Sam Adams Offers Personal Note, Refund For Gross Spoiled Beer

Ryan writes that he bought some Samuel Adams beer, but it wasn’t up to his expectations. That is to say that it tasted so bad, it made everyone who tried it physically ill. The grocery store wouldn’t offer a refund, so he decided to contact the company, receiving a refund and an unexpected personal reply.

I have never written to you guys before, but I have been reading the website for years. I recently have gotten into the habit of informing companies of poor service due to your website, and I have a great story to share with you guys.

A few months ago my family purchased a 12-pack of Samuel Adams Summer Ale from a local Albertsons. We have always enjoyed the Samuel Adams brand, and we once tried the Summer Ale in a Brewmaster’s collection a year or so before this purchase. We really liked it and felt a 12-pack would be awesome. Unfortunately this was not the case (pun intended only if you found it funny). The brew was bitter and flat, and it made us all feel slightly ill by drinking it. We tried to return it to Albertsons but they would not take it back. We had to throw away 9 bottles of beer, which made us all sad. I decided to send an email to Sam Adams Brewery to see if they would help, but I did not receive a response for months.

That is until tonight when I came home to a letter on my desk, hand-signed by Jim Koch, the lead Brewer of Samuel Adams himself. He wrote:

Dear Ryan,

I was sorry to hear that you were disappointed with the Samuel Adams Summer Ale you purchased. You mentioned that you were displeased with the flavor. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.

Perhaps I can offer some explanations. As far as the flavor is concerned, variations in the treatment of the beer in the market can easily change the character of all-natural beer like Samuel Adams. It may have been stored incorrectly at the distributer; heat accelerates the aging process in my beer in the absence of preservatives. Because I am vitally concerned with the freshness of my beer, it is rare to find old Samuel Adams brews on the shelves. I have my brewery reps check dates constantly, and I buy back and destroy over $1,000,000 worth of outdated beer every year.

I want to thank you again for bringing this matter to my attention. Along with my apologies, I am sending you a refund. I hope that you will give my Samuel Adams beer another chance.

Cheers,
Jim Koch
Brewer

This letter was hand-signed and included a check, which was also hand-written. I will always buy Samuel Adams beer, and I encourage all of you to support a company that cares about its customers like this.

This letter fits in nicely with the company’s recent commercials touting the company’s smallness and attention to quality in its beers. Maybe it’s part of an overall marketing campaign when handling complaints…or maybe Samuel Adams is just that awesome.

Now we’ve made you all think about beer on a Friday morning. You’re welcome.

Comments

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  1. FatLynn says:

    Jim Koch is known as really being that awesome. A few years ago, there was a hops shortage, and he helped supply small brewers (competitors!) because he felt it important to have lots of diverse craft brews available to the American public.

    • ospreyguy says:

      I’ve heard similar stories. A buddy of mine was on tour at the factory in Boston when he just came out and started talking to everyone. He took them all over the place even in the “secure” areas. Even the tour guide had no clue where they were…

    • Dragon Tiger says:

      Yeah, that happened when Anheuser-Busch contracted with pretty much all of the North American hop growers for their Michelob line of specialty beers. The result was that smaller breweries could not get the hops from the same places they’d gotten them for years. Prices shot up and demand was high.

      While realizing that different beers require different varieties of hops, Sam Adams offered its surplus hops, at cost, to North American breweries so that they could at least get some beer out the door and stay afloat until the growers could adjust to the shift in demand.

      Microbrewing is a community effort, and this reflects that. While Sam Adams is the largest of the independent brewers, they don’t play hardball the way the big breweries do, and that’s a refreshing corporate attitude.

      • pantherx says:

        Not to mention a warehouse fire that destroyed a large portion of the hop harvest that year.

  2. osiris73 says:

    Sam Adams is a great company. Their greatness is such that I’m beginning to wonder when they will fall. Everything product I love seems to go away.

