samuel adams boston lager

Samuel Adams Boston Lager is widely regarded by many as the beer that championed the full-bodied American beer movement. The beer has won the hearts of many, which is a lofty achievement considering the light beer craze that dominated the beer market for decades. Still, many have not taken this beer before and often wonder how it tastes and if it’s as good as advertised. Well, you’re in luck, as this article addresses just that. Let’s start with a quick answer.

Samuel Adams Boston Lager is a Vienna lager with an alcohol content of 5% and an IBU of 30. The beer has an upfront sweet bread-like and malty flavor and ends with clean hop bitterness. A bitter aftertaste also accompanies the beer. Samuel Adams Boston Lager has low carbonation and is not a refreshing beer.

This answer is a snapshot of Samuel Adams Boston Lager, but it doesn’t reveal all there is to know about the beer’s taste and if it’s really good. For that, we will consider its flavor, mouthfeel, smell, and appearance. We will also examine if the beer has always tasted like this and why it tastes like this. Then, for good measure, we will examine the best way to take the beer. Let’s get right into it!

Yes, we do taste the stuff we talk about


Samuel Adams Boston Lager has a complex and unique taste, so much so that many refer to the beer as an ale. When you first drink the beer, you notice sweet notes of toasted malt and honey. You may also observe floral notes and caramel-like malt.

After this initial malty sweetness, the beer’s flavor transitions into firm and clean hop bitterness, which keeps the malty sweetness in check. This bitterness persists after drinking the beer, remaining on the tongue for quite a while.

The unique spicy hoppy bite of the beer’s finish results from the two special hops used in manufacturing the beer. Also, this hop finish is reminiscent of certain ales, which is one of the primary reasons this beer is often mistaken as an ale – it’s not. By virtue of its bottom fermentation technique, Samuel Adams Boston Lager is a lager, and more specifically, a Vienna-style lager.

The beer has a high beer character. For those asking, hop character or beer character is basically the ultimate drinking experience of any beer and is influenced by important properties of the beer. These include the beer’s flavor, bitterness, carbonation, and alcohol content. High-character beers typically have high values for these properties.

Samuel Adams Boston Lager has a strong flavor profile, high bitterness levels (as confirmed by its IBU of 30), and relatively high alcohol content (5%). However, the beer’s carbonation is low, but the beer is still sufficiently high in hop character.


Samuel Adams Boston Lager is a smooth beer with a full body and slight malt creaminess. It has an International Bitterness Unit (IBU) of 30. Note that the IBU of a beer is a measure of its bitterness. The higher the value is, the more bitter a beer is.

For context, Bud Light, America’s leading beer in sales, has an IBU of 10, Heineken has an IBU of 20, and Guinness has an IBU of around 40. So, the beer is not as bitter as Guinness and some other stouts but is more bitter than regular beers like Heineken.

Samuel Adams Boston Lager also has a relatively high alcohol content of 5%, which is within the Beer Judge Certification Program’s standard for Vienna lagers (4.7 to 5.5%). The beer has low carbonation, which is expected for full-bodied lagers. By implication, there’s no refreshing feel to the beer.

The full body, high alcohol content, high bitterness, and low refreshing feel affects the beer’s drinkability. This doesn’t mean the beer is not drinkable or nice, but you wouldn’t be able to have more than a few cans at any given time. This is in stark contrast to light and regular beers where you can go several cans and not feel awful.


Samuel Adams Boston Lager has a clear and distinct aroma of spicy noble hops that lads well into the upfront taste. To be more relatable, imagine the smell of fresh bread with a touch of caramel malt, and that’s more or less the beer’s smell.


This beer pours with a deep amber to golden color, with a medium to large off-white head that persists for a while after pouring the beer. This is also the typical appearance of Vienna lagers.

Samuel Adams Boston Lager comes in bottles and cans, although the bottles often appear more in liquor stores and bars. The bottle is amber colored with a blue and red-themed label that bears the beer’s name. There’s nothing too special about the beer design; some even argue that the deep blue label looks off on the amber bottle.

