samuel adams boston lager

Sam Adams is Boston’s favorite beer, solidified by it being the official beer of the Boston Red Sox. Named after one of the founding fathers of the United States, Sam Adams beer has marshaled the pressure well and is one of the best beers in the United States. Owing to its popularity and quality, people are eager to know precisely what kind of beer it is. Here’s the quick answer.

Sam Adams is best classified as a Vienna lager. This choice is informed by its high bitterness (IBU of 30), deep amber to golden color (SRM of 11), the alcohol content of 4.9%, moderate carbonation, and being bottom-fermented rather than top-fermented.

This answer is an overview of the important facts about the kind of beer Sam Adams is, but it does not do thorough justice to the question. In this article, we will examine the classification of Sam Adams as a lager, its sub-classification as a Vienna lager, and the factors that have affected this choice. Also, we will consider other types of Sam Adams beers and if they fit this sub-class. Read on!

Yes, we do taste the beers we talk about

Is Sam Adams A Lager Or Ale?

The first step to classifying any beer is the classification as an ale or lager. It is on this foundation that any other classification can be made.

Classifying a beer as an ale or lager is straightforward and depends on the fermentation technique used during brewing. Brewers can use either bottom fermentation or top fermentation when brewing beer.

Ales are brewed using the top fermentation technique, which uses a top-fermenting yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, at warm temperatures (60˚–70˚F). In contrast, lagers are brewed using the bottom fermentation technique, using bottom-fermenting yeast, Saccharomyces pastorianus, at cold temperatures (35˚–50˚F).

Since Sam Adams is brewed using the bottom fermentation technique, it is classified as a lager.

What Kind Of Lager Is Sam Adams?

After establishing that Sam Adams is a lager, we need to sub-classify it under the several different categories of lagers. While the classification of beers as a lager or ale is straightforward, considering just the fermentation technique, sub-classification isn’t nearly as clear. Here, we need to examine different factors on a standard set of guidelines.

The standard guidelines for this article are of the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP), a globally-reputable beer certifying organization.

According to the BJCP guidelines, Sam Adams is best classified as a Vienna lager. Below, we will detail the factors that make Sam Adams fit this lager sub-classification.

Why Is Sam Adams A Vienna Lager?

As we mentioned, different factors go into sub-classifying a beer. According to the Beer Judge Certification Program, the five relevant factors are bitterness (measured in IBU), color intensity (measured in SRM), original gravity, final gravity, and alcohol by volume of the beer.

First and foremost is the bitterness of the beer. This is measured using the International Bitterness Units (IBU) and indicates the relative bitterness of a beer. The higher the IBU, the more bitter the beer is.

The BJCP specifies an IBU range of 18-30 for Vienna lagers. Sam Adams has an IBU of 30, compliant with standard guidelines. As such, the beer meets the bitterness requirements for Vienna lagers.

Secondly, the color intensity of a beer. This indicates the darkness of beers and is measured using the Standard Reference Method. The higher the SRM of a beer, the darker it is.

Per the Beer Judge Certification Program, the recommended SRM value for Vienna lagers is between 9 and 15. Sam Adams has an SRM of 11, which is compliant with the color intensity requirements of Vienna lagers.

Additionally, as you might expect, Sam Adams Boston Lager has 175 calories per 12 fl. oz, which is in line with other traditional craft beers.

All of these aspects combined leave us with a beer that has an upfront sweet bread-like and malty flavor and ends with clean hop bitterness. If you’re interested in knowing what exactly we think of this beer, click here!

We poured a Samuel Adams to give you a reference of the colour we’re talking about

Furthermore, the gravities of the beer are vital factors in classification. Here, the two relevant gravities are the original gravity (OG) and the final gravity (FG).

The original gravity measures the fermentable and un-fermentable substances in the beer wort before alcoholic fermentation starts. The final gravity measures the un-fermentable sugars in the beer at the end of alcoholic fermentation. Both gravities help brewers estimate the alcohol content of beer while brewing.

Vienna lagers’ standard original gravity range is 1.048 – 1.055, while the final gravity range is 1.010 – 1.014. The estimated original gravity of Sam Adams is 1.053, and the final gravity is 1.013. Therefore, the beer meets the gravity requirements for Vienna lagers.

The final factor for sub-classifying beers, according to the BJCP, is the alcohol content of the beer, which is a measure of the pure alcohol in beer. Sam Adams has an ABV of 4.9%, which is in line with the standard ABV requirement of 4.7 to 5.5% for Vienna lagers, which means you would have to drink about 6-7 cans to get drunk.

Sam Adams complies with all the standard requirements for Vienna lagers. Therefore, Sam Adams is best classified as a Vienna lager.

Are All Sam Adams Beers Vienna Lagers?

Boston Brewing Company, the Sam Adams beer brand brewer, makes their beer in either Boston, Cincinnati or Lehigh Valley, and has multiple varieties of beer. We have based this article on the company’s flagship beer, more accurately known as Sam Adams Boston Lager. This is obviously a Vienna lager, but are the other varieties? Let’s find out.

Wicked Hazy: This is an Indian pale ale with 6.8% ABV and 35 IBU. The implication is Wicked Hazy is more bitter and stronger than the flagship beer. It was formerly marketed as New England IPA.

Wicked Easy: This is Sam Adam’s light lager offering. It contains 4.7% ABV and 12 IBU, making it less bitter and weaker than the flagship.

Wicked Double: This beer is an “amped-up” double New England IPA. It has an ABV of 8.3% and an IBU of 30. It is available exclusively in New England.

Cherry Wheat: This is an American wheat ale with a 5.3% ABV and 23 IBU.

As you can see, not only are other Sam Adams, not Vienna lagers, most of them aren’t even lagers at all. If you want Sam Adams lagers, your options will be between Boston Lager and Wicked Easy.

Has Sam Adams Always Been A Vienna-Style Lager?

The Boston Lager was launched in 1985 by the Boston Brewing Company. Jim Koch, the founder, drew inspiration from his grandfather’s recipe for Louis Kock Lager. Right from inception, Sam Adams was a Vienna lager.

However, the brewing company has diversified over the years, releasing multiple ales into the market. Nonetheless, Boston Lager remains Sam Adams’ flagship beer.