By Tony Forder
Jim Koch and Sam Adams have been around in craft beer a long time…but they’re still breaking ground. Sam Adams is of course the iconic brand launched by Koch and Boston Beer, back in the early days of the craft beer revolution.
This time it wasn’t really ground they were breaking, rather it was sky. They decided to invite a bunch of people on their Jet Blue flight to Denver and have Jim conduct an inflight beer tasting at 30,000 feet. It was apropos – we were headed to the Great American Beer Festival. Some of us were, but most of the flight’s customers were not, and they certainly didn’t know they were about to be offered free beer. My seat companion (there were only two seats in my row), a Long Island gal who had lived in Colorado for a few years but moved back, was certainly surprised. “Wow something like this hasn’t happened to me in a long time!” she said.
True, Jet Blue had sent an e-mail explaining that there would be some inflight activity, possibly including some filming, and that anyone was welcome to rebook. Once the flight was up, up and away the action began. Signed releases were asked for, tasting paddles were unpacked and passed around for the 80 passengers and the pouring began – three samples times 80, quite a feat. Jim Koch got on the intercom.
“I always want to speak on a plane,” said Koch, “Because you can’t leave.” Talk about a captive audience! First up Koch introduced a new beer – Sam 76 – a hybrid ale/lager with a subtle blend of Cascade, Citra, Mosaic, Simcoe and Galaxy hops. At 4.7%, it’s an extremely drinkable beer, celebrating “life, liberty and Sam Adam’s revolutionary pursuit of a better beer for everyone”; Sam 76 is planned for release January 2018.
Next up, the rich and malty OctoberFest, “One of my favorite beers to make, “said Koch. Mentioning that it is the biggest selling Oktoberfest in the world, he bragged that the beer beat out the Germans when he presented it at a Munich competition in 2014. Finally, the piece de resistance, the latest version of Utopias, slated for release in November. Naturally, the samples for this third offering were smaller – that’s because Utopias goes 28% alcohol (56 proof). I’ve had a bit of a history with this thick and oily liquid, during its evolution from Sam Adams Triple Bock in 1993, through Millenium at the turn of the century to the biennial release of the astounding Utopias. Blended every two years from an ongoing stock of different barrels, a small sip of Utopias, in Jim’s words “will explode in your mouth and fill your head” with notes of port, sherry, cognac, toffee, caramel, stone fruit, plum pudding, licorice, leather, wood – you could go on forever with the descriptors.
It was a bit much for my neighbor so I obliged. Later on my way to the bathroom I took my cup, and managed another refill. “This stuff is like heroin to me,” I told the flight attendant. It stopped short of dancing in the aisles, but there was definitely a happy vibe in the air, and the miles definitely zoomed by! Congrats to Jet Blue for pulling off this ambitious plan with a fine spirit; I couldn’t imagine another airline doing such a friendly job. And to Mr. Koch and Boston Beer for their creative flair…and for letting everyone keep the tasting paddles!
An inflight beer flight
Three beers with Jim at the Mike
76, Ofest and Utopias