“Craft Breweries Are Now Beating Big Beer,” a headline read at CNBC earlier this year. While overall beer production fell 1.4 percent, craft breweries saw an increase of 9.6 percent. And, according to the Brewers Association, Boston Beer Co.–the makers of Samuel Adams beer–is the top U.S. craft brewing company (based on 2013 beer sales volume).
Why do you think that is? It’s because Samuel Adams has a wide variety of beers that bring something new to the mass consumption market. The Boston brewery is well known for its seasonal variety 12-packs which contain some truly enjoyable and creative brews. But each 12 pack is slightly flawed, as the company first packs in two Boston Lagers and two Sam Adams Lights in every box, leaving just eight seasonal brews for every $14.99 purchase. Unfortunately, that means just four seasonal varieties per box, as each variety gets two beers. Luckily, many beverage centers have created mix-your-own-six packs that allows you to skip all of the fluff and buy just the seasonal beers you love (or would love to try). We love when Sam Adams introduces the next season’s variety 12 pack so that we can make our own mix of the good seasonal beers from last season and the new season. So, without further ado, here are the 12 best Sam Adams seasonal beers from their variety packs.
Samuel Adams Summer Ale (Summer)
Summer Ale is Sam Adams’ most refreshing option to date. It’s brewed with not only lemon zest but also contains a mystical brewing spice called grains of paradise, a rare spice from Africa. We think the masses were pretty much forced to go out and buy a Summer Ale when Jim Koch threw in the term “grains of paradise” in the TV ad. Luckily, the beer lived up to its buzz, as it is the perfect blend of citrus and spices.
Samuel Adams Octoberfest (Fall)
The Samuel Adams version of a classic style–and who among the world of craft breweries doesn’t have an Oktoberfest nowadays–is the perfect autumn beer. The color is the first thing that impresses you when pouring an Octoberfest, as it pours a deep, dark amber. But, it’s certainly not the last. This beer is an enjoyable blend of sweet caramel and toffee flavors and mild hoppy bitterness.
Samuel Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale (Fall)
While not as good as their limited Fat Jack Double Pumpkin, Harvest Pumpkin Ale (its little cousin) is more than just a commendable attempt. It’s brewed with real pumpkin, but also contains a small amount of the typical pumpkin pie spices like cinnamon and nutmeg which gives it a smooth, sweet and spicy flavor all at once.
Samuel Adams Ruby Mild (Fall)
Ruby Mild is probably the most underrated and least talked about seasonal beer from Boston Beer, but it remains one of our favorites. Not all of the Samuel Adams beers have to kick you in the teeth with flavor to impress, do they? This one is smooth, sweet and subtle. And, we like subtle.
Samuel Adams Blueberry Hill Lager (Summer)
Blueberry Hill Lager, on the other hand, is not nearly as subtle as Ruby Mild. Although it is a softer blueberry flavor than most of the blueberry beers out there, the flavor is by no means muted. Mixed with a slightly citrus taste from the hops, it almost tastes as though you’re eating a blueberry scone with lemon frosting–but without the overpowering sweetness.
Samuel Adams Escape Route (Summer)
Sam Adams took another classic hybrid style of brew from Germany–an unfiltered Kölsch–and gave it the ole’ college try. The subtle fruit notes of blend expertly with the brightness and crispness of a lager, which Boston Beer uses Aramis hops to obtain.
Samuel Adams Winter Lager (Winter)
Samuel Adams’ Winter Lager will feel like the sun coming up in the morning due to its warming characteristics. It is a full-bodied lager that contains ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg flavors with a hint of orange peel to remind you of the summer days. According to the brewery, they use special cinnamon imported from Vietnam and Indonesia for a unique spicy flavor.
Samuel Adams Belgian Session (Summer)
Belgian Session is another twist on a classic style, a traditional Belgian beer. It’s flavorful and crisp, with a subtle fruit flavor that layers on top of the strong clove note. It’s richer than many other Belgian ales, with a nice balance of toffee and caramel flavor. The key to a great Belgian session ale is to have all of the flavors blend together in a way that none of them dominate the tastebuds; this is exactly what Sam Adams has done.
Samuel Adams Hazel Brown (Fall)
If you love hazelnuts like we do, this is the beer for you. Not only does it taste of delicious roasted hazelnuts, but also has sweet caramel and toffee malt undertones that create an ultimately smooth finish. A hint of chocolate is also noticeable. Even though Hazel Brown isn’t all that complex, its simplicity just works.
Samuel Adams Cherry Chocolate Bock (Winter)
You know those Queen Anne chocolate covered cherry cordials you usually see around Christmas time? Meet its cousin in beer form, Sam Adams Cherry Chocolate Bock. This brew has the perfect amount of sweetness, and has prominent cherry and chocolate flavoring. It’s actually brewed with bits of cherries and chocolate, so the flavor is natural, which is always a big plus in our book. Bring it to your holiday party–you won’t regret it.
Samuel Adams Maple Pecan Porter (Spring)
Sam Adams’ Maple Pecan Porter is brewed with real Vermont maple syrup, and that’s something everyone should have in their daily diet, if you ask us. Although this beer would be a better fit for the winter variety pack, it’s still the best offering from Sam Adams’ spring lineup. With hints of coffee and chocolate, and a slightly nutty aftertaste, Maple Pecan Porter is sure to please.
Samuel Adams Whitewater IPA (Spring)
Admittedly, we find the Samuel Adams spring variety pack to be its weakest of all of the seasons. If it weren’t for Maple Pecan Porter and Whitewater IPA, we probably wouldn’t buy it. It’s brewed with apricots, coriander and orange peel, and is the perfect addition to this blend of Belgian ales and American IPAs. It’s unique, and strangely hoppy for a Sam Adams brew, and it’s incredibly refreshing. Whitewater IPA probably got its name from getting you to feel like you just jumped into a raft for some whitewater action. We can’t prove that, though.