It must be fun to be Jim Koch. In 1984 at age 35, a high-powered management consultant with business and law degrees from Harvard, he decided, just for fun, to brew a batch of beer in his kitchen. He used an 1880 recipe from his great-great-grandfather.
Within a year his home brew -- today's Sam Adams Boston Lager -- had been named the best beer in America in a national poll, and Koch had helped launch the microbrewery revolution that is exploding around the country to this day.
Today Koch's 350 employees in breweries in Boston and Cincinnati turn out a million barrels of beer a year in 18 styles, from light to cream stout, plus a half-dozen seasonal brews.
Still a home brewer at heart, Koch sponsors an annual beer competition that this year lured 1,300 entries in 22 categories. The three winners receive $5,000 and get to see their brews manufactured and distributed nationwide by Samuel Adams.
The contest also has a 23rd category, for any brew that doesn't fit the designated categories. This brings out the extreme-beer iconoclasts who base their brews on potatoes, add maple syrup or molasses or try to out-macho each other with punitive amounts of hops or high alcohol levels.
Koch this year created a Category 23 beer of his own this year. It's a Chocolate Chile Bock that starts out with a sweet, friendly chocolate flavor, then unleashes the punitive, throat-burning heat of hot chiles. Mercifully, this one is not for sale.
REGULAR SAM ADAMS BREWS: Available year-round, these are $7.99 a six-pack.
Ø Boston Lager: the original brew, from 1984. Malty and smooth, with a nice bitter hoppiness and long finish.
Ø Light Beer: aromas and flavors of roasted nuts and hints of lemon rind.
Ø Pale Ale: darker aromas and flavors, persistent hoppiness, medium body and smooth, long finish.
Ø Latitude 48: big, creamy, persistent head; bitter hops flavors, hefty, long-lasting.
Ø Blackberry Witbier: light-bodied with sweet flavors from added orange peel and blackberries, the savoriness of coriander and a sweet-tart finish.
SUMMER SAM ADAMS BREWS: These seasonal beers are $13.99 per 12-pack.
Ø Summer Ale: Brewed with lemon zest and a West African spice called Grains of Paradise, it's light-bodied, with citrus and spicy flavors.
Ø Noble Pils: Light and powerfully hoppy, it is brewed from five kinds of hops, and has a honey-flavored finish.
CONTEST WINNERS: These beers are $9.99 per six-pack (two bottles of each type).
Ø Sam Adams Longshot Old Ben Ale: By Michael Robinson of New Hampshire, it's A
super-rich, malty brew with a big, long-lasting beige head, full body and intense caramel flavors; 9 percent alcohol.
Ø Sam Adams Lemon Pepper Saison Beer: By Sam Adams computer tech Jeremy White, this A Belgian-style brew that smells and tastes intensely of spice and lemon; 6.4 percent alcohol.
Ø Mile High Barley Wine By Ben Miller of New Mexico, it's Deep red with a huge tan head, intense sweet barley and equally intense bitter-hop flavors; 10 percent alcohol.