More on the Hall of Beer Heroes

In response to my nomination of Jim Koch, founder of the Boston Beer Company and creator of the Samuel Adams line of brews, for craft-beer canonization, three main trends in reader response:

1) What about Fritz Maytag? Many people wrote to say that the founder of the Anchor Brewing Company in San Francisco deserved first-tier credit. For instance:

Don't forget Fritz Maytag on your list of heroes! He single-handedly saved a  classic beer style from extinction, and was the first to introduce what we now think of as American Pale Ale. A great modern-brewing pioneer!


[You should honor] Fritz Maytag of Anchor Brewery, who instead of choosing to be a bored member of the rentier class took his inheritance and started craft-brewing before Messrs. Koch and Grossman.... When I started home-brewing in 1984, it seemed that the only craft beer around was Anchor's, not Sam Adams (which I do like) or Sierra Nevada's. Praise is free; please spread it around.

2) What about Jimmy Carter? The post-incumbency rise in esteem for our 39th president continues, in this case because of what he did for the the home-brew and craft-brew industries:

I have to note that you left out Jimmy Carter from your list people who deserve credit for leading America into its current Golden Age of Beer.

I personally know of 3 people who began home brewing when he sparked the legislation that made home brew legal. One of these people ... is a commercial brewing concern now! One of several here in the greater Springfield, MA area.

3) What about (in a different sense) Jim Koch? Paul Rickter, a home brewer in Massachusetts, thinks praise of the Sam Adams line and its founder is overdone:

Your hagiography on Jim Koch touched a nerve with me.

You state up front your "bias" in favor of Jim Koch, and that's helpful. As a longtime Boston-area homebrewer, I'm happy to admit being biased against Koch, for a variety of reasons... He makes some good beers (the niche specialty varieties, not the mass-market stuff that is contract-brewed for him), though his real talent is in marketing himself everywhere as the man who single-handedly saved American beer.  He's certainly played a key role in the resurgence of American craft beer, but he's been a little too eager to grab that spotlight and has been loathe to lose the "craft" label, even though his company has grown way beyond that status.

I have one major quibble in what you wrote about the list of "craft" brewers: "Koch's Boston Brewing is #1, and Grossman's Sierra Nevada is right behind him" Look at the 2011 numbers (displayed in the slideshow) -- Sierra Nevada is #2 at 858,000 barrels and Boston Beer Company is #1 at 2.44 million, almost 3 times the size of Sierra Nevada. The only reason that Boston Beer Company is even on this list anymore is that the rules of the Brewers Association were changed a year ago, increasing the "craft" limit from 2 million barrels to 6 million barrels. In other words, when the sales of Boston Beer Company were about to exceed the craft limit, the rules were changed to accommodate Jim Koch, allowing him to maintain his reputation as a small craft brewer.

Jim Koch: great salesman and decent brewer, but NOT a craft brewer and he should stop pretending to be.

Even our greatest heroes: feet of clay. Still these are all figures worthy of respect and credit.