You’ve got to feel sorry for Jim Koch.

He straddles the line on a lot of things. He’s considered a pioneer in the beer industry from his early days of building Sam Adams, but somehow a sellout due to his success (which didn’t just happen overnight). The Boston Beer Company’s operations have been criticized for the practice of contract brewing, then in a way vindicated by the same success that resulted from that strategy.

Lately, there has been concern around the Brewers Association and defining “craft” beer. In an effort to salvage the wreckage of a leaky definition, the barrel capacity for “craft” breweries creeps higher and higher to retain the membership and support of the nationally distributed breweries that aren’t quite pumping out Anheuser-Busch quantities yet.

But regardless of your opinions on wordsmithing as it relates to the Boston Beer Company and its peers, Samuel Adams knows how to make good beer, and reliably so.

Perhaps this recent whinging has played into their latest marketing maneuver, the cleverly titled Small Batch Series.

As I write this, I sip their Tasman Red, a self-styled “Red IPA.” Is it more of an Imperial Amber? Could be, but I don’t really care to open that can of worms. I’ve mostly gotten out of the practice of posting beer reviews, partly because there are so many nowadays and also because you likely won’t read them anyway. But since you’ve come this far in the post, I shan’t disappoint.

Tasman Red is a crystal-clear, deeply ruby-colored beer with a profuse amount of foamy head that exhibits remarkable retention. It’s incredibly well balanced despite some roasty malt traits and generous hopping. Think Black IPA, only red and not so damned bitter and divergent in flavor.

If I’m to assume that the stars of the show are the Topaz and Galaxy hops hailing from Tasmania, they’re akin to good actors:  they make their presence known, impress while they’re in the limelight without hamming it up, and don’t linger too long so as to become obnoxious. Complexity and balance are evident throughout, and to top it all off, even the label’s artwork draws you in.

So, if you’re not too hung up on a brewery’s capacity and what it means to produce a “craft” beer, I’d recommend giving this one a shot within a reasonable amount of time before the hops fade. If you are preoccupied with the definition, then, I dunno… start a nanobrewery?

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