    I’ve loved them since I discovered them in 1992 in college. I can’t begin to imagine how much money I’ve spent on their beers.

  3. raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

    Wow. Personal hand-written responses to complaint letters? That is really, really classy.

    • littlemoose says:

      Agreed. It says a lot about a corporate culture that customer complaints are even brought to the attention of the higher-ups. I think it demonstrates a genuine commitment to quality from the top down. I’m not a beer drinker, but I’ll recommend this brand to others in the future.

    • RandomHookup says:

      Not actually handwritten, but at least signed by a real person.

    • Papercutninja says:

      Not only that, Jim Koch is the big boss. Don’t let the humble title of “Brewer” throw you off. He’s the dude that started Sam Adams.

  4. chaesar says:

    good mutha-fuckin choice!

    oh that was Samuel Jackson beer, my mistake

  5. Kid Awesome says:

    You can’t buy that kind of marketing.

    Wait, I guess you can, for about the cost of a case of Summer Ale (which is awesome).

  6. Cruise says:

    What a great story! Gotta love smaller breweries and their quality.of customer relations.

    • pop top says:

      Sam Adams is the largest American-owned brewery. It is by no means small.

      • axhandler1 says:

        Less than one percent of the American beer market, according to their commercials.

        • pop top says:

          They employ over 350 people, they make 1,358,000 barrels of beer a year and they’re a publically-traded company. I wouldn’t call that small, no matter their market share.

          • Smashville says:

            Per the Brewer’s Assocation, a small brewer is any brewer that produces under 2 million barrels a year.

            http://www.brewersassociation.org/pages/business-tools/craft-brewing-statistics/craft-brewer-defined

            • pop top says:

              Please read grandzu’s post up a bit.

              • Smashville says:

                Please read the link I posted. It’s actually designated as a small brewery by the brewer’s assocation.

                • Krobar says:

                  And if you’d read the article on the NY Times you’d see:
                  Mr. Koch predicted that Boston Beer would surpass the two-million mark by 2012. But help may be on the way: Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, along with Senator Michael D. Crapo, Republican of Idaho, introduced a bill last month that would increase the yearly production limit for small brewers to six million barrels.

                  • Smashville says:

                    Isn’t 2012 in the future? How does that disprove the statement that Sam Adams is a small brewer? Isn’t it naturally assumed that when someone says that they are a small brewer, they are referring to the present?

              • jefeloco says:

                does Garrus hate beer?

          • jsfetzik says:

            Yeah, not small. Most would consider them a large mid-sized company, maybe just crossing over to large. Boston Beer Company have a market cap of around $1 billion. Annual revenue last year was about $415 million last year.

            Good company regardless of their size.

          • OutPastPluto says:

            In the grand scheme of things, only 400 is still pretty small.

            If they are the largest American owned brewery it’s only because all of the larger ones have been bought by foreign companies. The other “American Brands” probably still spill more than what Sam Adams brews.

            This letter pretty much demonstrates the “small” quality the company still retains.

    • grandzu says:

      Um, the reason for those commercials “touting the company’s smallness” is because Boston Beer Company is getting too big to legally be called a craft beer, thus having to pay higher excise taxes.
      The ad is part of their lobbying to change the law so their taxes don’t get higher and actually become lower than they currently are.
      http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/09/us/09beer.html?scp=1&sq=sam%20adams%20beer&st=cse

  7. fatediesel says:

    Just further proof that Sam Adams is a great company. I love all their seasonal ales and look forward to the release of them. Right now they have my favorite ale out but they are all great.

  8. Illusio26 says:

    I love Sam Adams Oktoberfest beer. One of my favs.

    • Balaenoptera says:

      I’m angry at you for reminding me about Octoberfest months before it’s out.

      • selianth says:

        What kills me is half the time the Oktoberfest beer is replaced by the Winter Ale by the 2nd week in October. Several years ago it was SO GOOD that fall that it was gone from all the restaurants in the area by September 30th. I realize they run out, but it seems like maybe they should brew a larger batch so it’s actually available through most of October.

