Thanx to my buddy, Craig Evert, who pointed me in the direction of an article on Boston.com talking about the virtues of a new style of beer glass designed by the Boston Beer Company, brewers of the Samuel Adams beers. Click on the picture at left to see the intricacies of the design.
According to Boston Beer's founder and president Jim Koch (right), the new style beer glass will revolutionize how beer is drank (or is it drunk?). It includes a beaded rim that creates turbulence releasing aromas as beer enters the mouth; an outward-turning lip to enhance "sweetness detection"; thinner walls to keep the beer colder while it's being held; and, according to the Samuel Adams web site, a lasered etching on the bottom that creates bubbles for constant aroma release.
Koch said he got the idea of "the perfect beer glass" when talking with Boston Beer board member Jean-Michel Valette, who formerly ran the Franciscan Oakville Estates winery for Robert Mondavi. Valette explained to Koch that different types of wine glasses enhanced (or detracted from) the flavor of certain wines. Koch figured that the same had to be true with beer.
Koch and a design team set out to find the perfect beer glass for the company's flagship Samuel Adams Boston lager beer. He tried a number of different designs with the Boston lager and found the taste of the beer could be dramatically different from glass to glass.
Koch commissioned Tiax - a Cambridge, MA-based company that works with food, beverage and pharmaceutical companies to develop products - to validate his findings that his beer did taste different out of different shaped glasses. In a 300 page report, Tiax found the angle of the rim is critical in the glass so it delivers the beer to the front of the tongue, the shape of the glass did make a difference in keeping the beer temperature constant, and the optimal temperature to enjoy a Samuel Adams Boston lager is when the beer is served at 46 degrees (F).
Koch took the report to a half-dozen glass makers around the world and asked them to create a prototype design based on the findings in the study. The winning company was the German glass making firm Rastal which came up with the "Boston Beauty" design shown on the right.
While the glass itself is unique, probably the most "out there" feature is the dime-shaped "nucleation site" laser etching on the bottom of the glass. The etching sends bubbles constantly to the top of the glass, stirring the beer's aroma.
Koch was sold on the design and how it enhanced the taste of the Boston lager, and he immediately ordered 500,000 of the glasses from Rastal. A number of glasses were sent to bars which sold the Samuel Adams Boston lager, along with a number of coasters that explained the design and why you should drink the beer with the glass. (You can order a set of four of the beer glasses directly from Samuel Adams here.)
Now, there was a time that I used to drink a lot of Samuel Adams Boston lager beer. I first tried it in the late 80's at the historic Union Oyster House in Boston sitting at the oyster bar and eating oysters on the half shell like they've been doing there for over 175 years. At the time, Samuel Adams beer was a regional beer - something New Englanders could call their own.
But Jim Koch wanted something bigger and he ended up buying the Hudepohl-Schoenling brewery in Cincinnati to brew his Samuel Adams craft beer. Boston Beer now brews over 1,000,000 barrels of 21 different styles of Samuel Adams beer annually.
(By the way - Koch was asked if he'd do the same thing with Boston Beer's 20 other beers. "The idea of doing 21 glasses, that's a life's work," Koch told Fortune magazine.)
But after going public in the mid-90's, I just felt they weren't the little New England microbrewery I fell in love with years ago. A few years ago, I pretty much stopped buying any of the Samuel Adams products (Cindy will still drink it when we go out from time to time).
Koch and Samuel Adams still categorize themselves as a "craft brewery". But in 2006, over 6.7 million barrels of craft beer were brewed in the U.S. by 50 regional craft breweries. Samuel Adams 1 million barrel output was 15% of the total amount of craft brewed beer last year. And at that, Boston Beer Co. is the fifth largest brewery in the United States. I'm sorry, I just have trouble calling the fifth largest brewer in the U.S. a "craft brewer".
As an aside - I characterize my experience with Samuel Adams beer as one of discovering a band that is just below the radar in terms of being in the public's consciousness. It was like that for me with The Police a number of years ago. But once they began to sell millions of records and sell out stadiums all around the world, I just didn't like them as much as when they were just starting out.
Same thing with me and Samuel Adams beer. It was neat to talk about with people who weren't familiar with the beer. But when Samuel Adams became available EVERYWHERE, it just wasn't as cool of a product to me.
But just like The Police reuniting to go on tour this summer, this beer glass thing intrigues me. I may have to find one and go get a sixer of Samuel Adams and see what the sensation is all about.