Home Beer Beyond the brewery: Jim Koch, the outdoorsman

Beyond the brewery: Jim Koch, the outdoorsman

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CATEGORIES: Beer   Feature  

Photo by Matt Furman

Photo by Matt Furman for DRAFT

There’s no question you’ve tasted their beers, and probably know the brewers by name. They have shaped the beer industry, but outside the brewhouse, these luminaries live as passionately as they work. Here, hear from Boston Beer Co.’s Jim Koch, an avid outdoorsman: 

“We had a family farm back in Ohio, so being outdoors, out in the open, was something that I grew up with. I’ve never really been in a situation where I wasn’t able to do that. Since I was a kid, being outdoors was a really important part of my life, my mentality, my well-being… [I left college and was involved in Outward Bound] from 1973 to 1976. Being in the wilderness for long stretches of time was a really transforming experience. The typical Outward Bound course at that point was 28 days, and I was very fortunate to be able to work at different Outward Bound schools, [to see] different sets of experiences and skills ranging from Texas, where it was desert travel and whitewater rafting, to Minnesota, where it was flatwater canoeing, to Colorado, where it was mountain backpacking, to Oregon, which was glaciers and snow camping.

Now, [we have a house] in southwestern Massachusetts, which is what Cape Cod used to be like 75 years ago. It’s a part of Massachusetts that’s still primarily farms and forests, fields and fisherman. So, it’s rural Massachusetts, on the ocean. There’s really good kayaking there, because you’ve got the ocean and a lot of inlets, rivers and very pristine wetlands that you can get to in a kayak and you can’t get to in anything that has a motor on it. As a kayaker, that’s what you want: stuff you can’t get to with a motor.


Photo by Matt Furman for DRAFT

Photo by Matt Furman for DRAFT

In the winter, I like cross-country skiing. It was really a great winter for that; I could get out in the morning and do it for an hour before I went to work… Yesterday, I took the day off because the weather was good.  It was the longest day of the year, and I was on my bike by 5:10 a.m., and the light was fine. I went on a 50-mile bike ride. You know, I could stop at a bakery and take my time, and be done in 4 hours and 20 minutes.

I guess I would say things change over the course of your life; there’s a different rhythm. And frankly, if you’re doing a lot of outdoor stuff, eventually you beat up your body, depending on what you’re doing. In my 20s and early 30s, I ran marathons. I’ve had too many knee surgeries to run any more marathons.

I also used to do a lot of mountaineering; about 20 years ago, I climbed a mountain in Patagonia called Aconcagua, the highest mountain outside of the Himalayas. Since it’s in the southern hemisphere, you climb it in the northern hemisphere’s winter; of course, nobody’s in the 8,000-meter peaks of the Himalayas in the dead of winter. Nobody. Anyway, this thing is about 23,000 feet high. I brought some Sam Adams with me; I slept with it in my sleeping bag so it wouldn’t freeze, and put it in a pack against my body for the same reason. I carried it all the way to the summit. So, I had a Sam Adams at the summit of Aconcagua, at the end of December. The thought occurred to me, as I was standing there, that I was the highest human being on the planet. I was the highest of all 6.5 billion people, having a Sam Adams. It was very cool. Of course, I didn’t have the presence of mind to degas the beer before I brought it; you open a beer at 23,000 feet and it gushes a lot. It was like opening overcarbonated homebrew. Though, there were a couple ounces left, and I thought, ‘Well, this is a great way to ward off dehydration.’”



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