Gilt City is one of Boston’s newest ways to get exclusive deals on one-of-a-kind experiences including exclusive restaurant events, reduced-price pampering at top-tier spas, and kick-ass happenings you’d otherwise be oblivious to. Gilt invited us to one such event that definitely delivered on their promise of unique: a tour of the Boston Beer Company given by none other than founder & craft-beer revolutionary himself, Jim Koch! Being the beer geek that I am, I jumped at this chance. After all, when else does this happen? NEVER, that’s when. What follows is my first-hand account of this magical occurrence.
It was a dark and frigid walk from Stony Brook station to the brewery entrance. Several dozen other people had already congregated inside, and another couple dozen would join before we were greeted, carded, and given brew tokens by the front-room staff.
I quickly snatched a glass of Infinium, a limited-release collaborative offering from Samuel Adams and the world’s oldest brewery, Weihenstephan. The brew was indeed champagne-like— light, bubbly, and weighing in at around 11% ABV. It had a fruity-sweet aroma and taste, with a silky mouthfeel which finished dry on the palate. Definitely very drinkable.
Koch then entered the lobby, dressed in one of his signature denim shirts. Despite Koch’s god-like reverence from almost everybody in attendance, there was no fanfare; no exaggerated limping or grand somersaults. He merely walked to the front of the room and softly clanged two glasses together, which garnered the attention of everybody within earshot. “Uh oh, I think I broke one of the glasses…”, he quietly muttered.
After welcoming the crowd, Koch wasted no time detailing the history of the neighborhood-owned Jamaica Plain facility and how the company’s expansion over the past 25 years turned Boston Beer into what is now the largest craft brewer in America. He relates that despite the title, 90% of the beer market belongs to foreign-owned conglomerates Anhueser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors. The Samuel Adams brand holds less than 2% of the U.S. beer market. Koch beamed as he joked, “We’re still tiny… I look forward to being upgraded to small!”
Koch then led the group through the inside of a dimly-lit brewing tank-turned-tunnel, over to a nook containing barrels of hops and malted barley. After discussing ingredients for a while, he holds up a handful of hops for the crowd to see. He further enlightens the crowd, “Now, if these look familiar to any of you, it’s probably because the hop plant is closely related to marijuana! You see, both belong to the Latin Cannabaceae family.”
After passing some barley & hops throughout the group, Koch directs everybody to reverse course and head to the brew kettles in the adjoining factory expanse. We’re now in front of the main brewing area containing huge copper kettles. Here, Koch details the actual brewing process. He explains the spent barley is eventually separated from the mixture, then shipped to local farms where it’s used for cattle feed (a practice shared by many noteworthy breweries). “When it’s warm out, the barley will ferment on the loading dock. This eventually makes for some very happy cows!”
The tour concluded soon after, and Koch lingered to socialize with everybody able to steal his attention for any length of time. It’s evident Koch’s passion for brewing burns just as brightly as ever, and it was pretty legendary to see just how personable and humorous this brewing industry legend can be.