Back in 1984, founder Jim Koch brewed his first batch of Samuel Adams Boston Lager. Nearly 20 years later, the company he founded isn't just about Sam Adams or Boston anymore.
The Boston brewery serves largely as a research-and-development facility, while much of the production takes place at larger breweries in Cincinnati and Pennsylvania's Lehigh County. And that's only the beer produced under the Samuel Adams name. Boston Beer launched its Alchemy & Science branch in Burlington, Vt., last year as not only a research facility, but as a conduit for brewery acquisitions. The facility has produced a shandy to go up against MillerCoors' Leinenkugel's shandy line and has acquired both Los Angeles-based Angel City Brewing and Clinton Park, N.Y.-based Coney Island Craft Lagers. Both of those beers will be brewed at their current facilities for the time being.But Boston Beer has far more interests than its beer-specific name suggests. Back in 2000, it launched the Twisted Tea line of hard iced teas that continues to boost Boston Beer's bottom line to this day. Just last year, the company launched its Angry Orchard line of hard ciders that was successful enough to become the best selling line of hard ciders in the country less than a year into its existence. The Brewers Association still considers Boston Beer "craft" and changed its definition of that word to accommodate the growing giant, but Beer Marketer's Insights has it straddling both its small and major supplier categories. Considering its identity crisis is the crux of the debate between two competing pieces of beer tax legislation in Congress -- where the 6 million-barrel limit created by BA for Boston Beer is considered the cutoff for "craft" brewers -- publicly traded Boston Beer will continue to find itself in the tough spot between its small, kitchen-brewed past and its large-scale future.