Review Date 11/1/2000 Last Updated: 12/1/2007
Poor Jim Koch.
The man who founded Boston Beer and the Samuel Adams brand, built a market
for the beer first by pounding the Boston bar scene and then by aggressively
promoting it, and who helped make “microbrew” a household word in America,
is in my opinion the Rodney Dangerfield of the brewing world. Despite all he
has done to promote craft beer, he gets no respect.
Koch has a genuine love for good beer. That was easy to see when I met the man at a beer tasting/dinner held here in Rhode Island to launch the Longshot line of beers several years ago. Sure he’s in it for the money too, but how many of us go to work every day and tell our bosses, “Hey, I love what I do so much, there’s no need to pay me!” None of us of course. We all have to eat.
Somehow, poor Jim Koch is the bogeyman for many craft beer drinkers. They decry his “marketing” tactics (which ironically have served to promote all craft beers, not just his own), and above all they are vexed by this beer, Samuel Adams Cranberry lambic. Why? The beer is not a lambic, to be sure. Only a beer that is brewed in the Zenne River Valley region of Belgium can be properly called a lambic, since it as an appellation controlée, or controlled name, like champagne.
In addition, true lambics are not fermented as most other beers are through the addition of yeast, instead they are fermented spontaneously by yeast that exist in the air around us. Samuel Adams Cranberry Lambic is not so fermented, though it does use a yeast intended to simulate the effects of such a fermentation.
So yes, this is not a lambic. But it’s not the end of the world, either, as some beer geeks would have us believe. Boston Beer did make an honest attempt to simulate the lambic style (which is often fermented with fruit) but added a distinctly New England twist: cranberry juice, and maple syrup to balance out a bit of the tartness cranberries impart. The result is Boston Beer’s interpretation of a lambic, as they indicate on the neck label:
Our version of a traditional Belgian lambic is brewed with native American cranberries, a unique top-fermenting yeast and a touch of maple syrup.
Some Beer geeks may have a problem with the name Cranberry Lambic, but noted beer writer Michael Jackson does not seem to let the name stop him from enjoying the beer. In his Beer Companion, Jackson writes:
Despite a misleading name, the Samuel Adams Cranberry Lambic, made in September by the Boston Beer Company, is both charming and appropriate to the region.
I suggest you try this very refreshing beer for yourself, and make your own decision. It has not been available for the past two holiday seasons, but is being sold this year as part of the Winter Classics 12-pack assortment.
Samuel Adams Cranberry Lambic pours to a beautiful deep orange color and forms a thick, creamy white head of foam. The nose is a tad tart and hints at the cranberries the beer is brewed with. The palate is malty and tart from the wheat with a slightly acidic finish from the cranberries. The fruit is actually more apparent here than it has been in past years samples of Cranberry Lambic. There’s a gentle note of butter here too. A special treat for the holidays, and a marvelous accompaniment to roast turkey with all the fixings. I have enjoyed it in the past with Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner, and will be happy to be able to do so again this year.
And lest you start to believe the doubting Thomases, as I sip this one fresh from the twelve-pack in 2007, I think it just might be better than it ever was. Tart and refreshing with even, I think, more Cranberry flavor than in the past. Just wonderful.
And remember, try a new beer today, and drink outside the box.
*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.