Fearful Symmetries

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28 April, 2016

Maybe you'd like it back in your cell, your Highness: Escape Route by Sam Adams



The Boston Beer Company, brewers of Sam Adams beers (and other adult beverage brands), made the news recently for all the wrong reasons: sales, profits, revenues – the whole shootin' match, basically, went down in the first quarter of this year. No doubt there is a goodly amount of schadenfreude in some circles over this news. I have read various people unleash streams of invective against the company, its beers, and its founder, Jim Koch, and I just don't understand the ill will.

While I am certainly not inviting anyone to feel sorry for Boston Beer Company, I must admit that I have something of a soft spot for Sam Adams. Having been formed in 1984, Boston Lager was a prominent fixture of my formative microbrew landscape back in the early 90s and I still enjoy it today, though not often. But there are times when I'm at a chain restaurant or perhaps in a city that isn't overly attached to microbrews yet Sam Adams is there.

Beyond earnings statements, Sam Adams has been in the brewing news as of late for its Rebel IPA series and its line of nitro brews in cans. I've not tried any of these beers and, as you see from the photo above, I have been drinking a rather different Sam Adams beer - Escape Route, an unfiltered Kölsch-style bier. Sam Adams bills it as being a "Limited Release" but, for a company that brews 2+ million barrels of beer annually and distributes nationwide, how limited could it be? I suppose it refers to the bier not being available year-round and instead released only in the depths of winter. Presumably the release of a light, easily quaffable brew when it is cold and dark outside in Boston and most of the rest of the country is simply Sam Adams getting a jump on seasonal releases.

As I said, Escape Route is a Kölsch-style bier that is unfiltered. My understanding is that such a bier in Cologne, the style's home, could not legally use the "Kölsch" appellation. And so, while Escape Route's lovely brilliant gold is quite Kölsch-like, its slight haze is most certainly not. Sadly, I had no stange for this review as mine are all packed away. I think that if I'd have had one, my ¼" head would have become a bit taller. Still, my glass had a respectable loose white topping of foam that hung around for a little while. On the other hand, with all those bubbles in the bier, a stange would have gussied up the presentation a little bit.

Escape Route's aroma was delightful and had everything that I expected. There was a really nice crackery maltiness to it that was accented by that characteristic fruity aroma from the yeast which was berry-like but with a touch of citrus. A faint bit of grassy hop lingered in the background.

The bier was light-bodied with a fairly delicate biscuit flavor that nonetheless managed to be big and up front. I absolutely adore this flavor and it's one that golden ales that try to pass themselves off as Kölsches usually don't have. The bubbles I spied earlier added a fizzy bite yet it was not so harsh as to obscure the rather subtle fruitiness from the yeast. It had a nice crispness to it too which complemented the mostly clean flavor.

Those biscuity malt flavors lingered on the finish until they were greeted by a moderate dose of hoppy flavor of the grassy/herbal kind and their attendant bitterness.

This is a very tasty bier. I believe that Sam Adams says the name refers to an escape from winter to spring. But it's also an escape from trendy barrel-aged sour double IPAs. This is not a big bier however you approach it. 5% A.B.V. is a moderate strength; the Strisselspalt and Aramis hops don’t assault you with tropical fruit tastes and are not particularly bitter; the malts give a light, biscuity flavor just as the yeast gives a light fruitiness to the proceedings. My bottle indicated that it was best buy June but I think the hops suffered a bit due to age. They just seemed a bit flat and lacked a fresh sprightly character which would have been nice to have tasted.

Still, Escape Route was, for me, a solid, flavorful Kölsch. It hit the right notes and just needs to be available fresh in the summer.

Junk food pairing: Because the Kölsch is not a big, bold brew, try something lighter with Escape Route such as Classic Ranch Fritos.

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|| Palmer, 3:04 PM

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