Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Samuel Adams Boston Lager/U2

I could’ve gone the obvious route on this one: Guinness. Ireland’s biggest beer meets Ireland’s biggest band. But like most Irish beers, Guinness is humble and light hearted in taste and personality and would never wear yellow tinted goggles indoors as if completely acceptable eye-ware. Guinnnes is smooth like dessert and despite being massively corporate, laughs at life with funny ads featuring toucans balancing pints on their beaks. A better U2 pairing is a beer with an inflated sense of self-importance. Something with a bit more bite. But not that much bite; just enough to claim credibility while not scaring off mass-appeal. I’m thinking Sam Adams Boston Lager.

Of course there’s the Boston Irish connection. And both walk the line between being pompous victims of their own over-exposure and being surprisingly relevant cultural forces that should definitely suck way more than they do. U2 deserves a nod for continually penning solid pop songs, as does The Boston Brewing Company, for – along with Anchor Steam – helping kick start the micro-brew trend in the 1980s.

But then there’s the self-righteousness. Like the “let’s unite the Middle East through the power of pop-rock” stance trademarked by Bono. And there’s something about BBC owner Jim Koch demanding “micro” or “craft” respect when he now runs the largest American-owned brewery in the country that on occasion makes me wish he’d get locked in a fermentation tank somewhere. Plus that’s not even Adams on the label (apparently he wasn’t the handsomest of dudes so they went with Paul Revere instead) and according to Brooklyn Brewery brewmaster Garrett Oliver’s passive-aggressive Sam-bashing, "[Samuel Adams] was a prominent maltster, though he was not a brewer as is often claimed.” I’m not sure what a “maltster” is but now that I think about it, Koch seems like a nice guy so I take back the thing about locking him in a fermentation tank.

All digs aside, both U2 and Sam are capable of striking indelible connections which secure respect no matter how embarrassing their future efforts or how much eye-liner they wear on the cover of Rolling Stone. Like when you spot Sam on draft at a mostly Anheuser airport bar (there’s nothing wrong with Budweiser but sometimes more flavor calls). Or when the intro to “One” creeps in from the soft-rock station at the supermarket and suddenly rows of breath mint variations, Soap Opera Digests and small mags with titles like “Crock Pot Sensations” seem way less depressing.

But the pairing relies heaviest on flavor. Boston Lager is dominated by toasty malts which give it extra body like Bono’s platform shoes. A slight syrupy quality calls to mind 50% of his lyrics - “I'm just trying to find a decent melody. A song that I can sing” – while the modest hoppy balance is crisp, jangly and lingering like an Edge guitar solo. And the steady nuttiness throughout? Larry Mullen of course, providing a constant beat linking the bitter, hoppy singer with the sweet, malty guitarist.

Beer info:

Samuel Adams Boston Lager
Boston Brewing Company
Boston, MA
Style: Vienna Lager
ABV: 4.75


  1. Bret: thanks for saying some things that seem to often be unacceptable to say. Like the yellow eyewear thing. God help us.

  2. i don't know stets. maybe should have gone with the Sam's Light on this one! _hc

  3. good call slim. maybe i'll write an addendum.

  4. I like Sammy a lot, but the commercial is everything that is wrong with Earth