Billionaire Jim Koch On Why Sam Adams Is Still One Of The Little Guys In The Industry

Nearly four decades ago, Jim Koch helped spark a craft beer revolution when he launched Sam Adams. That brand became the centerpiece of Boston Beer, a publicly traded company with $2.1 billion in annual revenues—and has made Koch a billionaire, worth an estimated $1.5 billion, per Forbes. Now, as both the number of craft breweries and those breweries’ obstacles to profitability spike, Koch wants to protect the craft beer revolution at all costs—even by funding those who might end up being his own competition.

Microbrewers setting out today face high startup costs and a dearth of banks willing to lend small sums. Remembering his own difficulty obtaining initial financing for Sam Adams, Koch created a program called Brewing the American Dream to provide loans and mentorship to small food and beverage entrepreneurs. The program has partnered with microfinance nonprofit Accion Opportunity Fund to loan out $99 million since its founding in 2008, and Koch says the repayment rate has been 96%. This year the program will cross the $100 million mark.

Koch acknowledges that the breweries his program supports are the very ones Sam Adams faces up against in stores and taprooms. “It’s possible to beat each other’s brains out in the marketplace, and then at the end of the day, sit down and have a beer together,” he said. Koch posited that any microbrewery’s success uplifts the craft industry as a whole: “We’re all trying to compete against the big guys.” Though Boston Beer is a $3.9 billion (market capitalization) business run by a billionaire, it’s a pipsqueak compared to the likes of Anheuser-Busch Inbev, with a market cap that’s 30 times as big, and Heineken, which is 15 times its size. Boston Beer, for all its success, has 3% market share in the U.S.

The origin story of Sam Adams has become legendary—Koch and his partner Rhonda Kallman selling brews by hand in Boston back in the mid-1980s, using payphones to minimize overhead costs and winning the “best beer in America” award for its flagship lager in its first year, 1985. American beer had a terrible reputation at the time. The brews considered to be of high quality all originated abroad, from Heineken to Becks.

“In the beginning, our competition was ignorance and apathy,” Koch said. “People who didn’t know about good beer and didn’t care and were drinking fizzy yellow beer. As an industry, we all helped educate [the public]. And we all grew.”

Now the U.S. is arguably the craft beer capital of the world, with the number of craft breweries in the country reaching an all-time high of 9,552 last year, per the Brewers Association. But not all is rosy: The overall production of American craft beer plateaued last year. Some analysts speculate that the market is near saturation.

“It’s definitely very crowded, and in a little bit of decline,” said David Steinman, executive editor of trade publisher Beer Marketer’s Insights. “There are many companies that are just in a challenging spot.”

Small producers are fighting over a sliver of the overall beer industry that’s dominated by companies like Anheuser-Busch Inbev and Molson Coors, which together control 81% of the American market, according to an IBISWorld report from January. The U.S. treasury department found “several competitive issues” in the industry that could lead to increased prices for consumers in a report released last year.

Koch has been very critical of industry consolidation, lambasting the U.S. Department of Justice’s decision to allow the mergers of Molson Coors and SABMiller and of Anheuser Busch and InBev in a 2017 New York Times op-ed. (Boston Beer Company acquired Dogfish Head in 2019 for $336 million, a move that Koch describes as “not a spreadsheet acquisition” but “a joining of forces” for creative purposes.)

Funding startups is one of Koch’s ways of fighting back. In its 15 years of operation, Brewing the American Dream has coached 14,000 entrepreneurs and created or maintained 9,000 jobs. Just over three quarters of the program’s participants and loan recipients are Black, Indigenous or people of color, and 63% are women. Last year, the average loan totaled $33,000. The program won’t disclose how much of the funding comes from Boston Beer Company and how much from Accion Opportunity Fund. Koch says that his company directs all loan profits back into the program.

“We’re all small breweries,” Koch told an audience of about 125 people at an event celebrating the finalists for Brewing the American Dream’s Experienceship program, held in New York City on Friday, June 23.

Whether Boston Beer Company even counts as a craft brewery anymore is debatable. Technically, the Brewers Association limits the designation to those who produce up to 6 million barrels of beer a year. Boston Beer pumped out 8.13 million barrels last year.

Still, its little guy reputation lingers, in part because Koch keeps experimenting with new brews and techniques. “They’re definitely still a craft brewer in our book,” said Steinman of Beer Marketer’s Insights. He argued that there’s no perfect way to define the term, but that “the way that they interact in the market is in the craft beer aisle.”

