I recently read an article titled, “How to Taste Beer.” Now, I’ve been a beer drinker (and lover) for quite some time but I’m still not sold on the whole idea of organized swirling and sniffing. I drink a beer and I either like it or I don’t. In some cases I really don’t like it. For instance, last month I tried two different beers that I wouldn’t serve to anyone regardless of how many national secrets I was trying to extract from them. One tasted as if you put a belt into a blender and hit “liquefy”. My burps straight-up tasted like leather boots until the next afternoon. The other I could barely get down at all as it tasted like potpourri, Mr. Bubbles, and your local librarian’s perfume all mixed into one bottle with a mermaid on it – legit, the reason I ordered that one. Don’t be tempted by the sirens of the sea! Don’t drink the Grey Lady.
April 7th was National Beer Day and I celebrated with half a pint of Weihenstephaner Dunkel Weiss from the tap at my house while I iced my back in recovery from a flying trapeze injury. For some people this is real life. So in order to make better National Beer Day my husband and I have declared April “Beer Month” in addition to the other eleven that we already celebrate.
Serendipitously, we preemptively made a trip to the Sam Adams Brewery where the rules of beer tasting were once again thrust upon me. Look, Agitate, Smell, Taste – according to the article. I was too busy taking pictures and making sure the pitchers being passed around never got more than an arm’s length away to muster up the patience for all that. So while I don’t really care how transparent my beer is or what ingredients I can smell (as long as it’s not cowhide), one thing I do routinely critique are brewery tours. So after I finish this beer I have sitting in front of me I will give you my tips on How to Tour Beer.
Also, I’d really like to tell you that visiting the Sam Adams Brewery is almost as magical as a won trip through Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory… so I will! I mean, duh, BEER! The employees are a bit taller and no one on the outside is bribing you to steal company secrets, but all-in-all there are many similarities.
Come with me, and you’ll be
in a world of pure inebriation
Take a look, and you’ll see
your lack of coordination
– STEP ONE: ARRIVE –
I mean, showing up is half the battle, right? The Sam Adams Brewery is located in, you guessed it, Boston, Massachusetts! I’m assuming you knew that because of their famous Boston Lager and not because of the 12 feet of snow you have to tunnel through to enter. More specifically, it’s located at 30 Germania Street. It’s also basically just in the middle of a neighborhood. One of those really old neighborhoods with the teeny tiny streets that gives Boston and its residents that signature charm and also explosive road rage.
There’s no earthly way of knowing
which direction we are going
They have a “parking lot” that’s really more like a “parking not-a-lot” but dammit they are free parking spots in the city of Boston! The brewery is open Monday-Saturday with tours happening every day until 3 PM (5:30 on Fridays) or until someone falls into the chocolate bock river and gets sucked up the pipe headed for the smelting room.
And I’m sorry to tell you this, but don’t expect to be greeted by a top-hatted wacko with a fake limp and a red carpet. But, if you want to see some somersaults, just let me go through the tour a couple times and I’ll show you some doozies afterwards out back by the loading dock.
Now you brought your Golden Ticket, right? RIGHT? I’m kidding, you don’t need it – leave it home on the nightstand next to the bed you share with your other six family members. Remember when I mentioned I love free things? Well, here’s another! These tours are FREE! However, (you knew a ‘however’ was coming didn’t you?) a $2.00 donation is suggested which goes to benefitting local charities. And do I even need to mention free parking again?
– STEP TWO: OOH, AHH –
You’ve made it! You’ve managed to maneuver your salt-covered SUV around 15-foot snow banks and down one-lane, one-way streets in the wrong direction. Only one elderly man shook his fist at you and your car is now parked in a spot that will take a Wonkavator to get you out, but a free spot it is. Now leave your totally rational fear of driving behind you and prepare to behold deliciousness, just don’t lick the wallpaper.