        • jefeloco says:

          I believe that Sam Adams sells their Oktoberfest to line up with the real festival in Germany, which happens in September.

          If you run out too soon you could always look for Spaten Oktoberfest; Costco sells it and it is awesome in too many ways.

  9. PSUSkier says:

    It’s good to see every now and again to see a head of a corporation who believes in more than just the bottom line. As was stated before, I’ve consistently heard that Jim Koch’s reputation generally exceeds what the company advertises and that is rare.

  10. jimmyhl says:

    Okay, I’ll be the douche: It took months to get a response. That’s not so great IMO.

    • grumblingmumbles says:

      Assuming postage time and Im sure thats not the only complaint letter he receives on a regular basis. I rarely drink Sam Adams, but because of this, I won’t hesitate to grab a pack more often.

    • jason in boston says:

      Who knows is Jim was even in the country for those months? He is constantly traveling and he might have finally gotten back to his desk and had the email printed off and read it.

    • Smashville says:

      From the founder of a nationally known company?

      Send a letter to Bill Gates. See how long it takes to get a response back in the mail.

      • jimmyhl says:

        I like what you say. But, speaking only for myself, I’d gladly forgo the CEO’s somewhat belated letter and instead get a quicker response from another company rep, especially since the consumers all got sick from drinking the beer. It’s not as if the OP wrote his email directly to the CEO. I believe he sent it to the brewing company. Anyway, all’s well that ends well.

    • jefeloco says:

      Would you rather get an immediate denial of all wrong doing (a la steve jobs)?

  11. axhandler1 says:

    The Summer Ale is delicious, but I gotta go with their Winter Lager as my personal favorite. I already liked them as a company before reading this, but this letter really showcases how much they care about thier business and making sure that their customers are satisfied. I’m amazed that more companies haven’t caught on and realized that when you treat your customers this way, they will love you for it. Good job Sam Adams!

    • Ted3 says:

      This letter from Koch gives me even more reason to buy his/their products. Personally, I didn’t care for the Winter lager, but love their Oktoberfest and of course the good ‘ol Boston Lager.

    • Its_Miller_Time says:

      Winter Lager is my absolute favorite Sam Adams brew….

  12. MadMaxEsq says:

    I had a very similar experience with Sam Adams that will keep me drinking their beers for a long time (in addition to the fact that they’re quite good!). My wife and I got a 12 of Boston Lager and when we tried to open them with a regular bottle opener, the necks of the bottles shattered in our hands, making quite a mess. After 3 tries we gave up and sent them a comment through their website. A couple of months later, my wife saw a missed call on her phone with a boston area code. A couple of days after that, we got a package in the mail that included 2 T-shirts and 2 bottle openers along with a letter from Mr. Koch. My only regret is that she did not answer the phone, as it could have been Jim Koch himself.

    In short, Sam Adams is great.

  13. shadowhh says:

    This is EXACTLY how a company should act.

    This simple refund is now probably worth more to the company that a few million in advertising.

    • outshined says:

      For sure. So many readers and posters here just put Sam Adams at the top of their “good guys” list. Several shout outs of “I’m definitely going to buy Sam Adams”. Well done, SA, well done.

      Funny, my coworker/protege just asked me to choose which writing sample she should send for her MBA application; I said, the buzz marketing one because it’s still so relevant. And here we are.

  14. ConsumerDollars says:

    I just tossed my last 2 bottles of Summer Ale as well for the same reason, but I was able to see what looked like mold on the inside of the brown bottle, attached to the side. I wonder if it was tied to a batch? Didn’t seek a refund because it was just 2 bottles, but they were definately well within their freshness date. Still strikes me as curious, but when the beer is natural without preservatives, I guess this can be expected which is why Koch buys back bad beer.

