Is Sam Adams beer really that special, relatively speaking?

So, I see commercials for Sam Adams all the time and each one they’re always going on about how every single thing about Sam Adams is what makes it better than the competition (a commercial saying their product is better than the others? Shocking, I know!).

The part that I want some clarification on is that the commercials even go onto say that the mug Sam Adams, hereafter referred to as SA, makes it taste better because of the shape of the mug. Really?

Why does no one else do this if mug shape is so damn special? Does mean a damn thing what-so-ever?

I think there are other dubious claims that the commercials make but I can’t remember them right now, I tend to mute commercials afterall.

Sam Adams makes several beers, but generally they are all good quality beers, if not necessarily to an individuals taste. As for the glasses, I actually have two and their claims are true but exaggerated, it doesn’t make a beer that much better. But the features of the glass are not without logic. Surprisingly, I think the lip on the glass is the biggest improvement, the shape not so much, and the etching on the bottom does help with the carbonation but it is actually pretty minimal.

Actually, the shape of the glass can significantly enhance the sipping pleasure with any number of beers. Just as there are a wide variety of wine glasses, so are there a plethora of beer glasses. The reason Anheuser-Busch doesn’t go into all that is that nothing would make their beers taste good.

I haven’t tried any of their odd varieties, but no, I don’t think it’s particularly special. It does, though, have a fairly sharp distinctive taste.

It’s better than Bud, the McDonalds of beer.

It’s special because it was one of the first microbrews to go national after the brewing laws were relaxed. As such, it was likely the first non American light lager that most people had tasted, and it helped to speed the growth of the microbrew industry.

Today, with all the competition it helped to bring on, it’s nothing special.

There is a Belgian bar I go to in NYC. Every single brand of beer has it’s own uniquely shaped glass.

Anheuser-Busch is best served in its traditional container - a 9 oz red plastic cup.

You misspelled 12 ounce aluminum can.

When I went on a European bus tour, our Belgian driver told us about this. He said most Belgians will not drink a beer unless it is in the proper glass. He said for his recent wedding he had received gifts of many different types of bottled Belgian beers, but that he would be unable to drink those for which he didn’t own the proper glasses. At a bar in the Netherlands I ordered a Belgian beer. The bartender told me that all their glasses for that particular brand were in use at the moment, so I could wait until one was available, or I could order something else.

As to the beer-- SA is fine. It’s not to my taste, but lagers aren’t my favorites and I won’t hesitate to order it if there’s nothing that I know is better or feel like trying. Some of their offerings beyond their flagship lager are good, too. But they’re certainly not the best of the macro-scale micro-style brewers that are out there.

As to the glass-- yes, drinking from the correct glass can help. Different beers taste best from different shapes and materials of glass, because different shapes can affect how much of the smell of the beer you get as you drink and the materials can affect the rate at which the dissolved gases escape, and those reasons are just a start. I’m not fussy about it personally, but some people are and they’re not entirely wrong to do so.

Why don’t you just taste it yourself? I don’t know how anyone with sentient taste buds could not taste the difference between Sam Adams and Budweiser. Whether they like it is another question. Some people just prefer beer with as little flavor as possible.

Its the the craft beer with the widest availability. There are a lot of restaurants and bars that have a bunch of beers from consolidated brewery companies (Bud, Miller, etc) and Sam Adams. So its “specialness” is probably due to the fact that if your looking for a craft beer, its your only option in a lot of places.

And its pretty good.

Hey, you can’t create an acronym* and then never use it again!

Their regular beer is decent but not always to my taste. Their seasonals run from pretty good to weird. Sometimes some of the flavors don’t taste distinct from each other but still good. They do a decent mix though of styles.

*Or initialism, you pedants.

For a flavorful lager that most bars and restaurants carry, that’s my usual go-to beer if they don’t have New Castle or Blue Moon. Not too light, not too heavy, and doesn’t taste like watered down piss like Bud, Miller, or any other cheap American lager.

As for the glass, it feels a bit gimmicky. But I’ll concede there’s something to drinking beer out of a glass, and if it can release more of the carbonation and aroma, it should enhance the flavor a bit.

ETA: Basically what Simplicio said.

It’s OK, but it’s not THAT great. I’ll drink it over a Budweiser, but only if it was one of the only other choices. There’s a lot of microbrews that are way better, and some larger brews (like Sierra Nevada) that put Sam Adams to shame. Looking at Beer Advocate, none of theSam Adams brews get especially great reviews. Good, but not great.

But the most annoying thing about Sam Adams is the stranglehold they appear to have on the Boston beer market. Last time we were in Boston, there was a huge lack of depth as far as local/regional beers on just about every restaurant menu we saw. It was weird - maybe I’m spoiled, but after living in Colorado and Michigan, I’m used to even small restaurants/bars having at least one or two truly “micro” microbrews. I didn’t see that at all in Boston. Everything was Bud/Coors/etc. or Sam Adams.

Sam Adams and Sierra Nevada were the first two non-megabrews I ever had and there was a night and day difference. I don’t think I’d ever tasted actual substantial hop flavor.

I’d certainly order either over any megabrew if (as suggested above) it were (as could happen) the only non-megabrew on a limited menu.

But if I were in Austin or Portland or Portland or Boulder or . . . just about anywhere that has a culture of good microbrews, Sam would be way down the list of good beers, behind a lot of even better beers.

It is obviously a good time to be a beer fan in America (elsewhere too although I am horrified everytime I go to London pubs and see the ubiquity of Bud and Bud Light).

