Review of a Vienna Lager from Boston Brewing Company
Here’s today’s question. Can a brewery produce more than a million barrels of beer annually and still be considered a craft brewery? According to Jim Koch, founder and chairman of the Boston Beer Company the answer is yes. Two million barrels is a long way from Jim Koch making beer in his kitchen. Seeing how Koch has built his business up to such a degree it prompts a further question. Can a brewery become so large and still produce quality beer? Well, through this and subsequent reviews, we’ll find the answer to this question.
Well, perhaps we should listen to some of the hype surrounding the Sam Adams line. According to a recent press release Sam Adams products have won more than seventy awards in international beer competitions both locally and abroad. In July of this year for instance, Sam Adams made a respectable showing at the Australian International Beer Awards. Among other things winning awards for Best International Lager and Best International Ale. So apparently someone out there thinks these guys make a pretty good beer.
Before moving on to the review let’s take a moment to look at what we’re reviewing today. The Beer Advocate website lists Samuel Adams Boston Lager as a Vienna lager. The Vienna lager, known for its malt sweetness and toasted flavor was a style originally brewed in Austria in the 19th century and later adapted by the brewers of Munich. Today you won’t find Vienna lagers much outside of Austria except in north American craft breweries including Samuel Adams.
Samuel Adams Vienna Lager starts out deeply golden with modest carbonation. Head is fluffy and cream colored with decent retention. Aroma is deeply, pleasantly malty, all toasted bread up front. Center is lightly caramel providing support for the toast in front and hops in the rear. Hops bring up the rear, all leather and peppercorns.
That first sip is smooth, medium bodied, and very clean in its flavor profile. Flavor seems to offer slightly more character of yeast than the toast found in the aroma. But then comes the caramel maltiness center. Boston Lager’s center offers a nice roundness, malt giving a hint of sweetness in addition to flavors of caramel and nuts. Finish is short and somewhat sweet.
Overall, Boston Lager is a 6.8 out of 10. It comes down to strong start, weak finish. The flavor and aroma start off with the promise of good flavor and balance. And they actually start to deliver on the promise. But there’s something in this beer’s oddly sweet finish that reminds me of a standard mainstream lager.