    • NickRayko says:

      Very few beers – if any, at least available in this country – include preservatives. Hops & higher alcohol content have some effect on shoring up beers against spoilage (read up on the history of how India Pale Ales evolved). I’m not that familiar with Sam Adams’ full range, but if the Summer Ale isn’t heavily filtered, you may have been seeing yeast or proteins that had precipitated out of solution. Unfiltered & naturally carbonated beers frequently have deposits at the bottom of the bottle (or on the sides, if you store ‘em that way in the fridge for a while). Pour a Rogue or Sierra Nevada beer, slowly, and take a look into the bottle afterwards.

    • Hooray4Zoidberg says:

      I’ve found over the years that Sam Summer doesn’t have a very long shelf life. It typically starts to show up in bars and stores around here (Boston) in about April. If you get it before July it’s almost always awesome, but I think most places must stock up a bunch in the spring or maybe the brewery makes a huge batch and then moves on. Typically by late July into the early fall before the Octoberfest comes out, most Sam Summer I get taste like wet socks.

  15. nbs2 says:

    I don’t drink beer, and never will, but I’ve found that the reputation of Sam Adams – both the product quality and the customer service – precedes them. If they ever expand into the non-alcoholic beverage market, they’ll get my nickels.

  16. gazeux says:

    Sex for Sam 4!

  17. rpm773 says:

    That is to say that it tasted so bad, it made everyone who tried it physically ill

    Oddly, most of the beer I consumed in college did the same thing to me. Except it didn’t seem to taste bad.

    • hmburgers says:

      Out of nostalgia I ordered a 20oz can of PBR with dinner a couple of years ago–it was disgusting, the meal was almost ruined except for being able to wash it down with a whiskey shot.

      I used to like Bud Light too, I had one a couple of weeks ago and decided I’d rather just drink water.

      I guess I’ve become a beer snob

      • jefeloco says:

        I’ve found that Bud Light is ok when drinking it in place of water at a meal that wouldn’t pair with anything else I have in the fridge. I almost never drink it on it’s own because of the nearly neutral flavor but at least it’s better than Dirty Water (that light junk from Golden Co.).

    • Powerlurker says:

      If it tastes bad, that means you need to keep drinking it until that’s no longer the case.

  18. Kohl's Retail Monkey says:

    I went to the Sam Adams Brewery a couple months ago. It was awesome.

    Not only is it free (they ask for a donation. That they give to charity.), but they let you taste three different beers, the tour guides are awesome and funny. It seems like a great company.

    HOW DO THEY MAKE MONEY??

    • Chmeeee says:

      They make money because you drink their beer, love it, and then by 1,000s over the course of your lifetime.

    • Robert Terwilliger says:

      They make money by charging a little more than beer-flavored water brands and making a quality product that is worth the little extra money.

      I may try other beers but when it comes down to just picking up a 12 pack for the weekend? Sam. Boston Lager. FTW.

  19. ospreyguy says:

    “Now we’ve made you all think about beer on a Friday morning. You’re welcome.”

    DAMN YOU CONSUMERIST!!! You just cost me an assload of money tonight…

  20. sirwired says:

    Again, this is a case of drastically lowered expectations for “above and beyond.” Literally ANY food/beverage products company with even half a clue will send you coupons or a refund for reporting bad product. I’ve gotten coupons for free product and/or money back from Kraft, Glad, Frito Lay, Stouffers (Nestle), Coke, and several other places. Glad even went so far as to include a pre-paid envelope so I could send back a sample of the defective product for analysis.

    It was nice that the form letter was signed by the brewmaster, but personally I would have preferred a check/coupon promptly after writing (or e-mailing or calling) rather than waiting several months for a hand-signed form letter.

    Above and Beyond would have been one or more of the following: responding faster, including coupons for free beer (ok, that might be illegal), getting a phone call, including some Sam Adams swag, etc.

  21. ekthesi says:

    I thought the note actually came from Samuel Adams himself. THAT would be “above and beyond (the grave).

