Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Wasted: Jim Koch, Sam Adams and Indifference.

The first point to make clear is this: First-rate beer writing here (it is Andy Crouch, after all). How very refreshing to read a piece about beer that isn't a list, a selfie or a professional rassling video masquerading as a beer review.

As for Jim Koch's place in the sun circa 2015, surely he must be credited for occupying such a polarizing position. You can't do that without being known, and arousing feelings one way or another.

Personally, it's a struggle for me to decide how to feel about Koch. He performed valuable services by elevating the standard of airport beer, introducing seasonal styles to a wide audience and "perfecting" the art of contract brewing ... and now overall beer standards are better when you fly; seasonals proliferate like weeds, and punk gypsy brewers using someone else's brewery get the ink formerly reserved for Koch.

He didn't stay "cool" ... but was he ever "cool" from the outset?

You see, as a reluctant capitalist, it's hard for me to feel bad about a guy with millions in the bank. I suspect it is Koch's unalloyed profit motive that always has kept me aloof -- it's my issue, and not necessarily yours, but it helps explain my indifference, because that's what it is. I simply don't care.

Mick Jagger is a very rich human, and yet even at the age of 70, he can bound across a stage and convince many of us that he means it. I'm not sure Koch ever possessed this ability, and unfortunately for him, Samuel Adams Boston Lager has not aged as well as "Satisfaction."

Wasted: How the craft-beer movement abandoned Jim Koch (and his beloved Sam Adams), by Andy Crouch (Boston Magazine)

Jim Koch was pissed off.

The most recognizable man in American beer, who sold us all on the idea of craft brew three decades ago on his way to a billion-dollar fortune, was having dinner last October with a group of brewers inside Row 34, one of Boston’s top-rated beer bars. The drink list was filled with esoteric options from hot new breweries throughout the country, as well as palate-pleasing offerings from abroad. But Koch had a problem: Though this mecca for beer nerds carries two dozen beers on draft and another 38 in bottles and cans, it doesn’t serve his beloved Sam Adams.

Staring at the beer menu, Koch began to criticize the selection. More than half of it, he said, wasn’t worthy of being served—inadvertently insulting the establishment’s owner, who unbeknownst to Koch was sitting next to him. Then Koch interrogated the beer manager about the offerings. Unsatisfied with the answers, Koch complained about the beers so intensely that an employee at the bar teared up. Koch rose from his seat and walked into the keg room, where he started checking freshness dates on his competitors’ kegs.

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