What Does Sam Adams Taste Like? (Boston Lager Tasting Notes)

If you’ve tried the signature Boston Lager from Samuel Adams, you already know that it doesn’t taste like any other beer. What makes it so unique? What exactly does it taste like?

Sam Adams Boston Lager is an amber-copper beer with a sweet and floral-spice flavor that slightly resembles a fresh-baked loaf of bread. The finishing taste has a hoppy bite to it, a feature provided by the two main strands of hops used. It retains a fuller, bolder, and smoother taste than traditional lagers and is not heavily carbonated.

Keep reading to learn what makes the Boston Lager so special and the best ways to drink it, plus how to brew your own version at home.

Tasting notes and flavors for Sam Adams Boston Lager

The typical categories for judging a beer – taste, aroma, appearance, mouthfeel, etc. – are to be considered with great detail regarding this complex drink.

Defined simply as a lager, this beer requires a trained nose to pick out the complex characteristics present; characteristics that pin it as more of an ale among some judgements.

This particular craft beer pioneer boasts a rich and full taste that is both sweet and subtly spicy with a somewhat bitter aftertaste. It tastes like a freshly baked loaf of bread and smells like one, too. It has a thicker mouthfeel than most lagers, but isn’t overly heavy and goes down the gullet smoothly. It’s beautifully translucent with a healthy, off-white head.

By no means is this a run-of-the-mill beer. It has been a favorite of many since it was first brewed in Jim Koch’s garage.

This particular beer has done a lot for the craft beer revolution. It’s admired by many for its taste alone, has garnered a very fair rating on Untappd.com with over 1 million total “check-ins” all time.

For each of these aforementioned categories, we’ll note the subtleties and go in-depth so that you have a concrete understanding of this beer.

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Taste

The taste is complex and rich. It’s bolder and fuller than most lagers. It’s heavier tasting and is often accused of tasting more like an ale than a lager because of its subtle hop finish.

The first taste to hit your mouth is a sweet combination of malt and honey. Although its finish is hoppy, it’s also semi sweet with a floral spice – something like a caramel taste. Its aftertaste is mildly bitter but is extremely crisp and approachable.

Perhaps the best way to describe the taste of this American classic is by comparing it to a sweet piece of bread.

Aroma

The Boston Lager has a sweet caramel and bread scent with a super-subtle spicy note. There is a hint of citrus on the nose that comes through in the backend of the taste along with a hop bite.

All of the contributing notes mean that Sam Adams smells like freshly baked bread with a floral spice and the taste confirms that.

With faint floral notes, this lager oozes complexity straight from the bottle. Pour into a glass to really delve into the many different aromas present in this classic. 

Appearance

With its translucent caramel color and medium head, the Boston Lager has an objectively beautiful pour.

This lager has a caramel, copper-amber color on the pour. A medium sized, off-white head that well accentuates its full-looking body. Plenty of lacing alluding to a strong, healthy head.

As you might have guessed from the tasting notes, this beer retains a darker body than more traditional lagers. It has a translucent pour that glistens beautifully.

Mouthfeel

This beer is about as smooth as they come.

There is a very soft bite of bitterness and hops in the middle but it’s hardly noticeable amidst the smoothness. It’s slightly syrupy with low to moderate carbonation.

The mouthfeel matches the beer’s visuals perfectly.

Sam Adams Boston Lager recipe and ingredients

The Sam Adams Boston Lager recipe was first brewed in founder Jim Koch’s microbrewery inside his home. The recipe was an original of Koch’s and has evolved into the craft beer pioneer that we know it as today.

Although the recipe for Boston Lager is kept secret, there are some things we do know: the recipe uses spicy hops, including Hallertau Mittelfrüh and Tettnang Tettnanger Noble Hops. It also calls for Sam Adams’ very own two-row pale malt blend and Caramel 60 malt. The yeast strain has not been disclosed.

Recipes for Sam Adams Boston Lager that can be found online have tweaked some ingredients and added what is thought to be inside the original. These recipes are essentially guesses, composed with hopes of coming close to the distinct Boston Lager taste.

The best recipe online – one that is perhaps the most accurate recreation of the Sam Adams Boston Lager – is one from Homebrew Academy. It uses the same hops and malt from the actual recipe and American lager yeast WLP 840. It follows a convoluted mashing process, a 60 minute boil, and dry hopping during fermentation. The recipe for brewing 5 gallons of this beer is available below.

Ingredients:

  • Hallertau Mittelfrüh hops (3 oz.)
  • Tettnang Tettnanger hops (1 oz.)
  • Two-row pale malt (19 lbs.)
  • Caramel 60 malt (1 lb.)
  • American lager yeast WLP 840
  • Yeast starter (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Mash (100 minutes) – After this step, the ideal gravity is 1.048.
    1. 105℉ for 30 minutes.
    2. 122℉ for 30 minutes.
    3. 155℉ for 30 minutes.
    4. 168℉ for 10 minutes.
  2. Boil wort (60 minutes)
    1. Add 1 ounce of Tettnang hops at start of boil (60 minutes left).
    2. Add 1 ounce of Hallertau hops with 20 minutes left.
    3. Add 1 ounce of Hallertau hops with 10 minutes left.
  3. Chill wort to about 55℉
    1. Once this is done, add the yeast with yeast starter.
  4. Fermentation
    1. Let ferment for about 1 week, down to 1.012 gravity.
  5. Dry-hopping
    1. At this point, carefully add 1 ounce of Hallertau hops per 5 gallons of fermenting wort. Any oxygen let in will be eaten by the yeast.