  22. GrapeApe says:

    I agree, Samuel Adams makes great beer and they are a great company. I had an issue with a 12-pack of their Oktoberfest last year. It didn’t taste like it should, it was not bad just different. I send them an email to let them know. I received a phone call from one of their people the next day. While there was no fix for my beer (and I did not expect there to be one), the fact that they called so quickly about what I would see as a small item speaks loudly about their customer service. Since then, I have tried many more varieties of their beer and choose them first over other makers. Keep up the good work guys.

  23. Etoiles says:

    Thus reinforcing my decision to buy a case or two of Sam Adams for the party I’m throwing tomorrow. Whoo!

  24. kwjayhawk says:

    I once wrote a winery after having a bottle of their wine at Thanksgiving. I said I liked their wine and they have a great product. They ended up sending me a bottle in the mail saying thank you for the kind words.

    Guess who has bought more wine from that company? This guy.

  25. asten77 says:

    FWIW, i was thinking about beer before I saw this, but it’s awesome nonetheless :)

  26. jason in boston says:

    I think I’ll take another tour of the brewery.

  27. bobosgirl says:

    haven’t patronized their beer since they letters threatening a local mayoral candidate about shutting down his websites, and were quite hostile. Candidate’s legal name? Sam Adams. But apparently they own the rights to that name, and no one else can use it. It was funny to see all the signs go up in the 4 or 5 surrounding towns ” We proudly do not serve Sam Adams beer.” Don’t care about the candidate, but hate bullies.There are so many other beers sold here, we prefer to buy local. Plus we have McMenamins 5 blocks away- why buy bottled beer when you can walk up and watch a movie in airconditioned comfort for $3, sitting in a confortable recliner, sipping a beverage? Refillable pop, awesome beer and great food…ahhhhhhhh

  28. peggysister says:

    Frito Lay is another good company. I once bought a large bag of their chips. They were all small and looked to be crushed. I wrote and they sent me two coupons for two free bags of chips. I love Lays Potato Chips. They are the best.

  29. spazztastic says:

    “my beer” That’s personal responsibility right there.

    • Its_Miller_Time says:

      I was going to state this, but you pointed it out. Good for him for taking the accountability.

  30. majortom1981 says:

    Sam adams and blue point (a local independant brewer local to long island) are the only brands of beer that i drink.

  31. Tim says:

    Aw, that’s great. I actually like the Summer Ale, which is strange, since I don’t usually like ales.

  32. NashuaConsumerist says:

    I wote a letter last month to Sam Adams about how horrible a 6 pack of Coastal Wheat was. I filled out all the forms on the website and submitted it to them. I haven’t heard a peep, seems like their response to spoiled beer is hit or miss…

  33. Its_Miller_Time says:

    Sam Adams is the only beer I will drink, regardless of what brew the bar/restaurant has on tap.

    • pantherx says:

      Your username betrays your statement. Also there are hundreds of craft breweries out there, try some.

  34. hmburgers says:

    It’s pretty much all I drink, being from Boston it’s on tap at just about every bar.

  35. grandzu says:

    Um, the reason for those commercials “touting the company’s smallness” is because Boston Beer Company is getting too big to legally be called a craft beer, thus having to pay higher excise taxes.
    The ad is part of their lobbying to change the law so their taxes don’t get higher and actually become lower than they currently are.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/09/us/09beer.html?scp=1&sq=sam%20adams%20beer&st=cse

    • Baelzar says:

      Hope it works. I don’t want to pay more for Sam Adams.

      And Sam Adams would approve of lower taxes!

  36. Smashville says:

    Sam Adams Noble Pils is quite possibly my favorite beer.

    Even more so now.

  37. dangerp says:

    I was smiling until that last sentence. Now I’m sad.

  38. KTXL says:

    I was at a dinner with Jim Koch one night. I really liked the guy, and I liked that he was cool with me having too many (8 -9) beers over the course of the dinner (provided they were from Boston Beer Company, naturally).

    p.s. I recommend American Kriek from their Brewmaster’s collection.