The six microbreweries vying for Koch’s mentorship at Friday’s event were tiny operations run by as few as two people. Many of their founders still have full-time day jobs.

“We make our tap handles by hand,” said Bhavik Modi of the Chicago-based Azadi Brewing Company. “My wife does our can art.” Marc Geller of New Jersey’s Three 3s Brewing said he was “down on the floor cleaning up a leaky tank this morning.” Brewers emphasized that coaching from Koch in how to navigate the ups and downs of the industry would be invaluable at their early stages of operation.

When asked whether he could see Boston Beer Company acquiring one of those microbreweries one day, Koch said likely not—“they’re perfectly fine the way they are”—but added, “Who knows? One thing I’ve learned is never say never.”

Despite the multiple challenges for young craft beer startups, there is opportunity. Bart Watson, chief economist at the Brewers Association, noted that long-term potential for industry growth still exists if small breweries develop new strategies to broaden their appeal. “Will craft [beer] be bigger than it is now in 10 years? I would like to believe so. Will it be bigger than it is now in two or three years? Maybe not.”

Koch points out that the infrastructure around startups is more robust than it was when he started out in 1984. “Being an entrepreneur is now not considered at the lunatic fringe of capitalism, but rather something celebrated and admired,” he said. “Forty years ago, there wasn’t really much venture capital. People questioned your sanity. That’s not true anymore. Now entrepreneurs are the heroes of capitalism, which is kind of cool.”

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Is Guinness really ‘good for you’? | CNN

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Guinness, like other Irish stouts, enjoys a seasonal popularity every St. Patrick’s Day. It has also been touted as being “good for you,” at least by its own advertising posters decades ago.

But can this creamy, rich and filling beer really be added to a list of healthy beverages? Or is its reputation just good marketing? We researched the beer’s history and talked to brewing experts and break out the good, the not-so-great and the ingenuity of Guinness.

The original Guinness is a type of ale known as stout. It’s made from a grist (grain) that includes a large amount of roasted barley, which gives it its intense burnt flavor and very dark color. And though you wouldn’t rank it as healthful as a vegetable, the stouts in general, as well as other beers, may be justified in at least some of their nutritional bragging rights.

According to Charlie Bamforth, distinguished professor emeritus of brewing sciences at the University of California, Davis, most beers contain significant amounts of antioxidants, B vitamins, the mineral silicon (which may help protect against osteoporosis), soluble fiber and prebiotics, which promote the growth of “good” bacteria in your gut.

And Guinness may have a slight edge compared with other brews, even over other stouts.

“We showed that Guinness contained the most folate of the imported beers we analyzed,” Bamforth said. Folate is a B vitamin that our bodies need to make DNA and other genetic material. It’s also necessary for cells to divide. According to his research, stouts on average contain 12.8 micrograms of folate, or 3.2% of the recommended daily allowance.

Because Guinness contains a lot of unmalted barley, which contains more fiber than malted grain, it is also one of the beers with the highest levels of fiber, according to Bamforth. (Note: Though the US Department of Agriculture lists beer as containing zero grams of fiber, Bamforth said his research shows otherwise.)

Bamforth has researched and coauthored studies published in the Journal of the Institute of Brewing and the Journal of the American Society of Brewing Chemists.

Here’s more potentially good news about Guinness: Despite its rich flavor and creamy consistency, it’s not the highest in calories compared with other beers. A 12-ounce serving of Guinness Draught has 125 calories. By comparison, the same size serving of Budweiser has 145 calories, Heineken has 142 calories, and Samuel Adams Cream Stout has 189 calories. In the United States, Guinness Extra Stout, by the way, has 149 calories.

This makes sense when you consider that alcohol is the main source of calories in beers. Guinness Draught has a lower alcohol content, at 4.2% alcohol by volume, compared with 5% for Budweiser and Heineken, and 4.9% for the Samuel Adams Cream Stout.

In general, moderate alcohol consumption – defined by the USDA’s dietary guidelines for Americans as no more than two drinks per day for men or one drink per day for women – may protect against heart disease. So you can check off another box.

Guinness is still alcohol, and consuming too much can impair judgment and contribute to weight gain. Heavy drinking (considered more than 14 drinks a week for men or more than seven drinks a week for women) and binge drinking (five or more drinks for men, and four or more for women, in about a two-hour period) are also associated with many health problems, including liver disease, pancreatitis and high blood pressure.

