Hey Brewmaster, ever talk to a real brewmaster?

Back to Ask the Brewmaster.

As a matter of fact, I had an interesting evening a few weeks ago with the brewmaster from the Boston Beer Company, makers of Sam Adams Boston Lager. Grant Wood was the invited speaker for an evening tasting at an east coast aerospace conference. He brought along a generous sampling of their brews, along with fairly technical discussion of the brewing process. Grant is their pilot brewer, testing out new recipes on a pre-commercial scale. I quietly sat back trying to capture as much as I could.

Sam Adams Boston Lager is made using Harrington two-row malt, including some crystal malt and Munich malt. They have four regional breweries, which treat their local water with calcium chloride. They use an interesting decoction process. About 20% of the mash is heated to 122°F for 20 minutes, and then is ramped up to boiling. The larger portion of the mash is also started at 122oF. The two are then blended to create the main mash temperature of 158°F. This creates a fairly dextrin-rich wort. The mash is sparged into the boiling kettle. The boiling process is accompanied by an addition of Perle hops to get 30 IBUs, and four subsequent additions of Hallertau Mittelfrüh.

Fermentation is done at 58°F, using their own proprietary yeast. . Primary fermentation goes for 7 days, at which point, it is dry-hopped with more Hallertau Mittelfrüh hops. The wort is also kräusened at this point with 15% fresh wort. It is then given another 7 days at 58°F. Next, the wort is chilled to 35°F, where it is lagered for 21 days. This abrupt chilling is used to halt fermentation, and maintain the characteristic body of Boston Lager. Finally, the beer is filtered and bottled.

As Grant went though his discussion, we sampled a number of brews. First was their Light beer, which, like the ad says, has shockingly good taste, at least for a light beer. The color, interestingly, is the same as their flagship Boston Lager, which was the second beer. Next came the Boston Ale, which was fairly similar, but had the characteristic fruiter flavor typical of an ale, and hop aroma from East Kent Golding hops. I also noted some diacetyl too. (He claims they have a maximum limit of 0.018 ppm.) Oktoberfest came next, with a pleasantly malty taste. We capped off the evening with Cream Stout, a very sweet desert beer.

Some things to look for in the near future from Boston Brewing include a Hefeweizen, and a return of an old favorite, their Scotch ale. As I recall, the Scotch ale was pretty good, so pick up a six-pack if you see it.

Vital Statstics for Boston Beers


Starting Gravity

Final Gravity

Bitterness, IBU

Color, SRM

Hop Aroma

Sam Adams Light
Boston Lager
Cream Stout