  39. Jnetty says:

    Sam Adams is my favorite beer. If you are ever in Boston go to their brewery and take the tour. Free tasting at the end.

  40. Andy says:

    Sam Adams… The Carl’s Jr. of beer.

  41. NightStalker3 says:

    SEX FOR SAM! Jim Koch is the best!

  42. Mary13134 says:

    It’s nice to see a company who cares what we think. They are sooooo few and far between.

  43. thepassenger says:

    About 20 years ago I had the good fortune to go on a brewery tour at Sam Adams here in Boston, with Mr. Koch as our host. He is truly passionate about beer, and a great guy as well.

  44. Miss Dev (The Beer Sherpa) says:

    I worked at a large craft brewery, and any time someone would call with an issue with the beer, we would get the info from the bottle (so we could track problems and pull from the shelves if necessary) and we would always offer that person a refund and/or replacement beer and/or beer swag.

    It’s standard industry practice, because craft brewers are actual human beings instead of massive corporations.

  45. proscriptus says:

    About a decade ago, I got one of those and a $20 check from Koch, too. Bad beer, I mailed in the labels. Class act all the way.

  46. knitterwockey says:

    This is a great story to hear about Sam Adams. It’s always heart warming to hear when a company that you like does something good. Though I am still a little heart broken over the fact that they replaced the White Ale with the Noble Pils. I loved that beer so much.

  47. jc says:

    Well, that settles it. I’m going to buy a 12 pack on my way home tonight.

  48. TuxRug says:

    I guess I’m bringing Sam Adams to the next party I attend.

  49. cmdr.sass says:

    I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I drink Sam Adams.

  50. Incident8 says:

    Damn right. Fair compensation and a personal note of concern. That’s the way to do it.

  51. Don't_rip_me_off_bro says:

    This is the reason to stop drinking BMC beers and support local or craft breweries. For the most part, small and local brewing outfits tend to care about the community and their clientele. Many come from a homebrewing background, which by nature almost forces one to be very hands-on DIY and involved, which in turn causes homebrewers to care very much about their beer quality.

  52. xamarshahx says:

    i went to their factory, they said they actually let any of their employees buy up beer and get reimbursed if they find skunky beer anywhere. they also let bars and trailers know about this policy and they should be sending it back for a refund.

  53. _UsUrPeR_ says:

    It seems by the description of the beer, that it was quite typical of a Sam Adams product (boom!)

    Seriously though, their Imperial White is really good if you can find it.

  54. KStrike155 says:

    I went on a tour of the Boston brewery given by Jim. He is the NICEST guy you will ever meet. At the end of the tour you always get to sample fresh beer, and some unreleased ones.

    At the end of this tour, he busted out Sam Adams Utopias: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Adams_%28beer%29#Utopias.

    Note the “suggested retail price of $150.” I was a happy man.

  55. Roe says:

    I’m really surprised to hear that Albertson’s dealt with your situation the way they did. I’ve had a few occasions to bring back stuff that was moldy (bread) or even let them know that I was overcharged. In all the cases, I got my money back plus the item was replaced. So I got the item I wanted for free. They’ve always been very generous about their return policies.

  56. smo0 says:

    IT’S SAM JACKSON BITCH!

  57. km9v says:

    I had a similar experience w/ Abita beer in Abita Spring, LA. I moved to Texas from New Orleans several yrs ago. My favorite local beer was Abita Turbo Dog. I had been drinking this beer since college when it first came out. I found a store about 20 miles away that carried it. So, I bought 2 6-packs. I drank a few & got terribly sick, vomiting for 2 days straight. I sent them an email & explained what happened, gave them the lot number of the beer. They proceeded to recall the lot. I didn’t threaten to sue or anything like that. I just wanted them to know. 2 days later, I have 2 cases of Turbo Dog in dry ice & a T-shirt fed-ex’d to my door w/ an apology letter.