It’s pretty easy to ignore Sam Adams. I mean, Boston Lager is absolutely everywhere, so ubiquitous that you tend to overlook it altogether. It’s basically the plot of 98% of the romantic comedies from the ‘90s, where the lead takes his best friend/neighbor for granted and doesn’t realize he actually loves her until it’s almost too late, even though she’s been there for him through all of the tough times…but you know, with beer. We’ve defended Sam Adams before, specifically Boston Lager because it is a classic beer that got me through some lean times in the ‘90s. And yet, Boston Beer Company aka Sam Adams is more than just a single beer. Sure, I think the brewery would survive just fine if they stripped away all of their other brands and only made Boston Lager, but they continue to make new beers. I’m not saying Sam Adams is a terribly innovative brewery, but they have been trying some new things lately and those new things are pretty great.
The new beers that come out of Sam Adams aren’t always winners. I wasn’t terribly impressed with their Rebel series of IPAs, but Sam ’76 , which was released last year, was good enough to get me excited about the brewery again. It’s a lager/IPA hybrid, which is nothing particularly new, but Sam Adams does the mashup really well. It’s got beach beer written all over it thanks to its lager-like drinkability, but is still complex enough to keep you interested. You should drink this beer in the summer time. A lot.
Fortunately, Sam Adams didn’t stop releasing new beers with that one hit; the brewery has a couple of new beers released recently that are worthy of your attention.
The Bavarian lager as a style is typically brewed with darker malts for a darker, maltier lager that helped inspire the super popular Vienna-style lager. Sam Adams’ version of this old school beer is pretty damn good; an unfiltered amber lager designed for the weird weather of spring. It’s a single hop beer using Noble Tettnang hops from the Alps, because Jim Koch likes to go get hops from Europe. It pours a light brown with a beautiful head that delivers a strong lemony nose. It’s malty and super mellow with a really creamy mouthfeel, but also has a layer of citrus zest that brings a bit of balance to the package. But the best aspect of this beer, hands down, is the rich and buttery element that comes across a bit like popcorn. No, like caramel popcorn. I take a sip and immediately want more. It’s seasonal, on the shelves through March, but if you act fast, you can probably still find some to check out.
This isn’t the first “New England” style beer from Sam Adams. They released a New England Style IPA last year, and some beer journalists pointed to that particular release as the sign that the hazy IPA had reached mainstream status last year, since the large brewery was able to send their hazy and juicy IPA across the country. Maybe that’s true, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing, right? That beer was good. Their latest new beer, the New England Pale Ale, is even better. This one was developed in Sam Adams’ experimental nanobrewery, and just like the Bavarian Lager, hinges on hops sourced from Europe—Mandarina, Mellon and Blanc. But with this pale, they added those German hops to Mosaic and Citra and created something incredibly juicy in the process.
New England Pale pours hazy and milky orange with a robust nose full of sweet citrus like mango and papaya. All of these things are good. I don’t necessarily think of Sam Adams as a pale ale or IPA brewery, and I’ve been disappointed with some of their efforts in the past, but I think they nailed it with this one. It hits the New England style dead on, delivering big juicy notes full of the tropical fruit we all love without the hop bite on the back end. Instead of zesty and bitter, it’s smooth and easy to drink. Normally, I grow tired of juicy/hoppy beers that are all kittens and rainbows, but I dig this pale ale. It’s not particularly challenging, but you want to keep cracking the cans, one after the other. And that’s exactly what I want out of a pale.
It’s available year-round in four packs. Get it. You won’t be sorry.