A really interesting and engaging article just appeared in The Atlantic1 about Jim Koch (pronounced Cook), the creator of Samuel Adams beer. Written by James Fallows, the title compares him to Steve Jobs. I have to say I don’t agree with that characterization. Is Jim Koch a figure that is comparable to Steve Jobs in some ways?
Yes. Except, there is one big difference, for me. I like Jim Koch! I’m afraid I don’t have a more sophisticated analysis than that, except to say that some people make too much of starting things in your garage, and Jim Koch had no Wozniak.
The Ramones started in a garage. Is Jim Koch the Ramones of beer? Or is he like the Amazon of beer? Still, despite the fact I really could never stand Steve Jobs, and I admire and like Jim Koch, it’s a very good article! And yes, there are reasons to compare him to Jobs.
You find out some things about Jim Koch that reveal he’s as quirky as he seems to be. Like, eating a teaspoon of yeast before sampling beers (that’s his job, now!) he could cut down on the effect of the alcohol because the yeast is able to metabolize some of the alcohol, meaning it doesn’t get into his system. Now, that, my dear reader, sounds like horse-puckey. But it’s also kind of rad.
Hipsters Don’t Like Sam Adams?
I’ve always found it a little strange that so many craft beer enthusiasts dismiss Samuel Adams beer (of any style) when it was Sam Adams (the company is called Boston Beer) that kicked off the craft beer revolution. I think it is safe to say that without the huge success of Jim Koch, starting out in his garage, yes, we wouldn’t have all this huge variety of fantastic beer to choose from. But frankly, I do not think the dismissal has anything to do with craft beer enthusiasts. I think it is a hipster stance. When Sam Adams was small, they’d be be all over it. Now that it’s big, it’s out. Sam Adams, in simple words, is great beer and you really can’t go wrong with one. There is a reason Sam Adams on draft, whether the original Boston Lager or one of the seasonals or other varieties, has become such a standard in restaurants and bars across the nation.
But Sam Adams and all the other craft beers in the country make up less than 10% of the market. As beer goes, that’s actually still a lot of beer, though. Sam Adams holds one percent of the market. Still not a bad place to be. But if you compare it barrel to barrel, with 3.4 million for Sam Adams compared to 125 million for Anheuser-Busch, you get the picture. Craft beer may be a revolution, but its a slow-moving one.
Craft Beers Are Expensive?
Before I leave you to read the article I’m talking about here, instead of my ramblings, there is one thing mentioned in the article that I think is worth recounting. I have gotten the idea that many of those who still only drink stuff like Bud or Coors think that ‘fancy’ craft beers are expensive. They are not! As the article says, a six-pack of fancy craft beer now costs no more than a six-pack of Bud did 30 years ago. According to Koch:
“It’s the phenomenon of trading up…People want more variety. They are drinking less, so they want to drink better. They want interesting, complex flavors.”
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- Fallows, James. “The Steve Jobs of Beer.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 14 Oct. 2014. Web. 15 Oct. 2014 <http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/11/the-steve-jobs-of-beer/380790/2/>