Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Sam Adams takes on Heady Topper, Enjoy By IPA

When I talked to Jim Koch, founder of Boston Beer Company, two years ago, he made pretty clear that he didn't like standing still. He didn't want his company to stand still, either. Keep innovating, keep trying new things, or die. That was the idea.

In today's craft beer world, in which the best beers in the world are always the Hot New Thing instead of the Rock Solid Classic, that's the right approach to take. People demand new. They demand their breweries keep mixing things up.
Photo courtesy of masslive.com, by Michael Beswick

Koch and his mega Samuel Adams brand are going to be shaking things up soon. First, by releasing a huge canned double IPA inspired in part by Heady Topper, and more notably, by demanding that it only stay on shelves for a short period of time, akin to Stone's Enjoy By series but even more aggressive. They're going to mandate that after 35 days it gets pulled from shelves in order to ensure freshness.

That's a pretty bold move, especially for a brewer as big as Sam Adams. It could change how some beers are handled at retail.

First, the beer itself. Koch recently told BostInno, "When you look at some of the iconic big IPAs, like Pliny the Elder or Heady Topper from here in New England, part of what makes them so renowned is people drink 'em fresh ... They get 'em at the brewery. If you have those beers two to three months into their life, they're not the same."

This beer is going to be an unfiltered double IPA clocking in at 10% ABV and available only in 16oz cans.

In other words, very inspired by Heady Topper.

Dabbling in big, hoppy beers is a bit unusual for them. They've done IPAs for years, of course -- they had an IPA way back in the 1990s before almost anyone else, messed with DIPAs several years back with Third Voyage, and these days have a full line of them, including Rebel Rouser (not to mention their awesome single-hop pack from a few years back). So, despite the scorn they get, they can do hoppy, too.

But a Heady clone is new ground for them.

The REAL new ground will be their stringent shelving policies for this beer, though.

They plan to give it a 35-day shelf life. After that, it must be pulled from the shelves. Wholesalers are probably going to do some grumbling about that, but you know what? It's a great move. I've ranted about bottle dating before, and for good reason. You want to be drinking your IPAs as fresh as possible. When they linger on the shelves too long, they go downhill ... some of them pretty quickly.

So why not force freshness? It's done with other types of food and drinks. If we care about it enough for frickin' Little Debbie snacks to get yanked after a time, we should care about it with beer, too, to the point of taking an aggressive hand in getting older IPAs off the shelves.

Retailers might not like it, but I'm all for it.

Though Sam Adams no longer gets much respect among today's beer crowd, I'm generally up for trying anything they do. This one will be released only in select markets (and they haven't said which markets yet), so we'll see if I can get my hands on some.

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