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The First Bottle

No distributors were willing to help Koch sell his beer when he introduced the first Samuel Adams Boston Lager in 1984. Undeterred, the Harvard-educated Koch read a book on the art of selling, packed a briefcase full of beer and started going from bar to bar.

"I'm just going to do it with old-fashioned shoe leather," Koch recalled about his plan. "I'm going to walk the streets of Boston with cold beer in my briefcase and go into every bar."

He had a sales routine: It included telling the bar owners about how he had left his lucrative job as a consultant to start a craft beer company using an old family recipe that was found in his family's attic. Then he'd pour a cup of beer and invite them to taste it. He ended the pitch with the question, "Do you think it's good enough to offer to your customers?"

"My ambitions were very modest. All I needed was 30 bars in the entire city of Boston to say yes, and I was able to grow from there," Koch said. "I had a goal: I wanted to get one new customer a day."

Photo: Boston Beer Company