Lovers Lane
Copernicus Center

Summer Of Sam

| May 23, 2011

Craft Beer Week continues: Samuel Adams’ reputation relies on history as much as its label. As one of the oldest craft breweries in America, and certainly the one longest in the national consciousness, its ability to experiment comes second to sustaining tradition.

This creates a problem for its image among beer snobs, who aren’t partial to lagers much less Sam Adams’ flagship brew. (Its superlative, long-standing Boston Ale remains mystifyingly under-marketed.) But when the house sticks to malty beers, it generally finds success. Sam Adams Light remains the best light beer of any brewer, while its notorious winter sampler pack always has a potluck charm around the holidays.

Its summer beers are a different animal. Huddled this year, it’s hard to find a keeper among the Latitude 48 IPA, Rustic Saison, Summer Ale, and East-West Kolsch. The Kolsch — keeping with the Bostonians’ lager past — fares best, a bright, if unimpressive entry into the German summer tradition. Summer Ale’s heavy citrus accent makes it feel like a synthetic lemon sits right inside the bottle, while the pungent Latitude doesn’t pack enough hoppy oomph. But special distinction is needed for the Saison, a Belgian-styled floral beer that gets off on the right, fruity step (peaches, apricot), but then disappears into peppery static and completely forgets to grant an aftertaste.

It’s kinda like an artist who excels at the classic bits, but loses the plot when ambition clouds the vision.

In other words, Sam Adams is a lot like Neil Young.

— Steve Forstneger

For each (business) day of Chicago Craft Beer Week (May 19-27), we’re pairing an artist with a brewer. Click for Day One, Day Two, Day Three, Four, Five, and Six.

Category: Weekly

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