BOSTON - Let’s give credit where it’s due. If it wasn’t for Boston Beer Company, craft brewing would be virtually non-existent in the U.S.
No, it wasn’t the first—and just who was remains almost as hotly contested as the very definition of a craft brewery. The American Brewers Association defines it by an annual production volume of no more than 6 million barrels of beer. At 4.29 million barrels produced in 2018, Boston Beer tips towards the higher rate in that spectrum. Nor is it owned by any parent corporation which is not a craft brewer itself; another definition of an independent brewery given by the ABA. But for many of us, it’s hard to picture an entity that reported a revenue in excess of $995 million in 2018 alone to fall under the definition of an independent craft brewery; particularly when so much of their output is now devoted to such ponderous concoctions as Twisted Tea, Angry Orchard and the omnipresent cans of Truly you’ll find in the gnarled hands of both soccer moms and federal informants alike.
But the blueprint that Boston Beer helped create all the way back in 1984 has been revised, reinvigorated and ultimately reformed by an entirely new breed of independent brewers in 2020..Brewers who are fully aware that craft brewing means precisely that. A craft. A craft which demands as much of an inherent spirit of experimentation as much as it does mastery; and there’s very little room for either if your main priority is fielding questions from shareholders asking if you can get that “funny guy with the three names we see on the YouTubes” as a spokesperson during investor relations calls.
Has the taproom explosion finally simmered? In a post-Trillium landscape, the answer is probably not. At least not in the near future. Breweries are typically aware that branding implies an overall experience, and one that’s not limited to the product itself. Seethe all you want at the extortionist tactics of commercial property barons and municipal regulatory standards, but the demand is there. Boston Beer’s certainly aware of it. That’s why the Sam Adams brewery remains one of the major non-historic tourist attractions in the Greater Boston area.
And it also makes you stop to wonder about the relevance of the Boston Beer Company to craft brewing. Even near nano-breweries who could in no way hope to compete with the production output of the company are able to maintain multiple locations, no matter how seemingly out of the way. And that’s in spite of their names having absolutely no connotation with Massachusetts outside of New England—if they’re known at all. Like it or not, Boston Beer (and by default Sam Adams) is as much one of our chief cultural exports as the Wahlbergs or incredibly bad music.
And it’s also why you have to wonder why an entity reporting nearly a billion dollars in revenue would wait almost thirty years before claiming a second taproom right next to Faneuil Hall. They’ve toyed with the idea; for almost three years. You can see a food hall from vision to foundation to imminent failure in about a quarter of that time.
But give credit where it’s due. At least they followed through on a promise. And it’s open to the public in less than two weeks, despite a well-publicized dispute regarding construction that resulted in nine area establishments refusing to carry Sam Adams (guess you showed ‘em there, Sheldon.)
Sam Adams Boston Tap Room will be a glass-enclosed space at the site of the former Hillstone chain restaurant, which closed in 2016. Eater reports the new location as featuring floor to ceiling windows, second-floor patio seating and the inevitable bane of any native bar drinker’s existence—communal tables.
Will it be a success? Despite no shortage of competition, chances are… yes. But tourist draws are never an indicator of innovation; merely name recognition and the subsequent ability to shift units. The question you should be asking is can the Boston Beer Company continue to be relevant in 2020 and beyond? That remains to be seen.
Sam Adams Boston Taproom is located at 60 State St in Boston and is scheduled to open on Thursday, January 30th. Hours are expected to be Sunday - Wednesday from 11:00 am - 10:00 pm, Thursday - Saturday, 11:00 am - 11:00 pm. For more information, follow them on Instagram.
Image via Flickr/Backwards Bill