How would you like to have a hand in deciding what Boston Beer Co.’s next beer is going to be? Well, you can, although you will be only one of many voters.

The maker of the Samuel Adams line of beers is holdings its sixth annual Beer Lover’s Choice contest, pitting a Belgian-style IPA against an American rye. And the winner will join the company’s production line.

Some pretty good beers have made the product line-up through this contest.

Last year’s winner, Samuel Adams Noble Pils, became my beer of choice for a month or two last winter. It is a hoppy pilsner made with all five varieties of noble hops.

Other winners have been Blackberry Witbier in 2008, which didn’t make a strong impression on me; Irish Red in 2007, a good beer but not as good as Smithwick’s, the original Irish red; Honey Porter in 2006, which is light for a porter but good; and Brown Ale in 2005, which I have probably had but don’t remember.

My wife Nancy and I tasted this year’s two offerings while sitting on our patio Saturday afternoon after spending too much time gardening in 90-degree heat.

We probably tasted the two beers backward. So if you go to a Beer Lover’s Choice tasting, drink beer B first. Beer A, the Belgian-style IPA, was so strongly flavored with both hops and malt that when I tasted the American, it seemed like it had no taste at all.

I had some water and waited a bit, and when I went back to it, I really liked the American rye. It had a light but complex flavor, and a spicy but not overpowering hops. I’m hoping this one wins so I can have it again.

But the vote is likely to be close.

One of the tastings was held Saturday night at Bayside Bowl on Alder Street in Portland, with about 50 to 60 customers taking part, said Charlie Mitchell, one of the owners.

“The Sam Adams representative had a table set up for sort of a blind tasting,” Mitchell said. “He told me that at the end of the night it was pretty much a 50-50 split on the votes. He said that has been happening at the other tastings too.”

The winning beer will be sold as part of the Samuel Adams Brewmaster’s Collection beginning in January.

Full disclosure: Nancy and I own some Boston Beer Co. stock, but the beers showed up on Features Editor Rod Harmon’s desk as part of a promotion, and he gave them to me.


A beer I tried lately and liked was the Kennebec River Brewery Summer Ale.

It was a smooth-drinking beer, with mild rather than strong flavors, and with a good head. The beer was amber and very cloudy.

Another beer I hope to have again is the Shipyard Independence Ale, created by Alan Pugsley in England and recreated just briefly for sale in some of Shipyard’s Maine brew pubs.

I got an e-mail that some of the ale was going to be available at the South Portland Sea Dog Brew Pub, so I dropped in for a pint.

It was cask conditioned, so only slightly effervescent, but it had a wonderful, almost silky body and dominated by the malt more than the hops.

Pugsley by happenstance was eating dinner there when I had my beer, so I complimented him on it, and he said there is a good chance it might come back to the lineup sometime.

Tom Atwell can be contacted at 791-6362 or at

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