Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Hazy Shade of Winter

Word is in that the 2009 Samuel Adams Winter Classics Mix Pack (always a favorite for SA fans) has hit the streets, and the Boston Beer Company has apparently shit the bed big time with this years edition.

In a nutshell, the pack offers the only chance each year to obtain their most excellent Old Fezziwig Ale, equally impressive Holiday Porter and also the liquid death known as Cranberry Lambic. Two others, their flagship Boston Lager and seasonal Winter Lager, are also always included, and justifiably so: The Boston Lager is Samuel Adams and is a great year round beer, and having the Winter Lager in a Winter themed twelve pack is just a no-brainer. The sixth and final beer (two bottles of each are to be had in each pack, for those not in the know) has been up for grabs over the years. Previously they had tried to fit the Sam Adams Light into the pack and, well, it just didn't work with the rest of the collection. The past few years the BBC has gotten it right and included their Cream Stout in the mix. This year? They made what is arguably their biggest mistake yet, by putting their brand spanking new Coastal Wheat in as the last beer. Yes, you heard me, Coastal Wheat. The slightly above average wheat ale that tastes strikingly similar to their Summer Ale (actually, to me it's sort of a Summer Ale-White Ale hybrid) and is more beaches and palm trees than it is snowballs and Christmas trees.

This really is shameless force-feeding of the beer into the marketplace by the BBC. Yes, I get that they want to push their newest product, but in a Winter Pack? Not a chance. For as horrid as the Lambic is, at least it fits in with the Winter/holiday theme of the pack, and at least in that sense I can't argue with it's inclusion. Make no mistake, the Coastal Wheat isn't a bad beer. It's not that great either, but it is marginally enjoyable in the end. It simply has no place in this collection of beers.

Of their current offerings, there are some obvious choices to fill this beer slot: Black Lager, Scotch Ale, or the aforementioned Cream Stout. I'd say the Honey Porter too but there's already a porter in the mix. Hell, the Irish Red or Brown Ale would even work (although I see them as Spring and Autumn beers, respectively). I'd even accept a price increase on the pack if they threw in a couple Imperial Stouts as the final beer. Now that would be an awesome collection.

I found it to be odd that they released the Coastal in late September and this move is even more bizarre, at least from an overall collection standpoint. Unfortunately the sad part is that in the end this tactic will work for them. People aren't going to shy away from the Winter Classics. The love for for the Fezziwig and Porter is off the charts and you can't get them anywhere else. They're just going to hope that people enjoy the Coastal. I for one was unimpressed overall when I sampled it, but we shall see.

Oh and one final thought for the BBC folks to ponder: you know those bombers of Boston Lager and Octoberfest that have been showing up on the shelves in recent months? Both Old Fezziwig and the Holiday Porter would look great in those. A case of each would easily make it into my stash every holiday season. I know it'll almost certainly never happen, but one can dream...

Hopback, beer, Samuel Adams, Winter Classics, Old Fezziwig, Holiday Porter, Coastal Wheat, Cranberry Lambic