On the upper part of the bottle is a label that contains the beer’s hops and a message from Jim Koch, the beer’s founder. The message reads, “No other American lager matches this rich, robust, and complex taste. Cheers!” While it may appear clunky on the bottle, the message is correct so no complaints from me!

We poured a Samuel Adams to show you the beautiful orangey color it has 🙂

What Is Responsible For Samuel Adams Boston Lager’s Unique Taste?

One of the reasons this beer found so much success when it first debuted and even to date is its unique taste. The brewer doesn’t make the recipe publicly known, so it has been difficult to clone. Beer experts that have tried still haven’t gotten the trick behind Samuel Adams Boston Lager.

However, Samuel Adams Boston Lager reveals the noble hops they use for their beer, which goes a long way in determining the beer’s eventual flavor. Noble hops are a group of traditional European hops employed in brewing the world’s best-quality beers. There are four variants of these hops: Saaz, Spalt, Tettnanger, and Hallertau Mittelfrüh. According to the beer’s official website, the beer uses Hallertau Mittelfrüh and Tettnang Tettnanger Noble Hops.

These noble hops are known for the floral and herbal aroma notes they add to beer, as well as smooth bitterness and subtle spiciness. Therefore, it is plausible to link the floral and spicy notes of Samuel Adams Boston Lager to these hops.

However, many traditional beers use these noble hops, so that cannot be the only reason for Samuel Adams Boston Lager’s unique taste. Unfortunately, the company doesn’t reveal any more of its brewing ingredient or process. Other basic ingredients like the malt and the yeast strain will also play a huge part in the beer’s eventual taste.

Brewers often use caramel and two-row pale malt, the stated noble hops, and American lager yeast WLP 840 when brewing beer clones. That is believed to give the closest result to the original beer.

Has Samuel Adams Boston Lager Always Tasted Like This?

Generally, yes. The beer was based on a homebrew recipe by Jim Koch, inspired by his family tradition. The beer was never even meant to become this big a brand, with Koch only gaining motivation to brew the beer to cater to drinkers who wanted “something different.”

The beer was first brewed in Koch’s kitchen using the original recipe. Samuel Adams Boston Lager has come a long way since then, and many older drinkers report declining beer quality. They attribute this to the company’s focus on marketing over getting the best available ingredients.

As the company doesn’t reveal its recipe, it would be difficult to know if the beer indeed strayed from its original taste.

What Is The Best Way To Enjoy Samuel Adams Boston Lager?

Samuel Adams Boston Lager is not a light or regular beer, so don’t think of the practice of adding lime and salt.

The best way I’d recommend to take this beer is chilled. Actually, that’s the best way for all beers! However, being a lager and not an ale, you can definitely take this beer at the lowest acceptable cold limit.

Also, ensure you take the beer fresh. While the beer theoretically remains okay to drink after four months of bottling, you should aim to drink it within two weeks of bottling. This will give the best flavor and drinking experience.

What Do People Think of Samuel Adams Boston Lager?

Samuel Adams Boston Lager is a unique beer and is highly rated in the beer industry. Most who have had this beer have a strong opinion on it, including me! But before I give my verdict on the beer, let’s examine what others think. To that end, we will use the top five beer review platforms on the internet.

PlatformSamuel Adams Boston Lager
Average Score7.7

In case you were wondering how good this beer is, that rating is the highest among all of the beers I have reviewed on this blog, and that’s saying a lot.

The first four platforms reflect the views of experienced drinkers, and of course, the beer performs exceptionally well here. Its profile aligns with everything older drinkers want in a beer. While the beer is relatively high in calories (170), people who drink it don’t drink it for its health benefits. They just want to enjoy good, full-bodied craft beer, and Samuel Adams Boston Lager delivers.

The last platform is not as experienced as the others and reflects what younger drinkers think of the beer. Again, it supersedes expectations, indicating that even younger drinkers cannot deny its brilliance.


I absolutely love this beer and believe it deserves all the love and attention it is getting. It is bitter and flavorful, and if those are properties you enjoy in a beer, then this would be perfect for you. However, it is relatively high in calories and carbs, so drink cautiously.