Sam Adams – Vixen

Tasting: December 3, 2011
Style: Bock (chocolate chili)

vixen

“The Big Three” of beer are Anheuser Busch (InBev), Miller (SABMiller) and Coors (Molson Coors). These three foreignly held (all or in part) brewing companies produce about 85% of all the beer consumed in the United States. AB leads the way with 49.5%, followed by SABMiller at 23% and Molson Coors at 11%. While I’m blurting out stats, I was also surprised to find out that “light beer” accounts for about 53% of all beer sales in the US. If you then layer in a couple of other stalwarts of American beer – like Pabst and Yuengling, you can quickly deduce that the craft beer market share is quite small. How small? Consider the “largest” craft beer brand – Sam Adams. Its parent company, Boston Beer Company, accounts for only 1% of the total beer sold in the US.

The latest statistics of beer sales in the US show that craft beer is the fastest growing segment in the beer market. While major labels sales have sagged. But don’t feel sorry for the big three – they have taken the approach of a wolf in sheep’s clothing when it comes to craft beer. They have their hands in quite a bit of the craft beer market through their own labels, investments or distribution agreements. Don’t be fooled by labels like Blue Moon, Red Hook, Leinenkugels and now Goose Island – the big three have their hands squarely in the dough. So surprisingly, Sam Adams at a meager 1% market share is the top solely American owned brewery.

Sam Adams sits in an interesting position and I’ll use a friend and myself to illustrate a point. I have a friend that drinks beer from the big three. If I were to give him a Stone Ruination – he might spit it out. But, he would certainly drink a Sam Adams Boston Lager even though he would call it exotic. Me, I’m on the other end of the spectrum and I avoid most major labels, but if I had no other alternative – I would choose a Boston Lager. Their beer can cross across all lines and they can act like a mass produced beer and a craft brewer. On the craft beer side – Boston Beer has been producing a number of limited edition beer and of late a new line of beer has been showing up in bomber sized bottles at local beer stores. This one is called Vixen.

Vixen is describe as a “chocolate chili bock”. You can see from the photo, it’s as brown as a cola with an off-white head. Aroma is very subtle — chocolate and roasted grains. Chocolate is a common brewing ingredient these days — chili however — is somewhat unique. I’ve had beer like Ed’s Cave Creek — and man is that beer hot! Well, this chili is somewhat subtle but clearly evident as is the chocolate. Alcohol by Volume is listed as 8.5% – but really not evident. It tastes a little thin. I wish the advertised flavors were amped up a bit more – but it is still somewhat enjoyable — 81 points.

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