The thought that keeps swimming in my head when thinking about Samuel Adams New England IPA is as muddled as its appearance: Who is this beer for?
Serving as the craft beer gateway for so many people, it took Boston Beer Company until 2014 to have a nationally released IPA. The brewery’s latest foray into the most popular craft beer style isn’t as late to the party, but it’s aimed at the same demographic: People who haven’t been swept up in the hazy, juicy New England IPA craze...yet.
Devout craft beer drinkers might be intrigued by the price (under $10 for a four-pack of 16-ounce cans, compared to $12-$15 from smaller breweries). Those unfamiliar with the style might be put off altogether by a beer that doesn’t look anything like a beer.
For me, the initial impression is that this was hastily put together in an attempt to hitch a ride on the hazy train. The beer lacks ingenuity in appearance and name—here is what we brewed, we’re not giving it a cool name or making a pun; it’s just our take on this trend. But Sam Adams Founder and Brewer Jim Koch said just getting the yeast strain down pat was a year’s worth of work.
It’s a more refined, slightly tweaked version of the weird-looking, red-headed stepchild that brewers initially dismissed because of its appearance.”
On its own, this is a terrific, thirst-quenching beer that makes a great chaser to any outdoor activity. But in the ever-growing sea of New England IPAs, it’s a beer without a country. That’s not a negative; it’s a reflection that everything about this beer is scaled down just a touch. It’s a more refined, slightly tweaked version of the weird-looking, red-headed stepchild that brewers initially dismissed because of its appearance.
It’s not the overwhelming juice bomb that now is recognized as a style by Beer Advocate. Compared to other New England IPAs, Sam Adams’ is a notch shy in each area that defines the style. It has plenty juicy—with mango and orange most prevalent—but it doesn’t have as much depth compared to its predecessors. There’s no sediment (not that it’s missed, but it’s on the New England IPA checklist). Oats, my favorite quality in the style, which help give it that creaminess, are lacking. But it does have the familiar acidic, bitter aftertaste that is my least favorite quality of the style.
So, who is this beer for? The hophead on a budget. The drinker who has heard of Heady Topper or Tree House but isn’t able to make the trek east. If anything, it’s a result of being under the hand of someone as meticulous as Koch. It’s a brewer’s beer.