Another recipe for a Boston Lager clone comes in a kit from Homebrewing.org. It includes Crystal 60L, Mild Ale, and German Pilsner specialty grains. It also utilizes the same hops as the real recipe.

Sam Adams Boston Lager Style

This beer is in its own lane of lagers.

It can also be classified as a Vienna-Style lager; a lager with a degree of toastiness in the smell and taste with a hop profile of low-medium.

It’s a complex lager that contains aromatic notes of bread, caramel, flower, and spice. It finishes with a hoppy kick but is nothing but smooth all the way through.

Sam Adams Boston Lager is a unique lager in that it is sometimes considered more of an ale because of its complex characteristics.

Sam Adams Boston Lager ABV

Boston Lager’s 5% ABV with 30 IBUs is on the higher end of regular lagers but right in the middle for Vienna-style lagers.

The taste is on par with the alcohol content and bitterness. It’s a very well-balanced beer.

Sam Adams Boston Lager calories and nutritional information

There are 175 calories in one serving (12 fl. oz.) of Sam Adams Boston Lager.

According to CalorieKing.com, there is 0g fat and 18g total carbohydrates per serving.

What kind of beer is Sam Adams?

Jim Koch’s most famous creation is enjoyed by beer drinkers of all kinds. It’s considered groundbreaking by the craft beer community and has been around since 1984. The recipe has likely been tweaked from its conception, but it remains essentially the same.

We’ve established that Sam Adams Boston Lager is an amber-colored, sweet, and semi hoppy – but not bitter – Vienna-style lager.

It’s the kind of beer that you can enjoy year-round; in the cold winter evenings or in the sweltering sunlight of a midsummer’s day. 

Its ABV of 5% is approachable for anyone and can easily be enjoyed whether you like Double IPAs or light beers.

Although it has an end taste that denotes the presence of the floral spice hops used, it’s not a hoppy beer.

Is Sam Adams a dark beer?

Sam Adams is not a dark beer.

It’s a copper-amber color and retains that ‘malty’ beer taste.

Why does Sam Adams taste like an ale?

Sam Adams might taste like an ale instead of a lager to some because of its full malt body and quick hop finish.

Compared to other traditional lagers, it’s fuller and more complex, but is brewed as a lager and contains lager ingredients.

How to drink Sam Adams Boston Lager for the best flavor

Beer can taste better or worse depending on certain factors; temperature, vessel, glassware, freshness, etc.

Different beers require different accommodations and Sam Adams Boston Lager is no different.

What temperature should a Boston Lager be? Is it better in a bottle or a can? What type of glass should I use?

Let’s take a look.

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Temperature

Traditionally, lagers are to be served colder than ales. In other words, weaker (meaning, lower ABV) beers are served colder than stronger beers.

The ideal temperature for Boston Lager is around 55℉.

At 5% ABV, this beer should be served cold.

Bottle, can, or draft?

Is it better to drink Sam Adams from a bottle, can, or from the draft? A beer snob might say yes, but it’s all about preference.

To be enjoyed as intended by Jim Koch himself, the best way to drink Boston Lager – whether from a bottle, can, or draft – is in a glass. This method of drinking ensures that the proper tastes and smells, as well as the strength and order they appear, are displayed properly.

I’m not here to judge how you drink your beer, so choose whichever method suits your fancy.

Type of glass

Another important factor, the type of glass can also make a significant impact on your drinking experience.

The best type of glass for Sam Adams is the Sam Adams Boston Lager Glass. This patented invention was designed specifically for Boston Lager and exhibits all the qualities needed to enjoy this beer to the fullest.

Read more about it or buy one for yourself at SamuelAdams.com.

Freshness

The freshness of a beer can have a large impact on its quality.

Ideally, beer should be enjoyed within two weeks of completion. However, Boston Lager can be enjoyed up to four months after bottling or canning.

Keeping beer cold will increase shelf-life. 

What kind of foods pair best with Sam Adams Boston Lager

There’s a ton of options for food pairings when it comes to such a complex and versatile beer like Sam Adams Boston Lager.

Some of the best foods to pair with Boston Lager exhibit similar characteristics, including:

Is Sam Adams Boston Lager good?

  • Focaccia bread – This Italian bread goes great with the sweetness of Boston Lager. It’s nutty and roasty flavor with additional sweet notes make it a great pairing. 
  • Cobb salad – The complexity of this dish fits the complexity of the Boston Lager. The many ingredients in this salad perfectly accentuate this beer’s profile.
  • Burgers – A classic American combination. Beer is always good with burgers, especially Boston Lager. The smoothness with the sweet and spicy combo pairs well with a burger off the grill.
  • Chicken – Grilled or fried, either is perfect. With the tenderness of chicken and the many ways to prepare and flavor it, you will surely find a match for the versatile Boston Lager.
  • Chocolate cheesecake – The malty sweetness from Sam Adams goes great with this treat. The subtle hop bite at the finish of the beer is a great way to balance out all of the sweetness in this pairing.

Overall, Sam Adams Boston Lager is a great beer. Its complex characteristics make it completely unique – and delicious.

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