Most of you who read my reviews with any degree of
regularity probably know by now that I am a pretty big fan of Boston Beer
Company and its Samuel Adams line of beers. I think it’s great that they
produce such a wide variety of beer styles, and introduce so many people to
them. People who might not otherwise try them.
That said, you can forgive them if here and there they produce a brew that isn’t quite the best example of the style. Such a beer is Samuel Adams Pale Ale. Sure, it’s a smooth drinkable brew, but it’s certainly not one of the more robust examples of the style. And I suspect that it has a two fold problem: it’s too mild for dyed in the wool beer geeks, but the hop bitterness may be too much for the uninitiated.
Boston Beer claims Samuel Adams Pale Ale is brewed with English hop varieties, and I suspect that is true. The beer does have an earthy, floral hop aroma and a minty bitterness in the finish. This does make it a drinkable brew indeed.
Samuel Adams Pale Ale pours to a bright golden color with a tint of pale orange and a thick, creamy head formation. A fine layer of Brussels lace follows the liquid all the way down to the bottom of my glass as I sip. A sniff of the nose reveals a slightly sweet malt aroma and a touch of herbal, flowery hops.
The beer has moderate body for a pale ale, with a crisp, biscuity malt body and just a hint of caramel and butter. I think I would have to say this a bit thin for the style; not watery thin, but thinner than I’d like. In the finish, there’s a touch of aromatic hop character and a definite grassy, herbal bitter bite. This balances the beer and makes it very drinkable. But not much more, and in sum I find this to be an average beer.
Boston Beer makes a lot of great beers in the Samuel Adams line. This isn’t one of the best. Sure, it’s a perfectly acceptable, drinkable pale ale that is easily quaffable in hot weather. And you’ll get some herbal hop aroma and bitterness. But you won’t get a lot of complexity or flavor intensity. In this case, I would take a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale over Sam’s version every time.
Update July 15, 2010: As I've mentioned, this isn't my favorite Sam Adams brew, so I don't buy all that frequently. I did get a few bottles in this year's summer styles sampler, however, and I'm sipping one as I type. My observations now are almost identical to the notes I took a few years ago. This is a mild, English-style pale ale with crisp biscuity malt, earthy hops, and a bit of butter. A decent enough quaffing brew, but not much to distinguish it from countless other examples of the style.
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.