The Badass Beer Advent Calendar: December 22nd

Sam Adams gets downright Dickensian with today’s Badass Beer Advent Calendar selection - Old Fezziwig Ale!

This is another rich, malty winter warmer, brewed by the Boston Beer Company with plenty of extra spices and flavourings - ginger, cinnamon and orange peel. It’s made with five varieties of malt, including one called chocolate malt. This doesn’t mean that the malt tastes of chocolate, it refers to the malt having been kilned at a relatively high temperature producing a darker roast malt that’s the colour of chocolate and which is used in several styles of dark beer. Curiously though, one of the flavours often tasted in very dark beers such as imperial stouts is in fact chocolate.

The Boston Beer Company, makers of Sam Adams beers, is the biggest American craft brewery by volume of beer produced, and this is causing it a problem. The ceiling on production for any brewery that wants to call itself ‘craft’ is 2 million barrels a year as defined by the Brewers Association, and the BBC is very close to passing this number. There’s talk that the cutoff point might be increased so that Boston Beer doesn’t lose its designation.

As far as I’m concerned, the numbers are arbitrary and irrelevant. As long as a brewer’s prime motivation for its beer is quality rather than cost, as long it uses quality ingredients and doesn’t resort to fillers and adjuncts, as long as the brewer’s heart is in the beer itself rather than marketing and gimmicks, and as long as the brewer considers itself to be a producer of beer first and a money-making concern second, it’s still ‘craft’ as far as I’m concerned. Of course, in any business big as BBC it’s inevitable that there’s going to be a degree of bean counting and corporate think, and if the business is publicly owned it has to consider its shareholders, but that doesn’t mean it can’t still be a brewer of good beer.

Nor does it mean that a big corporation such as Anheuser Busch can’t make a good beer. So why don’t they?

Jim Hughes, Head Beer Nerd, Alamo South Lamar
“If I had all the money I’ve spent on drink… I’d spend it on drink.” ~ Sir Henry Rawlinson