3.9AROMA 8/10 APPEARANCE 4/5 TASTE 8/10 PALATE 4/5 OVERALL 15/20
I tend to roll my eyes at beers with generic names, especially those that specifically use the term "ale," since dozens of beer styles fall under that umbrella. However, the average Joe and Jane Six Pack probably don’t know or care about this and approach an "ale" with some presuppositions. I suppose that’s what Samuel Adams Boston Ale is meant to do, as it has the palette of an ale but the drinkability of a lager. The net result is a solid beer, but nothing transcendent.
There’s a lot of debate in the craft beer online community over what style of beer Boston Ale actually is. Samuel Adams calls the beer a "stock ale," but Beer Advocate considers it an American pale ale, while Rate Beer labels it an amber ale. Neither site lists "stock ale" as a beer style. I made it my mission to figure it out.
APPEARANCE AND AROMA
I poured a 12oz bottle into a tall lager glass. The beer poured to a clear, effervescent, copper color and formed an average-sized, foamy, ivory-colored head. The aroma was fairly mild with some floral notes present. I also noticed a touch of lightly toasted malts and perhaps some citrus, but otherwise nothing was prominent about the aroma. All indications were this beer was a pale ale.
Pale ales and amber ales tend to be among my favorite styles due to their strong hop presence, crisp finish and intense palate. Samuel Adams Boston Ale had most of these characteristics, but none stood out among the others.
Up front I get a noticeable dry hop bitterness followed by a mild caramel sweetness. The beer returns to its hoppy roots as the aftertaste is bitter, although it does not linger for very long. The toasted malts give the body some character and flavor, and do a good job of balancing the dryness from the hops.
My only beef with this beer is that the taste here is a little more mild than I would prefer. As much as I enjoy a hoppy beer I find the flavor to be just a bit too dry and the sweet caramel notes too obscured. American pale ales tend to be rather rich and sweet, but this beer seems to be opting for drinkability over true flavor.
Samuel Adams Boston Ale is almost like a hybrid of the ale and lager styles. In fact, the brewer’s website says the beer is brewed under similar conditions of a lager - which might explain this. While the taste is enjoyable, it’s also mild. The mouthfeel itself is very crisp for an ale and is reminiscent of a pilsner.
At only 5.1% ABV, Boston Ale would certainly seem to be akin to a lager as it’s rather light in body for an ale. It’s definitely the kind of brew that would pair well with a meal or lend itself to sessioning.
In the end I’d say Samuel Adams Boston Ale is probably an American pale as its crisp, dry palate and sweet caramel notes are what I like in a beer of that style. Perhaps if it were richer, more pine-like and heavier in body I’d classify it as an amber ale. Still, it works quite well as something of an all-purpose beer considering it’s easy to drink and satisfies without overwhelming. It’s not going to knock your socks off, but I don’t think it’s meant to.