Sam Adams is Banking That There’s Some Magic Left in Alan Newman’s Hat

Magic Hat founder Alan Newman has recently landed a pretty sweet gig with Jim Koch and Sam Adams.  Newman was forced out of Magic Hat 14 months ago after it was sold off to North American Breweries.  At that point, he decided to give up his beer career, write a business book and hit the lecture tour. But then his old friend Jim Koch made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. 

Newman has basically been given a clean sheet of paper to help develop new craft beer offerings for the Boston Beer Company.  This might mean buying smaller breweries, brewing new recipes using the Sam Adams facility or creating a new brewery from the ground up.  Newman has the freedom to chart his own course, and the beers that result will be sold under new brand names.

Newman is a serial-entrepreneur, having started several businesses (including Magic Hat) since coming to Vermont in 1970.  Since then he’s made his mark on Burlington:

Burlingtonians not familiar with Newman’s résumé may know him as the guy with the bushy gray beard and funky yellow glasses riding a Vespa around town. Along with Steinmetz, he’s also the person responsible for Burlington’s Mardi Gras parade. An exemplary partier, he donned an outrageous purple costume every year to lead the procession.

He is jolly, yet opinionated, with a sharp and irreverent sense of humor. Think Santa Claus meets Rodney Dangerfield.

Newman sounds like a fun dude, and his role at Boston Beer is enviable. Who wouldn’t enjoy having the resources of America’s largest craft brewery along with the freedom to follow your heart?  Hopefully the collaboration will be fruitful for everyone involved and, most importantly, craft beer fans across America.

If you’d like to read more about Newman, his history and his plans for Sams, check out this excellent (and long) article from Seven Days.

Tip of the hat to Greg Hogan for sharing the link with us – good catch, Greg!




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Craft beer nerd, frequent beer blogger and occasional home brewer.

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17 Comments on “Sam Adams is Banking That There’s Some Magic Left in Alan Newman’s Hat”

  1. November 2, 2011 at 12:55 pm #

    Very interested to see what comes out of this!

    • November 2, 2011 at 1:30 pm #

      Me too. Hopefully something awesome, or at least above average. Boston Beer might be big, but they do a lot of stuff right.

  2. November 2, 2011 at 1:46 pm #

    Meh. Magic Hat is okay and Sam Adams isn’t much better. Does anyone really think something great will come out of this?

    • November 2, 2011 at 2:21 pm #

      Slightly drunker Bostonians?

      • November 2, 2011 at 2:22 pm #

        That’s hard to imagine…

    • johnking82
      November 2, 2011 at 2:34 pm #

      Magic Hat #9 is a great gateway beer for some people to make the switch. It’s a common offering amongst the macros…but they are OK beers. Thankfully they brought back Single Chair Ale.

      • November 2, 2011 at 2:47 pm #

        Yeah, plus Newman won’t be in a position where he has to worry about “everyday” beers like he would if he were running a start up brewery…

  3. November 2, 2011 at 2:21 pm #

    This will be a great combination. Hopefully a new line will come out of it. Boston Beer Co., to me anyway,is vastly under-rated as a driving force in the American Craft Beer market. Magic Hat lost a bit of it’s appeal when they went national but still had several solid beers in their line-up.

    • November 2, 2011 at 2:23 pm #

      I’m curious to see what he’ll do when he’s spending OPM (other people’s money) and the base beers are already covered. Sounds like an opportunity to do something special.

  4. November 2, 2011 at 3:40 pm #

    And Jim…notice the facial hair!

    • November 2, 2011 at 3:49 pm #

      Yes, every brewer needs at least 10% of his face covered by facial hair – Newman’s got that beat by a longshot!

  5. Greg
    November 2, 2011 at 3:45 pm #

    You’re welcome for the link. I remember drinking Magic Hat years ago on my frequent trips to VT, and I would always bring some home. Now I can get it in dozens of places minutes from my house. Agree that they’ve lost their edge, but maybe this experiment will produce something interesting. Time will tell.

    • November 2, 2011 at 3:50 pm #

      I’m very curious about what will come of it as well. Boston Beer has most of the bases covered with Sam Adams, so hopefully Newman will do something a little weirder and wonderful.

  6. November 2, 2011 at 9:45 pm #

    Magic Hat #9 was definitely one of my gateway beers, though it never really kicked me off into full beer nerdery (an honor that goes to Ommegang). But the idea of giving some crazy guy a blank slate, with all the resources at Sam Adams’ disposal, sounds like it could yield interesting results. But the one question I have is how involved this guy ever was with the actual brewing of beer? He seems like more of a crazy businessman than a brewer, though perhaps he has a keen eye for talent, and will bring someone in to shake things up at Sam Adams…

  7. November 30, 2011 at 8:53 am #

    Ugh. I think this is the wrong direction for Boston Beer. They are doing really well with their new big bottles like Third Voyage and Vixen. I also really dig the Black & Brew coffee stout which is surprisingly bold for a “small bottle” of Sam. The saison and Koelsch also rock!

    I despise the thinking and tastes of Magic Hat and their rocket ship to Genessee mentality. This news is like a fork to my eye – or palate. Boo!


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