Sam Adams Founder Jim Koch Learned His Love for Beer from His Father

by Amy Myers

Back in the 80s, a Boston native and three-time Harvard graduate decided to give up his job as a consultant and instead try his hand at brewing. By 1986, Sam Adams Boston Lager appeared on store shelves and catalyzed the craft beer movement that is as popular as ever today. The craft beer industry giant has created numerous “wicked” popular varieties like Summer Ale, Jack O’ pumpkin ale and Octoberfest. During the fall months, Sam Adams is a go-to selection for beer lovers because of the wide variety in flavors and consistency in quality.

What is now an internationally popular beer brand began as a shared passion between a father and son. When Jim Koch was around four or five years old, he tasted his first beer. At the time, he likely made an adorably sour face and swallowed it only to impress his old man. Regardless of how little he enjoyed it at the time, the experience left a lasting impression on the future Sam Adams founder that wouldn’t rear its head for another thirty years.

“My dad and I actually homebrewed before it was even legal. It was kind of a father-son project. We went to the grocery store and bought some cans of Blue Ribbon malt extract. He got some hops and yeast from a brewmaster who was a friend of his, and we made beer at home,” the Sam Adams founder explained to Brobible.

“So I was kind of born into this. My dad left brewing when all the little brewers were consolidating or being driven out of business, and then I had a different path. I’ve got a J.D. and an MBA from Harvard, so I was able to get an education that my dad didn’t have access to,” Koch said.

Sam Adams Founder Celebrates Growing Beer Industry

With nearly four decades of experience with hops and mash, the Sam Adams founder has gained a unique experience of the craft beer industry and how it has evolved since the start of his company.

The most obvious change is the sheer number of breweries that have risen in the U.S. Back in 1978, the nation only had a total of 89 breweries, an all-time low. Now, Koch estimated that we have roughly 9,000 breweries coast to coast.

“It used to be I knew every other craft brewer in the country. Now I don’t even know every craft brewer in Eastern Massachusetts. That’s a good thing,” Koch shared. “It’s such a fertile time. It certainly presents exciting challenges in the sense of trying to come up with new beers that aren’t duplicative of what’s already out there, but the bar has been raised and that’s cool.”