Jim Koch was pissed off.
The most recognizable man in American beer, who sold us all on the idea of craft brew three decades ago on his way to a billion-dollar fortune, was having dinner last October with a group of brewers inside Row 34, one of Boston’s top-rated beer bars. The drink list was filled with esoteric options from hot new breweries throughout the country, as well as palate-pleasing offerings from abroad. But Koch had a problem: Though this mecca for beer nerds carries two dozen beers on draft and another 38 in bottles and cans, it doesn’t serve his beloved Sam Adams.
Staring at the beer menu, Koch began to criticize the selection. More than half of it, he said, wasn’t worthy of being served—inadvertently insulting the establishment’s owner, who unbeknownst to Koch was sitting next to him. Then Koch interrogated the beer manager about the offerings. Unsatisfied with the answers, Koch complained about the beers so intensely that an employee at the bar teared up. Koch rose from his seat and walked into the keg room, where he started checking freshness dates on his competitors’ kegs.