American Craft: Brooklyn Lager VS Sam Adams Boston Lager

Brooklyn Lager and Sam Adams Boston Lager are two of the most well known and widely drank American craft lagers available today.

I'm pretty lucky when it comes to Brooklyn Lager, as living in Leeds we were one of the first place in the UK to get the stuff on draft in a number of decent bars, thanks to the excellent importer
James Clay being based not too far away. I can now go to a fair few open late bars/club type places in Leeds and drink American Craft Beer all night from draft, who'd have thought that a few years ago?

Sam Adams is the other big US craft Lager to my mind, but I've never got around to trying it until recently as it's not a beer I've particularly tried to seek out. However as it's now being sold in Sainsbury's (along with lots of other decent beer I must say) I picked up a bottle recently, along with a Brooklyn, so I could compare these two craft giants.

If you didn't already know, they are both Vienna style lagers, meaning they are darker than your standard pale lager and generally have a much more pronounced malty backbone and a fair bit of hop character as well. Forget Budweiser, these yank brews are packed with flavour but drinkable to boot. So how do they compare? I'll start with the Sam Adams.

Sam Adams Boston Lager

Malt and caramel on the nose, slightly sweet with a faint hop aroma but not hugely noticable. Poured with a thin head that quickly disapeared to almost nothing, a little flat actually altogether. Caramel brown colour as you can see from the pic.

The taste is really well balanced - it's refreshing yet slightly sweet and malty with a light hop tang. There's defnately a juicy malt character to this that's really enjoyable, and then it becomes drying and hoppy in the finish. It's a good lager but I can't help thinking it's not as multilayered as the Brooklyn and the hops not as pronounced. Important to say though that it's better than your standard American lagers (Budweiser, Heineken, Miller etc) by a long way.

Brooklyn Lager

Again, this smells of light caramel and malt but there's also a faint pineynous to the hop aroma, which is much more full on overall. The colour is a shade darker than the Boston although I forgot to take a photo!

The taste is very different to the Sam Adams with the hops coming through straight away in the beginning, middle and finish. There's still a malt backbone but it is much less grainy and somehow crisper. The hops are much more pronounced, juicier and more floral with a very slight piny/soapy edge. The aftertaste has a dry/fruity hint to it that reminds me of an English ale, something bittersweet like an
Everards Tiger. Even with that fruity richness the beer is still very drinkable and refreshing. Trying the Boston has made me appreciate the Brooklyn even more. An absolute classic.

Verdict: The Brooklyn wins hands down. The Boston is a good lager, but the Brooklyn is in a different league. A deserved winner.


  1. I will have to try the Brooklyn Lager at some point, I was so disappointed with their Pilsner that I have been holding back.

  2. I had a similar experience with their brown ale, was very uninspiring. The Lager is top draw though

  3. Likewise, their winter ale wasn't up to much either which was disappointing. However, their main lager is spot on. I'd also recommend (and Neil E isn't C will vouch for this as well) the black chocolate stout. A wonderful late night sipper (about 10% abv) thats full of flavour. There's just something fantastic about the malts that seems to be consistent across the brooklyn portfolio.

  4. Sam Adams was pretty much the only beer I drank on my first visit to America. It was before I'd discovered the craft revolution so i was only hitting mainstream pubs. Kept me going through the beer wilderness, so I've held a soft spot for it ever since.

  5. neil - agreed. BBC Stout is a stone cold classic!

    alc - Sam Adams is a good lager, and compared to the tosh we get served in a lot of mainstream pubs in the UK (carling, carlsberg, fosters etc) it is a GREAT lager. It's just that compared to Brooklyn it was left wanting.

  6. I tried some Brooklyn Lager in response to your post. I think I've had it before, but it didn't really register. It is a good beer with a strong malt backbone and a hoppy aftertaste but, really, if I do want to drink lager, I'd prefer something more like, well, "lager" as generally understood in this country. Thornbridge Italia, for example.

  7. Curmudgeon - I think you make a good point. It can't really be judged as a lager in the traditional sense, it's more of an American pale ale in many ways, but when alls said and done I think it is a great beer. Accessible yet flavoursome and for a widely available American beer its a class above. Did you have it on tap or bottle? I've found the bottles much better than keg if I'm honest.

  8. Heineken is Dutch douchebag!