A lifetime and a career ago, I was a young entrepreneur with a brand new lease on an empty gallery space near the waterfront in Providence, Rhode Island. One of my first great acts was to borrow a neighbor's broom and sweep the sidewalk in front of my door. I don't know where the impulse came from, it was a gesture I must have seen other shopkeepers do growing up in New York City. I remember that feeling—a bit of proprietary pride with a side of great expectation.
What I didn't know was that at about the same time and right around the corner, another young entrepreneur was doing his own version of sidewalk sweeping. The Boston Beer Company, aka Jim Koch, had finally grown big enough to stop brewing beer in the kitchen. Confident in his product and ability to meet a demand that was surely coming, Koch spent the late '80s making his way through the bars and bistros of New England with bottles of Sam Adams, a hopeful heart and a sales pitch for the ages. Whatever it was, it worked. I had my first Sam Adams at the Hot Club in Providence after a long, weary day of work, somewhere around 1990.
Of the two of us, Jim Koch turned out to be the better entrepreneur.
The story of The Boston Beer Company's success is a complex and exciting one, filled with juicy gossip, history, politics and colorful characters that long pre-date Prohibition. I'm angling to get a story about it in the magazine soon. But until then, I'll enjoy the memories of Jim's visit with my finely tuned beer drinking skills, which we share with you in the video below.
I learned of our parallel lives in my old 'hood during this drinking lesson. But I also got a big dose of what makes Jim a great salesman—and it's more than just his love of the product he makes.
I'll let you decide.