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A man named Charles Koch toiled away as a brewer's apprentice at the
old Schoenling brewery, not knowing that one day his son would buy the
Today the sign on the Over-the-Rhine brewery says it all: "The Boston
Beer Company -- Cincinnati Brewery."
Roughly one out of every three bottles of Samuel Adams Boston Lager is
brewed here. Most of the rest is brewed in Pennsylvania. The company's
brewery in Boston is primarily for research and development, specialty
brews, and tours.
But that's just the end of the Samuel Adams story. It begins in the
attic of a Mt. Lookout home, where for decades young Jim Koch slept
directly below the recipe that would one day make him rich and famous.
"The recipe for Sam Adams actually came from my father's attic which
was here in Cincinnati," recalls Koch, cradling a glass of Boston
Lager in the brewery where his father once labored.
Koch settled in Boston after graduating from Harvard. The eldest sons
for five generations before him had become brewers. He decided to make
During a trip home to Cincinnati, Koch told his dad of plans to start
a micro-brew and market it in Boston.
Koch recalls, "he took me up to the attic of our house here in
Cincinnati and he opened up this old trunk that had his brewmaster's
materials and old family recipes, and he pulled out the recipe for the
beer that became Samuel Adams."
That recipe was developed by his great-great-grandfather, Louis Koch
in the 19th century. If you want to taste the old recipe for Louis
Koch Lager, just pick up a bottle of what today is called Boston
Lager. "It's exactly the same recipe, with exactly the same
ingredients, and flavor and taste," insists Koch.
As the Sam Adams ad campaign romantically recounts, Jim Koch sold the
beer one bottle at a time in Boston bars. Now 27 years later, Sam
Adams claims to be the largest American-owned brewer.
But the company's market share is still just below one percent. Koch
says, "we've gotten to 9/10ths of a percent -- we've gone from
invisible, to microscopic, to tiny. And someday we're going to be
small! That's my ambition."
It's hard not to like Jim Koch. He is exactly like the guy in the
commercials, always clutching a glass of beer and smiling from ear to
ear. He really does steal tastes directly from the fermentation tanks.
"I still taste a sample from every batch of Samuel Adams," he says.
Koch has a true passion for brewing. He is still chairman and controls
the voting shares of the Boston Beer Company, but he hired a CEO 10
years ago to run the business side of the brewery so he could focus on
Koch can dissect the flavors of his full-bodied beer as they strike
his palate, much like an oenophile can detect the subtle hints of
black courant in a pinot noir. "You're going to get a sequence, you're
going to get the body and sweetness of the malt, followed by the
spiciness and the bitterness of the hops, in about a three second
parade of flavors."
But he's really savoring the delicious turn of events that brought him
back to Cincinnati to buy the very building where his dad once punched
a time clock.
"It really is the American dream," he says, "and I remember after we
bought the brewery, I walked through it with my dad, and he was
pointing things out, and remembering this piece of equipment, that
piece of equipment, and then it dawned on him, he said, 'Jim we own
this, don't we?' I said, 'Yeah, dad. I bought it!' It felt like being
the butler's son who buys the mansion."
To recap, Boston Lager is made from a recipe rediscovered in
Cincinnati, by a man from Cincinnati, and a third of it is brewed in
Cincinnati. Why isn't it Cincinnati Lager?
"I thought it was always going to be a little tiny, local Boston
business," Koch says. "I never knew that it would grow like this. Not
only is it exciting to me, it's shocking to my dad."
The Boston Beer company employs about 800 people, and the company has
invested tens of millions of dollars in the Cincinnati brewery. Sam
Adams is currently in the process of building the largest barrel-aging
room in the nation. Special brews will age in 30,000 old brandy
barrels for at least a year before being released.
"The other thing that brought us back to this brewery is just the
people," Koch says. "I mean these are Cincinnati people -- they're
good, hard-working -- who come to work everyday to do a high-quality
job that they can be proud of."
And we can all drink to that.
- posted 8 years ago