Before Jim Koch founded Samuel Adams, American beer was a Monty Python punchline. Few small, craft breweries weathered prohibition and people became used to drinking inferior beer. Recently interviewed on the How I Built This podcast, Jim Koch recounted the history of Samuel Adams and his craft beer revolution. Micro-brewers and craft beer enthusiasts everywhere must raise a glass to their success.
From Business to Beer
In the early 1980s, Koch withdrew from his JD-MBA degree program to find his own path through the Outward-Bound program. Convinced he would rather love his life, even if it meant living on less, he returned to finish his degree. He found himself with a great job and promising career, but decided to leave it to brew beer like his father.
The Small but Strong Remnant of Craft Beer
Koch was fascinated with the story of Fritz Maytag and Anchor Brewing Company in San Francisco. In a sea of watered-down American beer, Anchor was an island of successful, craft brewed beer. Koch believes that real business lessons are learned from outliers—people who are successful for doing something different, despite the odds.
I never imagined the success that we have been able to have. I never imagined there would be 4,500 other craft brewers…enjoying their own success.
-Jim Koch, How I Built This, 10-31-2016
Besides a few small breweries, the best beers in the bars were imports like Heineken and Beck. Koch believed there was a market for craft beer brewed in the United States. In 1984, he left his burgeoning career to begin what would become Samuel Adams.
The Boston Lager and the Craft Beer Revolution
In his own kitchen, Koch tweaked his great-great grandfather’s recipe until he perfected the Samuel Adams Boston Lager. Six weeks later, the Boston Lager won best beer in America at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver. From that point, Samuel Adams at the craft beer revolution grew explosively.
Today, Samuel Adams employees 1,400 people throughout America. The average salary package for those employees is around 70,000 per year. There are over 4,500 craft breweries in America, and that number is growing every day.
Today, American beer has gone from the laughing stock that it was when I started, to the best place in the world to be a beer drinker…The rest is looking at the U.S. and saying, ‘I wish we could do in our country, what the Americans have done with beer. I wish we had the beer culture America has.
Jim Koch, How I Built This, 10-31-2016
Despite the tremendous success of Samuel Adams, Koch says that their beer only accounts for about 4% of the market in the United States. This means that there is significant room for new craft breweries to follow in their footsteps. Asheville is home to more than sixty microbreweries and major craft brewing brands. Raleigh, Atlanta, and other southern cities are leaders in the movement. If you want to follow your craft beer brewery dreams, give us a call. There are craft breweries for sale today.