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Boston Brewing/Samuel Adams founder: Culture, civilization and Groundhog Day all made possible by beer

February 2, 2011

Jim Koch (third from left), founder of The Boston Brewing Company, which brews Samuel Adams beer, collects the necessary items for his induction Tuesday as an honorary member of the Inner Circle: A bronze groundhog, a couple of plaques and a poster of President Bill Deeley, held up here by Jeff Lundy (far right). Looking on are Deeley and Inner Circle Vice-President Mike Johnston.

Bad weather — which continues as such — and the Pittsburgh Steelers’ upcoming Super Bowl were running themes during the annual Groundhog Banquet Tuesday evening, where Inner Circle President Bill Deeley cautioned those who would be attending today’s prognostication by Punxsutawney Phil.

“Tomorrow, I have no idea what will happen,” as to whether Punxsy Phil will predict six more weeks of winter or an early spring. “I’ll tap on the door, and he’ll tell me what it will be. If it’s wrong, it’s because I misinterpreted.”

“Are you tired of winter? Are you tired of temperatures below 20 degrees? And do you believe?” Toastmaster and Fair Weatherman Jeff Lundy asked the audience. “Are you ready for an early spring?” he asked, to which the audience answered in the affirmative.

He also said he had adjusted his phrases for this year’s banquet from past years, this year opting for, “Does a woodchuck chuck wood,” and, “Pittsburgh’s going to the Super Bowl! Here we go!”

Guest speaker Jim Koch, founder of The Boston Brewing Company, which brews Samuel Adams beer, said he appreciates and admires what the community has done to promote Groundhog Day, which is world famous and is an event “created from a dirt hump and a rodent.”

That remark elicited laughs from the audience and a playful — yet firm — tap from the cane of Deeley, who said Koch’s honorary membership in the Inner Circle was now “probationary.”

“The whole world looks to Punxsutawney to see what the weather will do,” Koch said.

He also said that the only true weather forecaster is Punxsutawney Phil, as reports in his home of Boston were calling for a foot of snow in Pittsburgh, into which Koch was flying for the festivities.

He took an earlier flight and awoke to find Pittsburgh not covered in a foot of snow, but rain and drizzle.

“In this weather forecasting game, my money is on the groundhog,” Koch said.

A descendant of German immigrants, Koch said he knows why he was invited to Punxsutawney: Because of the common Germanic connections, and while people have been gracious in welcoming him, “I know it’s because I sent beer in.”

Twenty-seven years ago, Koch began brewing Samuel Adams in his kitchen, hoping to brew 5,000 barrels in limited supply. Today, the Boston Brewing Company brews two million barrels. Despite being the largest American-owned brewery in the United States, it has only 0.9 percent of the market share.

“We went from being invisible, to infinitesimal to tiny,” Koch said. “Maybe in another 278 years, we’ll get to small.”

As he did in an interview with The Spirit last week, Koch said that he believes that wine is inferior to beer: “When we do beer tastings, we drink it. With wine tastings, they spit it out. Beer has all the dignity and nobility that wine does.”

He said while traveling from Europe to the new world, the pilgrims stopped in Massachusetts — not because that was their original destination, but because they ran out of beer.

Koch said, from the Mayflower log: “For we could not now take time for further search, our victuals being pretty much spent, especially our beer.”

He also said that in moderation, consuming beer can prolong one’s life.
“That’s why we have culture, civilization and Groundhog Day,” Koch said

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