Alan Sprints on Adam
Alan Sprints on Adam
In the Beginning…
As a young man, I liked beer, or at least I wanted to. In high school I started drinking beer at parties, always kegs of very bland, fizzy and stale domestic lager. I began to wonder if there was more to beer.
I grew up in Culver City, California, and was very lucky to have a fantastic Italian market where I would buy sandwiches for lunch. I soon discovered that they also had a big selection of beer from other countries, beers with intriguing labels that tasted a lot better than what I had experienced prior. By the time I graduated from high school, I had tasted my way around the world with my friends and had a basic understanding of styles.
Then I discovered a California brewer making a beer called Anchor Steam and it blew my mind. I never thought I would find a great American beer, but was I ever wrong.
1979, my beer love led me to a small tasting at a wine store in Los Angeles with Ken Grossman and his new microbrewery, Sierra Nevada. Actually being able to talk with a real brewer was exciting and made me love beer even more.
Years later I moved to Portland to attend culinary school and went to the first Oregon Brewers Festival in 1988. Discovering the new world of small brewers at the event helped rekindle my love of beer and started my home brewing adventure. My favorite beers were dark and strong, and I started brewing Adam at home in 1992.
Another lucky decision for me was joining the Oregon Brew Crew home brew club and becoming friends with Fred Eckhardt.
Fred was a beer writer, both books and magazine articles, and was just magical, telling interesting stories about his life and teaching us about the world of beer. One of his stories was about a beer from Dortmund called Adam.
The story came from a 19th-century book by John Bickerdyke, in which he described King Frederick of Prussia drinking a tankard of Adam, I knew it was something I wanted to make.
I decided to open my own brewery in late 1993 and liked the idea of making something unique. Adam was the first man, so it seemed natural to make him my first beer. Originally I labelled it Adambier, but after a couple years I submitted some graphic changes to the Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) and was told it was too strong to be called “beer.” Instead of fighting, I changed the name to Adam and my theme of four letter beer names began.
My recipe has not changed much in thirty years. I use Pilsner malt as a base adding dark, caramel and smoked malts for flavor and a taste of the past. It is 10% alcohol, has a deep amber color, and a nice balance of sweet malt, hops, and bitter chocolate flavors.
I’ve heard old stories about casks of ale being “walled in” after the birth of a child to save them for the coming of age party. This inspired me to explore extensive aging both before and after packaging, and my bottles do improve with age as the flavors comingle and evolve. Our Adam from the Wood is aged at least three years in wood before bottling.
I started my brewery with only one beer and it was over a year before I added a second. I discovered that selling a 10% alcohol dark ale that was twice the price of most other beers was, to say the least, difficult. I chose the tougher road by making a unique product, so I thought education was a way I could convert the domestic lager drinker, encouraging chefs to add beer to their wine menus and using chocolate to create a special tasting experience in stores and at events. I did countless tastings, trying to show people that beer can be more than they expected, and yet still some people would simply put the glass down and ask, “What the hell was that?” Slowly, though, I did make converts and now there is nothing that makes me happier than to hear, “It tastes great, but it doesn’t taste like beer.”
All these years later, I am very proud to say that Adam is still my flagship and one of the most popular beers I make. It is even a style recognized by the Brewers Association and produced by many brewers around the world.
Flagship beers were chosen by the individual writers with no input from the #FlagshipFebruary partners or sponsor breweries.