Saturday, July 18, 2015

Beer Inspiration in our Backyard: 2015 AHA Rally at Samuel Adams

I can't believe it has been a year already since last year's American Homebrewer's Association (AHA) rally at the Samuel Adams Brewery. It was interesting revisiting my post from last year. I touched on the challenge Sam Adams has in maintaining their "craft beer cred" so to speak. Since then there was a Boston Magazine article where they ask, and Samuel Adams founder Jim Koch laments whether the craft beer movement has left Sam Adams behind. That was followed by a scathing rebuttal from local beer and homebrewing blogger Vinny Mannering which went viral.

Real brewmaster and a would-be. Who's to say which one is which?

Unlike last year where I could only make it for an hour or so due to work obligations, this year I planned ahead and took a half-day. If my girlfriend hadn't been stuck in a meeting we would have been better able to time the rush hour traffic. Instead we were stuck for a half an hour in the I-93 tunnel.

As we walked in the AHA volunteers gave us bracelets and free gifts from Grog Tags. The tags should work great to label my fermenters. The only real special beer being poured in the tasting room was a new Mesquite Brown Ale, a brown ale with smoked malt. The smoke was restrained and was a very interesting contrast with the caramel sweetness from the base brown ale. This one is a winner for me!

Great BBQ at the event.

To go with the burgers and hot dogs they had Boston Lager barbecue sauce and IPA mustard, both excellent. The crowd was large enough that brewery staff opened seating in the beer garden next to the brewery. My only complaint is that a four ounce sample doesn't quite provide enough time to truly enjoy the beer garden experience on a beautiful summer evening.

VIP Cask tasting was awesome.

My favorite part of the evening was the AHA VIP cask tasting inside the Barrel Room. The three beers served on cask were Winter Lager (?), Revolutionary Rye, and their Rebel Rider session IPA. All three beers worked well on cask; the spices in Winter Lager were apparent. The one that really stood out was Rebel Rider. I agreed completely with Deadspin's assessment of Rebel Rider when I bought a six-pack of the bottled version: that it felt watered down and didn't compare to Rebel IPA or the excellent Rebel Rouser. Lightly carbonated and served at cellar temperatures, Rebel Rider was a completely different experience. The low carbonation made the beer feel more full-bodied, and the warm temperature really allowed the hop flavor and aroma to shine. If there was one takeaway from a brewing standpoint it was the importance of carbonation levels and serving temperature.

Toasting craft beer luminaries in those photos. 

Sam Adams gave the AHA run of the place!

Admittedly not all of their 60 beers are five-star classics, but I still love Samuel Adams and will defend Boston Lager, Summer Ale, and some of their other beers to the hilt. They have also done a great job of late serving and selling different and experimental beers at the brewery. That way if you have visited numerous times like I have it is a different experience every time.

We bought growlers of a Black IPA where all of the proceeds benefit Ales for ALS, and a hoppy amber ale. Both growlers had QC codes to submit feedback on the experimental brews. We also purchased shirts, stickers, and received a free pint glass thanks to an AHA Member Deal.

There were some great raffle prizes. Unfortunately we didn't win any. Beer & Wine Hobby had a kiosk at the rally, and I spoke briefly with Gennaro the owner on our way back to the car. He thanked me for sharing a picture of their new all-grain room on social media, and talked about how they have greatly expanded the grains they are carrying at the shop. When I stopped in to pick up ingredients for the North Shore Brewers Galaxy IPA and another upcoming beer, I didn't have a time to check it out. I look forward to spending more time there next time I stop in.

The rally was a fun time. Samuel Adams was an excellent host. I am debating whether or not to check out the rally at Maine Beer Company on September 2. If the Brewers Association board of directors will all be there I am sure they will be serving some special beers for the occasion.

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