Oh, and give Jim Koch of Sam some to a lot of credit – his success no doubt inspired dozens of the follow-on microbrewers to believe you could actually make a living making good beer and going head to head with the megaswill.

From the beginning Koch has been an aggressive and fairly shameless, and quite effective, heavy user of advertising and self-promotion, and has put himself front and center with his shtick of a simple guy who had a crazy dream of brewing really good beer in America. Which just makes him one in a long line of successful American capitalists. His product is good enough that his basic claim – drink my beer rather than the beer that the great majority of Americans are still swilling – is not especially disingenuous (I can’t recall an ad in which he claimed to be selling the best beer in America or to be the ne plus ultra of microbrews). It’s like Chipotle doesn’t claim to be the best Mexican food in the world, but has succeeded by delivering better quality and taste than most fast food chains.

And as with Chipotle, Koch’s successful quality/taste differentiation strategy has provided a model for many other entrepreneurs who have an idea for delivering better taste and quality, with reasonable accessibility and price point, to the masses.

If he got rich doing so – I can’t hate him for that.

ETA almost necessarily Sam, as one of the first big-time microbrews, was going to be something less than totally revolutionary. For the microbrew movement to take off, the beer style had to be familiar enough not to be totally offputting to the great majority of megabrew drinkers. The notion that the beer that drew people away from megabrews en masse would, in the first instance, be a lambic, a trippelbock, or a Trappist ale, just isn’t realistic – only a tiny segment of the population could readily and comfortably jump from Natural Light or Bud to those exotic (if delicious) styles.

Sam Adams is a solid beer. It’s what got me into craft brews in the early 90s, so it will always hold a special place in my heart, but I also believe that it’s seriously underrated by a lot of people. They have a lot of specialty beers that are first-class, like the Imperial Pilsner, the Black and Brew, Utopias, etc.

But most of their more mainstream offerings, like the Noble Pils (which I think along with Victory’s Prima Pils is among the US’s best showing in pilsener-style beers) and even their flagship Boston Lager (which is my favorite American lager) are well above-average for their styles. Now, they have their misses here and there (the Cranberry Lambic, for example, is execrable), but the misses are few and far in between.

Is it the best American brewery? No. Not even close. But saying it’s just “better than bud” is selling it way, way, way short.

It is, it is, but that is all that is necessary (if not sufficient) to characterize SA for the purposes that SA exists, which is to peel drinkers away from Bud et al. SA’s continued growth prospects still lie squarely with being a gateway to better beer. The fact that it’s better than it has to be to do so is just a happy coincidence, and SA’s not going to increase market share by converting Fat Tire or Bluepoint or Celis drinkers, nor need it.

Another way of looking at it is that not every meal needs to be a six course molecular gastronomy tour de force, and likewise not every beer has to be a Gold Medalist at the craft beer festival year in and year out. I think of Sam or Sierra or Dale’s as the equivalent to a really good grilled Vermont-cheddar-on-homemade-bread sandwich, alongside a Kraft single on Wonder bread sandwich. Simple but far preferable and sophisticated in taste, and not that much more expensive or challenging.

My personal favorite beer is New Glarus Spotted Cow*. I’m guessing it doesn’t get a lot of play outside WI.

Of the large craft breweries in the United States I rank Sam Adams as one of the top 5 for sure. I think Sierra Nevada has a better taste, and my favorite large-scale craft brewery is Saranac (brewed by Matt Brewing Company.)

The answer to whether Sam Adams is “special” or not is kind of hard to answer. As someone active in the beer drinking scene, some people (unfairly) tend to automatically assume only the smallest microbreweries and brewpubs can have truly good beers. Under that criteria, large craft brewers like Sierra Nevada, Sam Adams, Matt Brewing Company, Magic Hat etc will not fare well, as all of them ship hundreds of thousands of barrels a year.

Another criteria people often use is basically how “unique” the beer being brewed is. To give you an idea of what you mean, at my local grocery store you can get beers from very small microbreweries with flavors like “Banana-Nut Bread”, “Bavarian Chocolate Pie”, “Cranberry Wheat” and etc. Some of these are interesting to taste because they sort of defy what you would normally expect from a beer. A lot of these beers will sell for like $8 for a small bottle, or sometimes $15 for a 4 pack of bottles.

Personally while I think those “unique” flavored beers are interesting and show real creativity, and can be fun to try, I really prefer a beer that tastes like a beer. A traditional dark lager, pale lager, pale ale or etc done very well typically is something I’ll like more as my “regular beer” than I will some crazy-flavored beer that is trying to “shatter barriers” by infusing fermented beverages with strange flavors.

Under that criteria, I won’t say that Sam Adams is the best in class for lagers or that Sierra Nevada is the best pale ale, or Saranac has the best IPA but for widely sold beers that you can order in many restaurants I think they are as good as it gets. There’s better stuff out there, but none of it that I’m aware of that you can reliably buy at any restaurant or bar when you’re traveling. There are locally brewed beers I will prefer, both near where I live and beers local to other areas, but for widely distributed beers I think it’s hard to beat the aforementioned craft breweries.

I also should give a nod to America’s largest brewery (although not a craft brewery): Yuengling, their product is essentially what I think Bud Light or Miller Lite would taste like if they were good beers. So it’s not exactly a connoisseurs beer, but it’s a traditional cookout type beer in the same vein as the stuff A-B or Miller makes but significantly better.