Sam Slaughter, Opinion Editor
I’ll come out and say it. Sam Adams is now the Budweiser of the craft beer world.
Last week, as we at Persimmon Hollow continued preparations for the DeLand Craft Beer Fest, a commercial came on. It was for Boston Lager, the tap handle of which remained center stage and steadfast among eight or so other ever-changing handles.
The idea is that Boston Lager is the original craft beer and that it hasn’t changed in the thirty or so years since it was introduced. Other tap handles, including those resembling Sierra Nevada and Lagunitas, among others, are seen to come in and out of fashion, replaced by the next craft beer fad. This all happens to “Shipping Up to Boston” by the Dropkick Murphys.
The commercial goes on to implore, “Don’t change for us, we won’t change for you.” That is all well and good, but, even with one of my favorite Dropkick Murphys songs playing in the background, I don’t necessarily agree.
Of course Boston Lager hasn’t changed in thirty years. If the recipe is right, why would a brewery change it? If it sells, why bother fixing it? Also, they don’t need to change Boston Lager because they have seventy-one other beers.
I repeat. Seventy-(expletive)-one.
Recipes and ingredients aside, I think this is a great example of what I see as the Boston Beer Company (BBC), the producer of Sam Adams, acting as the Budweiser of the craft beer world. Since their inception, they have continually changed the laws in the United States in order to remain classified as a craft brewery.
To be a craft brewery, the company must be considered “small, independent and traditional.” To be small, they must produce less than 6,000,000 barrels per year. Previous to the 2011 change enacted for the benefit of the BBC, a brewery had to produce less than 2,000,000 barrels. Sierra Nevada, the second largest craft brewery, only produces 800,000 per year.
If this doesn’t seem fishy, I don’t know what does. It is like continuing to wear training wheels when you damn sure know you can ride a bike without them. I’m happy for BBC, and it is cool to see that they’ve grown so greatly and rapidly, but I think they need to face the music and confront that they’re too big to be a craft brewery now.
It is easy to toot your own horn for being a great craft brewery when you get to write the rules.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still pound a Boston Lager if it’s given to me on a hot day. I may even hunt down a Cherry Wheat and a Chocolate Bock so I can make a Chocolate-covered Cherry, but, at the end of the day, I just don’t think Sam Adams should be tooting its own horn as much as it is.