When you’re in your little room
and you’re working on something good
but if it is really good
You’re gonna need a bigger room
and when you’re in the bigger room
You might not know what to do
You might have to think of
How you got started sittin’ in your little room
What? Baseball season is, essentially over, as it appears that the Rockies cannot hit the crazy pitchers of the Red Sox juggernaut (though the Curious Mechanism hopes for turnaround once the series moves west), and so there’s not much left to do but read and drink. For this post, it’s useful to do both. Sick of beer-related posting? Well, quit crying about it. You find me another interesting story that allows me to use the beloved Irony tag, and I’ll write that one up, too.
The Boston Beer Company–Sam Adams to you and me, though just Sam to people in Boston–is the fifth largest brewer in America. Smaller than Budweiser, Coors, and Miller, obviously, and also smaller than Pabst. It is, by far, the largest craft brewery in the US, and probably one of the largest in the world. And so, there are two sides to the Boston Beer Company. The corporate, commercial side that runs commercials during baseball games in an effort to pry some of the Budweiser-Miller-Coors (BMC) audience away from their blander brews is one half. The other half is the craft brewing side, that does things like create Utopias (a 25%ABV beer that sells for $100 per 750ml bottle), and their Hallertau Imperial Pilsner (a mega-hopped lager).
The lyrics at the top of this post, and in the title are from a song called “Little Room” by The White Stripes. The song makes use of almost the exact same irony that the Boston Beer Company has going on right now.
First, the corporate nonsense: the current mayor of Portland, OR, announced that he would not be running for another term, and stepping up to run was a city politician named–you guessed it–Samuel Adams. When Adams started advertising (with a Sam Adams for Mayor website), he was sent a letter from the Boston Beer Company, who have had the name Samuel Adams trademarked since 1984, demanding that he surrender the sites. The politician, of course, recognizes their trademark, but figgered that being born with the name Samuel Adams in 1963, he’ll be allowed to use his own name in advertisements for, well, himself. Here’s the AP story. The Boston Beer Company didn’t even realize that the candidate’s name really was Sam Adams. This sort of corporate paranoia and laziness–hearing about a local ad involving Samuel Adams and immediate moving to quash it, without bothering to learn what was going on, is something that could be expected from a corporation, from the BMC, or from any large business.
The Boston Beer Company is trying to play with the big boys, and as such, they are playing like the big boys. And coming off as jerks.
And yet, this week, they remain the greatest champion of the little guy–the smallest brewers there are–home brewers. Jim Koch, founder of the Boston Beer Company, started his brewing in 1984 in his home, selling the beer for the first time in 1985, to a local pub for Patriot’s Day. The company was able to grow out of Koch’s kitchen because of a massive amount of support from the American Homebrewer’s Association. Now that Boston Beer is as large as it is, Koch and company are giving back to the little guy. Each year at Denver’s Great American Beer Festival, Boston Beer hosts the Longshot Homebrewing Competition. Homebrewers from all over the country enter the competition, and regional judges bring the best brews to Denver. Festival goers then try the beers and vote upon them, and the winning beers are packaged and sold by the Boston Beer Company. Here’s the excellent story about it from Joe Sixpack.
The fifth largest brewer in the country is going to package Joe Schmo’s beer, put his face on the label, and sell the stuff all over the country.
It’s so odd and fantastic, I think, that one company can do two diametrically opposed things in one week. Hooray for irony! Hooray for beer!