For the fifth consecutive year, Samuel Adams has created a commemorative Boston Marathon-themed beer called Boston 26.2 Brew. A “special edition” beverage may sound unexciting in our age of rampant marketing, but what’s interesting about 26.2 is that it appears to have been created with runners in mind.
“When we first got involved with the Boston Marathon, they asked us, almost as a joke, is there a beer for runners?” says Jim Koch, CEO and founder of the Boston Beer Company, whose flagship Samuel Adams brand is a major sponsor of the world’s oldest marathon.
For Koch, the Boston Marathon takes place on an especially auspicious date. It was on Patriots’ Day (aka “Marathon Monday”), 1985, that he launched his first batch of Samuel Adams Boston Lager. He has seen his own company rise to international prominence alongside Bean Town’s famous race. (Though it’s been an annual event since 1897, the Boston Marathon didn’t award prize money until 1986.)
When asked about a special beer for runners a few years ago, Koch wondered whether any particular beer might be especially suitable to the needs of endurance athletes. After doing some research, Koch found that gose fit the bill. This kind of “sour beer” was once consumed primarily in eastern Germany but has recently come into favor among enterprising craft brewers in the U.S. It is relatively low in alcohol content, light-bodied, and high in salinity, hence useful on the electrolyte replenishment front.
“If you were going to have a beer at the end of a marathon, that would be the beer to have,” Koch told me, adding that a celebratory pint is very much in the spirit of the Boston Marathon, as legends like Bill Rodgers used to meet up, post-race, at the now-defunct Eliot Lounge bar.
Samuel Adams came out with its first batch of gose-style beer in 2012. After the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, the company decided to donate profits from the sale of Boston 26.2 Brew to the Greg Hill Foundation, which benefits survivors of the attack.
There’s one potential caveat for anyone looking to try this race-themed libation (it’s “soft wheat and citrus characters are contrasted with hints of salt and coriander” according to the Samuel Adams website): Boston 26.2 Brew has limited its on-tap availability to marathon-related events and select bars and restaurants along the Boston Marathon route.
“We have kept 26.2 small and local. And I’m okay with that,” says Koch, who himself ran the Boston Marathon in 1978. “It makes it really special. And it makes it a celebration of the Boston Marathon–that you’ve got to come here to get it.”
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