Jim Koch: The Birth of a Beer Legacy

My dad was a brewmaster and he had worked in the breweries in Cincinnati. When I grew up there were five [still] running: Hudepohl, Bavarian, Schoenling, Wiedemann, and Burger. I remember as a kid the smell and the sounds and the look and the feel of the brewery.

The recipe for Boston Lager was in the attic over the garage at my parents’ house. When my dad realized I was serious about starting a small brewery, we went up into the attic, and he opened up a trunk. It had stacks of old car magazines on top of his brewing notes and course material from brewmaster school. In there was a recipe for the beer that my great-great grandfather had made at the Louis Koch brewery in St. Louis in the 1800s. My dad said, This is the best recipe we have. He was right.

My idea was that I could literally make the best beer in America. When I started, the big brewers were focused on mass-producing enormous quantities of standardized beer—the fast food of beer. Nobody was making world-class beer and giving it to people fresh. I was trying to bring Americans a completely different taste in beer, one that really hadn’t existed since before Prohibition.

In 1995, we bought the last brewery in Cincinnati. We bought it because it was one of the last traditional small-batch breweries in the U.S. My great-great grandfather could walk through our brewery in Cincinnati and know instantly what everything does. We basically make Boston Lager the same way my great-great grandfather made it. —Jim Koch, founder of the Boston Beer Company

Originally published in the October 2011 issue.

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