The founder and brewer of Samuel Adams shares the story of Boston Beer Company, his business philosophy, and entrepreneurial tips.
Today, craft beer is all the rage, but that wasn’t the case in 1984, when Koch decided to quit his successful job as a management consultant to start the Boston Beer Company, which would become famous for Samuel Adams Boston Lager. Inspired by upstart San Francisco–based brewery Anchor Brewing, Koch set out to brew a high-quality, premium beverage that was basically nonexistent in the beer market at the time. In doing so, he became a pioneer of the craft, home-brew, and small-batch movements. However, Koch’s desire to start a brewery was not a whim. He is a fifth-generation brewer, and the Samuel Adams recipe has been in the family since the 1860s. Invoking “the spirit of a tavern conversation,” Koch’s chatty prose is fun and jocular as he recounts the old days when he sold Samuel Adams by hand while touring Boston’s bars and restaurants, giving impromptu taste tests and letting the quality of the beer do most of the talking. Koch does more than tell old war stories (a bar manager once pulled a gun on him during a cold call). He also shares nuggets of common-sense business wisdom, such as investing in the product over marketing, pursuing organic growth over growth at all costs, and setting challenging but attainable goals. Koch’s wisdom is summed up in his koan: “No one climbs a mountain to get to the middle.” As the brewery landed more accounts and sales increased domestically and abroad, it experienced all the growing pains of a budding business as Koch’s once-ragtag organization quickly morphed into a more streamlined and professional operation. Always true to himself, the author’s belief in Samuel Adams and the people around him is what makes his story and philosophy so genuine and endearing.
Koch’s down-to-earth personality, business advice, and passion are good models for those interested in making their own ways.