Originally published on May 1. Once we tried to make a “Sam the Malster” joke. Unsurprisingly, no one got it.
As Bostonians, we’re all privy to a rich cultural history. We live among several first-rate museums, the Freedom Trail, a host of historic residences and, of course, the Samuel Adams brewery. Sam Adams is quite possibly our best-known export (sorry, cranberries). We love Sam Adams (particularly the Summer Ale, which is finally back on shelves and on tap!), but we wondered: why is a beer that has only been distributed since Marathon Day in 1985 named after a man who’s been dead since 1803?
The Boston Beer Company (makers of Sam Adams) was founded in 1985 by one Jim Koch, the oldest son of a brewing family. Fed up with the subpar brews currently dominating the beer scene, Koch decided to try marketing a better-tasting beer. Rather than creating an entirely new brew, he looked through his family’s brewing archives and found a recipe for a beer that his great-great-grandfather had made between the 1870s and Prohibition. The name? Louis Koch Lager. Figuring that the name lacked a certain…zing, Jim Koch decided to rename the beer after Samuel Adams, since Adams, like Koch himself, was a brewer who had inherited a tradition of beer-making from his father. Adams was, in fact, a huge beer enthusiast. When not helping to catalyze the Revolutionary War or signing the Declaration of Independence, he worked at his father’s brewery for several years and was frequently called “Sam the Maltster” based on his habit of carrying large amounts of malt through Boston. Classy!
As the beer’s label reminds us, Sam Adams was both a brewer and a patriot, which sounds like a pretty excellent job description. We’re certainly glad for his accomplishments as the latter, but we’re also thoroughly indebted to Jim Koch for his skills as the former.