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How Jimmy Carter helped Jim Koch launch the American craft beer movement

Why call a beer “Sam Adams”?

Author, Jim Koch share Koch’s creation.
Author, Jim Koch share Koch’s creation.

“OMG,” says my friend Erik. He’s calling me from McP’s Irish pub on Coronado’s Orange Avenue. “Get your butt down here right now. A beer god has descended!” He clicks off and I go on a forced march. No idea what he’s talking about, but he never flies a false flag. This is about 9:30 at night. I slow down as I arrive and head towards the green lights, where I see him clustered with one or two guys in McP’s patio, by one of their fire tables.

“‘Beer god?’” I ask.

He turns, and pulls himself up in formal fashion. “I’d like you to meet the most important person in beer. Jim Koch, the founder of Samuel Adams brewery. The man who launched the American craft beer revolution.” A friendly-looking gent reaches out and shakes my hand. In his other hand, naturally, he’s holding a pint of Samuel Adams Boston Lager. This has to be the beer he created in 1984. He looks too young. Maybe that’s what good beer does for you. He takes a sip and offers me a bottle. He’s in San Diego for a beer conference. Wow. I’m tongue-tied. “How did you get the Sam Adams idea?” I stutter.

Jim Koch, PR lady, Remy Fromm, selling the original micro beer, just about.

“Well he was a revolutionary, and he liked good beer,” he says. “But there’s loads of credit to go around. We were just talking about Michael Jackson.” He says this Michael Jackson was the Bard of Beer. “He would say he was ‘Yorkshire born and Yorkshire bred, strong of arm and weak of head.’ He brought beer writing to the realm of wine writing. He taught us to think about beer in styles. Like porter and stouts, and cream stouts and milk stouts and dry stouts. He helped us organize the whole landscape of beer. In the year 1980.”

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But it was Jim Koch who was a major organizer of the revolution that is the American craft beer movement that now has a quarter of all US sales. And how did craft beer start here? He credits President Jimmy Carter. “It was absolutely true that Jimmy Carter relaxed the rules in 1979 to allow people to home brew. First time since Prohibition. And that helped begin this whole microbrewery process. But it actually started in Sonoma, California, in 1976, with a beer called ‘New Albion,’ which created the American Pale Ale style. And it was started by a guy named Jack McAuliffe, who’d actually learned to home brew when he was in the Navy and stationed in Scotland. Jack McAuliffe was the snowflake that started the avalanche.”

Jim Koch started his Boston Beer Company in 1984. “Why call my beer ‘Sam Adams’? He was a brewer, a patriot, and he threw the foreigners out. And... I’ve got a 6 am start.”

This is when this hefty guy Remy Fromm comes up. Division Director. “Want to head back to the hotel?”

“Yeah,” says Koch.

“We appreciate ya,” says Remy to Erik and me. “Thank you for your passion.” And they’re off to catch some sleep.

“Wow,” says Erik.

“Here’s to the two Jimmys,” I say. “Fathers to our favorite frothy ones.”

“Say what?”

“Jim Koch, and before him, Jimmy Carter. Without them, Bud.” We clink bottles. Sam Adams bottles.

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Author, Jim Koch share Koch’s creation.
Author, Jim Koch share Koch’s creation.

“OMG,” says my friend Erik. He’s calling me from McP’s Irish pub on Coronado’s Orange Avenue. “Get your butt down here right now. A beer god has descended!” He clicks off and I go on a forced march. No idea what he’s talking about, but he never flies a false flag. This is about 9:30 at night. I slow down as I arrive and head towards the green lights, where I see him clustered with one or two guys in McP’s patio, by one of their fire tables.

“‘Beer god?’” I ask.

He turns, and pulls himself up in formal fashion. “I’d like you to meet the most important person in beer. Jim Koch, the founder of Samuel Adams brewery. The man who launched the American craft beer revolution.” A friendly-looking gent reaches out and shakes my hand. In his other hand, naturally, he’s holding a pint of Samuel Adams Boston Lager. This has to be the beer he created in 1984. He looks too young. Maybe that’s what good beer does for you. He takes a sip and offers me a bottle. He’s in San Diego for a beer conference. Wow. I’m tongue-tied. “How did you get the Sam Adams idea?” I stutter.

Jim Koch, PR lady, Remy Fromm, selling the original micro beer, just about.

“Well he was a revolutionary, and he liked good beer,” he says. “But there’s loads of credit to go around. We were just talking about Michael Jackson.” He says this Michael Jackson was the Bard of Beer. “He would say he was ‘Yorkshire born and Yorkshire bred, strong of arm and weak of head.’ He brought beer writing to the realm of wine writing. He taught us to think about beer in styles. Like porter and stouts, and cream stouts and milk stouts and dry stouts. He helped us organize the whole landscape of beer. In the year 1980.”

Sponsored
Sponsored

But it was Jim Koch who was a major organizer of the revolution that is the American craft beer movement that now has a quarter of all US sales. And how did craft beer start here? He credits President Jimmy Carter. “It was absolutely true that Jimmy Carter relaxed the rules in 1979 to allow people to home brew. First time since Prohibition. And that helped begin this whole microbrewery process. But it actually started in Sonoma, California, in 1976, with a beer called ‘New Albion,’ which created the American Pale Ale style. And it was started by a guy named Jack McAuliffe, who’d actually learned to home brew when he was in the Navy and stationed in Scotland. Jack McAuliffe was the snowflake that started the avalanche.”

Jim Koch started his Boston Beer Company in 1984. “Why call my beer ‘Sam Adams’? He was a brewer, a patriot, and he threw the foreigners out. And... I’ve got a 6 am start.”

This is when this hefty guy Remy Fromm comes up. Division Director. “Want to head back to the hotel?”

“Yeah,” says Koch.

“We appreciate ya,” says Remy to Erik and me. “Thank you for your passion.” And they’re off to catch some sleep.

“Wow,” says Erik.

“Here’s to the two Jimmys,” I say. “Fathers to our favorite frothy ones.”

“Say what?”

“Jim Koch, and before him, Jimmy Carter. Without them, Bud.” We clink bottles. Sam Adams bottles.

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