What Keeps the Founder of Sam Adams Going After 30 Years
“I have had the same job for 30 years,” said Jim Koch, founder of the Boston Beer Company, maker of popular craft brew Samuel Adams. “I am still waiting for that first promotion.”
Koch is teasing a bit. But he’s also quite serious. There isn’t anywhere up the corporate ladder for him to climb at the company he founded three decades ago -- a company that helped pioneer the U.S. craft beer movement and brought in $739 million in sales last year. Still, he harbors no trace of a “same old, same old” attitude toward his job.
“What drives me is the ability to create, to innovate, to do new things,” he told Entrepreneur.com at a National Small Business Week event in Washington, D.C. “What excites me is all the cool new beers that have never been made. I want to be the brewer who makes these cool, new interesting beers that push envelopes, that push boundaries out, and eventually realize the promise of craft brewing in the United States, which is to make the United States the envy of the brewing world.”
Boston Beer Company has eight brands of beer in 65 different blends. Larger brewers such as Anheuser-Busch InBev and Molson Coors each have hundreds of brands to their name.
For Koch, beer is a thing of beauty -- and it’s his raison d'etre. “It’s just a karma. The beer incorporates the feeling, the spirit, the moment of the season.” The Boston Beer Company is known for its seasonal brews. For example, the popular Octoberfest beer, which is a deep amber beer with hints of caramel, is only available in the fall. The Winter Lager has hints of cinnamon and fresh ground orange zest.
Being able to innovate while providing jobs and a great corporate culture is what matters most, Koch says. “To be an entrepreneur is to be a creative artist. You are taking elements that nobody else has put together before and assembling them into something that is really cool.”
Catherine Clifford is senior entrepreneurship writer at CNBC. She was formerly a senior writer at Entrepreneur.com, the small business reporter at CNNMoney and an assistant in the New York bureau for CNN. Clifford attended Columbia University where she earned a bachelor's degree. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. You can follow her on Twitter at @CatClifford.