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, “alcohol is the most commonly used addictive substance in the United States: 17.6 million people, or one in every 12 adults, suffer from alcohol abuse or dependence along with several million more who engage in risky, binge drinking patterns that could lead to alcohol problems.”

And while moderate consumption of alcohol may have heart benefits for some, consumption of alcohol can also increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer for each drink consumed daily.

Many decades ago, in Ireland, it would not have been uncommon for a doctor to advise pregnant and nursing women to drink Guinness. But today, experts (particularly in the United States) caution of the dangers associated with consuming any alcohol while pregnant.

“Alcohol is a teratogen, which is something that causes birth defects. It can cause damage to the fetal brain and other organ systems,” said Dr. Erin Tracy, an OB/GYN at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive gynecology. “We don’t know of any safe dose of alcohol in pregnancy. Hence we recommend abstaining entirely during this brief period of time in a woman’s life.”

What about beer for breastfeeding? “In Britain, they have it in the culture that drinking Guinness is good for nursing mothers,” said Karl Siebert, professor emeritus of the food science department and previous director of the brewing program at Cornell University.

Beer in general has been regarded as a galactagogue, or stimulant of lactation, for much of history. In fact, according to, breastfeeding women in Ireland were once given a bottle of Guinness a day in maternity hospitals.

According to Domhnall Marnell, the Guinness ambassador, Guinness Original (also known as Guinness Extra Stout, depending on where it was sold) debuted in 1821, and for a time, it contained live yeast, which had a high iron content, so it was given to anemic individuals or nursing mothers then, before the effects of alcohol were fully understood.

Some studies have showed evidence that ingredients in beer can increase prolactin, a hormone necessary for milk production; others have showed the opposite. Regardless of the conclusions, the alcohol in beer also appears to counter the benefits associated with increased prolactin secretion.

“The problem is that alcohol temporarily inhibits the milk ejection reflex and overall milk supply, especially when ingested in large amounts, and chronic alcohol use lowers milk supply permanently,” said Diana West, coauthor of “The Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk.”

“Barley can be eaten directly, or even made from commercial barley drinks, which would be less problematic than drinking beer,” West said.

If you’re still not convinced that beer is detrimental to breastfeeding, consider this fact: A nursing mother drinking any type of alcohol puts her baby in potential danger. “The fetal brain is still developing after birth – and since alcohol passes into breast milk, the baby is still at risk,” Tracy said.

“This is something we would not advocate today,” Marnell agreed. “We would not recommend to anyone who is pregnant or breastfeeding to be enjoying our products during this time in their life.”

Regarding the old wives’ tale about beer’s effects on breastfeeding, Marnell added, “It’s not something that Guinness has perpetuated … and if (people are still saying it), I’d like to say once and for all, it’s not something we support or recommend.”

Assuming you are healthy and have the green light to drink beer, you might wonder why Guinness feels like you’ve consumed a meal, despite its lower calorie and alcohol content.

It has to do with the sophistication that goes into producing and pouring Guinness. According to Bamforth, for more than half a century, Guinness has put nitrogen gas into its beer at the packaging stage, which gives smaller, more stable bubbles and delivers a more luscious mouthfeel. It also tempers the harsh burnt character coming from the roasted barley. Guinness cans, containing a widget to control the pour, also have some nitrogen.

Guinness is also dispensed through a special tap that uses a mixture of carbon dioxide and nitrogen. “In Ireland, Guinness had a long history of hiring the best and brightest university graduates regardless of what they were trained in,” Siebert said. “And they put them to work on things they needed. One was a special tap for dispensing Guinness, which has 11 different nozzles in it, that helps to form the fine-bubbled foam.”

The foam is remarkably long-lasting. “After you get a freshly poured Guinness, you can make a face in the foam, and by the time you finish drinking it, the face is still there,” Siebert said.

The famous advertising Guinness slogans – including “It’s a good day for a Guinness” – started through word of mouth, said Marnell. “In 1929, when we were about to do our first ad, we asked (ourselves), ‘What stance should we take?’ So we sent around a group of marketers (in Ireland and the UK) to ask Guinness drinkers why they chose Guinness, and nine out of 10 said their belief was that the beer was healthy for them. We already had this reputation in the bars before we uttered a word about the beer.

“That led to the Gilroy ads that were posted,” Marnell explained, referring to the artist John Gilroy, responsible for the Guinness ads from 1928 to the 1960s. “You’ll see the characters representing the Guinness brand – the toucan, the pelican – and slogans like ‘Guinness is good for you’ or ‘Guinness for Strength.’ But those were from the 1920s, ’30s and ‘40s.”

