost 50lbs eventually, although I have regained a little of that, such is the price to pay for a love of beer). After a 9 hour flight from Prague to Atlanta, and then the short hop to Columbia, not to mention the fact that our bags where held back due to some lunatic driving his burning Jeep into Glasgow airport, it hit the nail right on the head. Thus, one of my aims once Mrs Velkyal and I arrived here to stay was to get to grips with the entire Samuel Adams line, a task which may take a while of course, however I made a start by picking up a boxed Brewmaster's Collection containing the following beers:
- Blackberry Witbier
- Irish Red
- Black Lager
First up was the Blackberry Witbier, made with Oregon blackberries according to the blurb on the neck label, and a fairly new addition to the product line apparently. It certainly pours like a witbier, cloudy amber, slightly off-white head which did a vanishing trick fairly sharpish. This has lots of fruity flavours going on, the nose was like mixed fruit jam, while tastewise some sweet maltiness underlay the fruit flavours again. There was some spice, although I would like to have more as I think the fruit overpowers it and about half way down the glass it becomes boring and even flaccid.
On to the Irish Red then, a style I am planning to brew myself once in Virginia (actually I am planning to cross an Irish Red with an India Pale Ale and make an India Red Ale with lots of C-hop flavours!). Can you guess what colour it was, yes that's right, it was red, and the head was a big fluffy ivory affair. Caramel and cocoa dominated the nose, with some subtle earthy aftertones - my brain immediately said English hops, and thankfully the neck label said East Kent Goldings! The beer itself is quite sweet, with lots of syrupy caramel flavours, which put me in mind of a slightly thinner version of London Pride - which is never a bad thing in my world.
Last up and the most anticipated was the Black Lager, I was eager to see whether this would be a more Bohemian or German interpretation of the dark lager genre. It pours a very dark red with a tan head, and even on popping open the bottle their is a rush of roasted smells, with a light touch of coffee in the background. The roasted theme continues in the drinking, bittersweet and with more than a hint of coffee, with touches of burnt sugar and caramel ending in a gentle dry finish. Yup it's a schwarzbier for sure, and a mighty fine one at that.
For me the Blackberry Witbier does nothing, that is not to say it is a bad beer per se, just that it doesn't rock my boat. The Irish Red is a nice smooth ale which will no doubt make the occasional appearance in the fridge, although given that Irish Red is a style I haven't explored much it will need trying alongside others to get a handle on it properly. The Black Lager will no doubt become a regular in the cellar, it really is lovely and I can imagine that it would be very useful in some of my cooking ideas floating around my brain.
With another 8 styles in the Brewmaster's Collection, not to mention the very nice Boston Lager, I am fairly sure I will be returning time and again to Samuel Adams.