I can think of very few events that are happier than a wedding. Marriage is about bringing two people together that make each other feel complete. Likewise, brewing is about putting together ingredients that complement one another to produce a finished brew for others to enjoy and celebrate. Earlier this week I attended the release of Brewlywed Ale at the Samuel Adams brewery, and after doing so I now understand why it is that beer and matrimony go hand-in-hand.
I work in the Stony Brook neighborhood of Jamaica Plain in Boston, right down the road from the brewery. I often go there to take tours, check out different items in the gift shop, or just hang out in the beer garden next to the hop yard. A couple of weeks ago I started to see posters advertising the Brewlywed event, which only happens once a year. Now, I'm a single guy, but I know a lot of people who are either engaged or married. Plus, I like to try rare and unique brews. I decided that I just couldn't pass an event like this up.
I didn't know what to expect when I got to the brewery. I woke up early in the morning to make sure I could be there when the line started forming. To my surprise, lots of people were there earlier than I was! Thankfully, I still managed to be one of the first 50 in line, #43 to be exact. That meant that I was able to score a bottle of Brewlywed signed by Sam Adams founder and brewer, Jim Koch!
We waited for hours near the beer garden for Brewlywed to be available for sale. Fortunately, the friendly staff and beautiful setup made time pass relatively quickly. There were chairs set up in the garden along with decorations, and the staff kept things organized while also keeping us engaged. They even had a string quartet playing songs for us as we stood in line!
All of this may sound like the makings of a wonderful wedding ceremony, and it was. In addition to all of that, there were large groups of people dressed in formal attire, beer-infused wedding food, and a Justice of the Peace on hand to make things official for anyone who wanted to renew their vows or get married right then and there. Best of all, Jim Koch himself showed up to act as the best man or maid of honor for anyone who decided to tie the knot!
I've met many brewers, and most of them have been warm and kind-hearted people. The same was true for Jim Koch. He's worked hard to get where he is today, and success doesn't seem to have affected his personality. I wasn't expecting to be able to meet him, but when I did I found him to be outgoing and full of life. He was very happy that all of us could be there to join in celebrating the tradition of brewing and marriage, and we were more than happy to be there.
Beer has been involved in weddings for a long time, not just dating. Before champagne came around, beer was the celebratory drink at almost every festive occasion. As a matter of fact, in medieval times the word "Bridal" actually meant something more like "bride ale," and was used in reference to events where people drank lots of ale in celebration. I like the sound of that!
When Jim Koch got married, he brewed a special recipe for his wife. After that, he and his daughter worked together to brew the first batch of what would later become Samuel Adams Noble Pils for her wedding day. Beer can be used to mark very special moments in our lives. To pour your heart and soul into making a brew that is personal to you can make those moments even more memorable.
After telling us more about the history of brides and ales, Jim decided he would open a bottle of Brewlywed using a sword that had been in his wife's family for generations. Much like today, where people will often ceremonially "sabre" a bottle of champagne, Jim ran the sword along the bottle to release the cork. He then raised the bottle to make a toast, to which we all responded with a resounding "cheers!"
When we finally were allowed into the brewery, the festivities continued. More samples of Brewlywed were given to us, as they had been when we were in line to use for the toast. Overall, the Belgian Strong Pale Ale had many of the characteristics of a marriage. It started off bubbly and sweet, then there was a little bit of spice, but in the end it was complex and powerful.
I got in line as soon as I could to purchase a few bottles of the rare brew while I was there. Considering that Brewlywed is only available one day a year and that this was only the second time this event had been held, I wanted to make sure I took enough home for myself and to share with the people I care about. I'd say it was a successful day, and it was definitely worth the wait.
So, if you and your significant other want to experience something special together, I'd recommend checking out this event next year. Not just for the beer, but for the memories. You may even get to meet the man who brought joy to people who came from across the country to be part of it all. Raise your glass as often as you can to celebrate the power of love. The love you have for each other, the love of life, and the love of beer!