Today, he said, the company would not claim any health benefits for its beer. “If anyone is under the impression that there are health benefits to drinking Guinness, then unfortunately, I’m the bearer of bad news. Guinness is not going to build muscle or cure you of influenza.”

In fact, Guinness’ parent company, Diageo, spends a lot of effort supporting responsible drinking initiatives and educating consumers about alcohol’s effects. Its DrinkIQ page offers information such as calories in alcohol, how your body processes it and when alcohol can be dangerous, including during pregnancy.

“One of the main things we focus on … is that while we would love people to enjoy our beer, we want to make sure they do so as responsibly as possible,” Marnell said. “We would never recommend that anyone drink to excess, and (we want to make people) aware of how alcohol effects the body.”

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  • And again: Most health providers in the US would advise forgoing all alcohol if you are pregnant, nursing or have other health or medical issues where alcohol consumption is not advised.

    So responsibly celebrate St. Patrick this year a little wiser about the health benefits and risks with one of its signature potables.

    This story originally published in 2017.

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    Golfer gives fans $100 to buy beers for moving out of shadows | CNN


    The beers were well and truly on Pádraig Harrington on Sunday.

    Surging towards an emphatic victory at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship – the PGA Tour Champions season finale – drinks were already set to flow for the Irishman, but Harrington seemed determined to start the party early.

    Lining up his opening drive at the par-three 15th, the three-time major winner paused to turn to the onlooking grandstand to politely ask a group of fans to move seats.

    There had been no major disturbance, the issue was simply the long shadows that the spectators had been casting over the tee.

    “They’ve been sitting there, I assume all day, waiting for this,” Harrington told reporters. “I hope they were waiting for me.

    “I got them to move, they still had a good view.”

    As if to say thank you, Harrington proceeded to smoke a flawless approach shot onto the green, the ball rolling up within birdie-striking distance.

    Flashing a grateful smile and wave towards the grandstand, the 51-year-old had one more token of appreciation to pass on. Approaching one fan at the sideline, Harrington handed over a wad of cash – to be spent specifically on beers.

    In May, Justin Thomas admitted to being blown away by the eye-watering $18 price of beer at the PGA Championship in Tulsa, and it seems similar calculations were on Harrington’s mind in Arizona.

    “I gave it to one guy, but it was for everybody in the area,” Harrington said.

    “I actually went in with 50 and then I kind of said, ‘Probably only get a few beers for 50, I better go back with 100.’”

    The good cheer continued as Harrington sealed a dominant victory three holes later, finishing seven strokes ahead of runner-up Alex Cejka of Germany.

    In carding 27-under, the Irishman matched the PGA Tour Champions record score in relation to par, equaling Jack Nicklaus’ effort at the Kaulig Companies Championship in 1990.

    “I didn’t realize that,” Harrington said.

    “It’s nice to hold the record with Jack Nicklaus, I believe he’s done it as well. Kind of glad I didn’t beat him.”

    However, the victory wasn’t enough to see Harrington crowned overall Charles Schwab Cup champion, as Steven Alker’s third-place finish clinched the New Zealander the points needed to take the title.

    Harrington poses with the Charles Schwab Cup Championship trophy.

    Meanwhile, Tony Finau continued his stunning 2022 journey with a similarly convincing triumph at the Houston Open.

    Shooting 16-under, the American cruised to a four-shot triumph for his third PGA Tour victory of the calendar year at Memorial Park, a margin of victory that could have been even more dominant had it not been for three bogeys down the back nine.

    Having ended a five-year wait for a PGA Tour win with victory at the FedEx St. Jude Championship in August 2021, the 33-year-old has now clinched four in his last 30 starts. Once labeled the ‘nearly-man’ of golf, he lifted two titles in July in the space of a week with back-to-back wins at the 3M Open and Rocket Mortgage Classic.

    Finau poses with the Houston Open trophy alongside his family.

    “I’ve always had belief, but confidence when you win is contagious,” Finau told reporters. “I’m starting to put together a full-package game.

    “It was one of those days I fought and fought, and I made a lot of nice putts that calmed me. I’ve never been in this position. I had a lot of nerves.

    “Overall, as the round went on, I felt better. I was happy to get the W today.”

    Compatriot Tyson Alexander finished second on 12-under, a stroke ahead of England’s Ben Taylor, while ninth-placed Scottie Scheffler failed to register the win he needed to retake world No. 1 spot from Rory McIlroy.

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