Got Beer? A Taste of Sam ’76

If my many years grappling with the long-departed founding father Samuel Adams has taught me anything, besides how to properly use a proton pack (do NOT cross the streams,) it’s that the Boston Beer Company that has co-opted his name for their beer brand always finds new ways to surprise me.

Cynical though I am, I’m always willing to give their newest beers a try. I’ll be honest, some of them haven’t thoroughly impressed me, but other times I’ve been blown away by the skill and depth that they’re still capable of.

So it was with a certain trepidation and no small amount of paranoia that I took the pint glass of Sam ’76 and braced myself. With no spiritual intrusion, I looked carefully at the product description.

“Sam ’76 is a perfect union of lager and ale, giving you a craft beer with the flavor of an ale and the refreshment and crisp finish of a lager. The result is revolutionary.”

Revolutionary. I get it!

The quote supposedly comes from Jim Koch himself, but I think it probably more comes from his marketing people. So now that we’ve dissected the packaging, let’s dive in and try this brew.

The aroma is that of citrusy hops and honey-sweet malt, which is standard fare for most standard IPAs and pales, but there’s a faint haze to this brew that’s reminiscent of something unfiltered. Is this unfiltered? It doesn’t seem like it is.

The flavor is that of a light, fruity pale ale with a decent balance and complex subtlety. I’m not going to claim that this is the best beer ever, but it is better than I expected. I was expecting a very plain, indistinct amber concoction, but this beer actually has a unique hop signature. It’s clearly more for a warm spring or summer day, and it definitely stands out as a great “lawnmower” beer. Frankly, I kind of like it. It’s different from most Sam Adams mass-produced beers. It would have been incredibly easy to just brew a version of the old Summer Ale recipe and remove the lemon, or make a generic light lager and squeeze in a drop or two of s-04 yeast, but this beer had some real thought put into it. It takes a little bit of a risk, daring to be something other than a triple dry-hopped IPA or a sickly shandy wearing a craft beer mask.

I was skeptical, but it seems like this beer might buck the trend a little. It’s still not a trendsetter, but honestly, that just makes me respect it more. I still think that “perfect union of lager and ale” line is questionable. Let’s just call this beer what it is — a very tasty, bright-hops flavored sort-of pale ale that’s surprisingly approachable for hop-phobes, but complex and interesting enough so that hop-fanatics don’t dismiss it outright. It may not win any medals, but I’d rather have a glass of the ’76 than yet another over-engineered White India Pale Saison Sour.

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