Sud Savant: Samuel Adams – Boston 26.2 Brew

Drinkers, today I am blessed with a special treat of sorts. I have been gifted a bottle of Samuel Adams Boston 26.2 Brew. Since I live in the Midwest and the Boston 26.2 Brew (what a mouth full!) is only in Boston and only “available at race-related events, as well as pubs and restaurants along the Marathon route and around Boston,” I am very stoked to be sampling this brew. A HUGE thanks goes out to my east coast friend that made this possible. With the Boston Marathon only a week away, it’s time to review this very limited brew.

One more very cool aspect about this beer is that it is brewed in the Gose style. No, not geuze (or gueuze depending on your spelling), but a Gose style. If you don’t know much about it, you’re not alone. It’s a style that was all but extinct, but has been kept around by some rather dedicated breweries (read all about the Gose style here or its Wikipedia article). Long story short? It was originally a spontaneously fermented beer made with malted wheat (50% of grain bill), coriander, and salt. Not only is this a great opportunity for me to try a beer exclusively available on the east coast in Boston, but also to try a style that I have never seen before let alone tasted. Big props to Samuel Adams for not only showing some love to it’s home market, but for also brewing a style that is not only “not popular,” it barely exists! They’re educating beer drinkers once again and it’s no surprise. I’m very excited to crack this open and see what this style is all about. Let’s pour!

Aroma 10/12: A simple bouquet here, but it’s effective. A lemon zest citrus is the initial primary aroma, but there is a sweetness behind it, as if it were cream-filled but in a much more subtle way. A tickle of Belgian spice is behind that and I attribute it entirely to the coriander used in the making of this beer. It’s like a light Belgian with very little spice, plus a little bit of lemon. Ahh, and now the wheat begins to come forward as the beer warms. It makes the beer smell much less “light” and definitely shows the origins of the lemon aroma.

Appearance 1/3: Somewhat pilsner-esque in appearance: extremely high clarity, no notable ascending carbonation, bright gold in color with hues of the wheat sheaves located in the center of the glass. Carbonation was one finger tall, offered less than average retention in the pure white head, but remained to cover the surface. No lacing. I imagine the acidity has something to do with the poor head & retention, but if there is one thing I expect an established, “bigger” brewer to do, it’s to nail the technical aspects. This was not up to the high level that Samuel Adams has previously established.

Flavor 16/20: This is definitely its own character! Loads of malted wheat is present right off the bat, not only in a substantial and pleasing mouthfeel, but also with grain and lemon flavor. To those worried about the salt used in the brewing process: don’t be. The salt is initially quite noticeable, but eventually blends in as the palate grows accustomed to the newcomer. The backbone is mostly a continuation of the wheat flavors, but adds the salt in a way that compliments the light citrus astringency. This is NOT like shaking salt into a summer shandy. The wheat and salt are both far too delicate. They neither insult the drinker with too much sweetness, nor disgust him/her with too much salt. I can see how either could happen, so this is a delicate balance to achieve. A quick slurp brings forward the cream-like sweetness and the citrus. The finish is a classic wheat taste: very fresh with pure grain flavors and a crispness that ends in the lightest of bitters. The aftertaste is mostly clean but does leave the faint citrus and bitter remnants of the wheat.

Mouthfeel 5/5
As mentioned earlier, all the wheat in this brew give it a much more substantial body than one would normally expect in a beer with flavors this light. Overall, the body is medium-light, but seems lighter with the lively carbonation. The first sips from the bottle were nearly champagne-like in amount, but not in texture. While it does fade rather dramatically toward the end, there is still enough to make this a superb drink for the summer. I would definitely encourage a wider distribution in the summer months.

Overall Impression 7/10 While I have no other gose style beers with which to compare this beer, from everything I’ve read, this seems to be a fine, lighter representation of the style. Most references make reference to a “strong saltiness,” “lemon tartness,” and a “characteristic sourness,” (the last being given by the wild yeasts that originally were used in its spontaneous fermentation). This beer definitely does not possess the “stronger” characteristics of the attributes listed, but for a beer that’s still trying to gain a foothold after being extinct on two separate occasions, maybe that’s wise. The authenticity will come with the demand. There was no sourness present, but the coriander and salt certainly were. A very refreshing brew that I certainly prefer to many of the shandies, hard lemonades, and “summer ales” currently available on the market.

Total 39/50 I enjoyed this beer’s excellent wheat characteristics and the noticeable presence of lemon. It’s a welcome alternative to the overly-sweet, lemonade-tinged brews that come out of the woodwork every summer. The subtlety was a nice change of pace, but I sure would like to see a more authentic type of this beer. While the aforementioned characteristics were appreciated, this beer’s lightness shows that it was indeed made for the runners. Again, not that I have anything to compare it to, but it sounds like this beer was made of sterner stuff back in its heyday and now I’m curious of it’s original form. Now, can you give a richly flavored anything to someone that has just finished a marathon? No. In fact, I can’t even imagine the rich flavor that this brew would attain after 26.2 miles. Heck, I bet a caramel flavored rice cake would taste like a crème brûlée exploded in your head. However, I think it’s safe to say that most people that drink this will not have just run a marathon and might appreciate that bit of sour to compliment the lemon and salt. Oddly the coriander didn’t play that big a role in the flavor, but it was still nice to have in the aroma. As it stands, it’s no wonder they’re serving it after the Boston Marathon. This would be a God send after running a distance that borders on cruel and unusual punishment. A lighter-bodied wheat beer that has plenty of carbonation should be on every runner’s wish list.

Sam Adams, much like in my “novice” drinking days, you have introduced me to a style that I might not have otherwise tried. It seems to be what you do best! Thank you for making this style accessible to a much larger audience than it has had in decades and for giving other summer “refreshers” something to shoot for. This is more than your average “lawnmower beer,” and I’d love to see it in a more authentic setting (hint hint).

Joel R. Kolander is the Cheif Blogger for Sud Savant, a beer-savoring blog for the rest of us. We’re not here to get plowed. We’re not here because we are world-famous beer critics. We’re here because we enjoy savoring a great beer with even better friends. Sharing great beer is just as amazing as finding it in the first place. Lets share!