Sam Adams, America’s largest craft brewery, wins like, A LOT of awards. Their main lobby/gathering area, while it lacks in buttercups and gummy bears, more than makes up for it with award banners from previous beer contests and festivals and trophy cases galore. I missed most of this having arrived about 30 seconds before the last tour of the day, as per usual, so I would advise showing up a wee bit early and taking time to check out the vast array of stuff inside the main entrance. Or ya know, when you finish just start all over again. Ain’t no shame.
– STEP THREE: SMELL –
There, I threw in one of the official steps.
When you arrive at the brewery, don’t forget to stop and smell the air around and inside the building that smells nothing like roses but instead like the magical brewing processes taking place inside. The smell of active breweries is a favorite of mine that probably originates from a childhood of visiting the Budweiser brewery in St. Louis, Missouri every summer. Sure, I was one quarter of a non-beer-drinking family but whatever, they have ponies!
At the start of the tour you will learn (I know, I’m getting ahead of myself) about all of the ingredients that go into producing the magnificent golden ale… or lager, or bock, or IPA, and it may not even be golden. In fact, it’s probably not. Your guide will pass around samples of the different malts used to produce the different flavors (Yes, I ate them. No, I didn’t learn a damn thing from Violet Beauregard.) and a jar of hops for your smelling pleasure (don’t eat these, I’m pretty sure you will die). You will be told to rub the hops between your hands to really bring out the aroma but only do this if you want sticky green hands for the rest of the day. If that’s something you do want, then by all means…
– STEP FOUR: LEARN –
I know you’re just here for the beer, but try to pay attention. Your tour guide will give you an in-depth, and most likely humorous, look into the history of beer and the brewery itself. You will learn how beer is made and why Sam Adams kicks so much ass. And as I said before, you will get to smell things – worth the drive right there, am I right? No? OK, well we’re almost to the good stuff.
You will see top secret laboratories, many happy employees, the mash tanks, the brew kettles, and even the fermentation tanks where sugars are being converted into delicious yeast farts. Now if that doesn’t get you here, I don’t know what will.
And if you learn what’s in the room pictured above, let me know because it looks super top-secret. I’m assuming it’s a fresh batch of Fizzy Lifting Drink which would be awesome because if my survival relied solely on my ability to burp, I would live forever.
– STEP FIVE: TASTE –
Finally the part you’ve been waiting for! The tasting! At the end of your tour you will be led, drooling and grinning ear-to-ear, to the tasting room and sat up against some strangers who may kind of act like they don’t like you. Just give them a minute and a few beer samples and they’ll be laughing at your jokes before you know it. You will be given a 4 oz. Sam Adams tasting glass which you are allowed and encouraged to keep. We tasted three beers in the tasting room and another in the back corner of the gift shop, believe it or not. With each sample you get a small lesson on that particular beer, the flavors, what you should be tasting for, a pop-quiz, and a couple funny one-liners. I believe different beers are offered during different seasons and for us it was Irish Red (top right), Boston Lager (middle right), and Cold Snap (bottom right). Pictured on the left is the sample of Chocolate Bock that I picked up in the gift shop behind a rack of sweatshirts.
Oompa Loompa doom-pa-dee-brew
I’ve got another guzzle for you
– STEP SIX: SHOP –
I’m not just talking about T-shirts and sweatpants here people. I mean, sure, they have those and everything else you’d expect from a gift shop: hats,
everlasting gobstoppers, koozies, golf accessories, drinkware, but they also have beer. At the Sam Adams brewery gift shop you can purchase growlers of various rotating beers, tap handles for your at-home kegerators, and every device imaginable to open any and all beer vessels.
And yes, as previously mentioned, there was a dude in the corner of the gift shop pouring beer as well. Whether this is a normal occurrence or not, I can’t be sure. Mr. Slugworth perhaps? Who cares – you can totally bribe me with beer.
The Sam Adams Brewery is definitely a scrumdiddlyumptious way to spend some free time in Boston but I am sad to report that the tour did not end with a lifetime supply of beer or the invitation for me and my entire family to move in. For more information on Sam Adams brewery tours, check out their website.
There is no life I know
to compare with pure intoxication
Living there, you’ll be free
if you truly wish to be
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