Sam Adams wants to take on imports with its new beer

  • Sam Adams is rolling out Sam '76, a mix of lager and ale.
  • Jim Koch, founder of Boston Beer Company, said the beer could compete with mass brewers' imports like Constellation Brands' Corona and AB InBev's Stella Artois.
Source: Samuel Adams

Sam Adams wants beer drinkers to put down Corona and grab its new brew.

Boston Beer Company's flagship brand is rolling out a brew called Sam '76. It combines ale and lager yeast through a process that founder Jim Koch dubs co-fermentation.

The two beer styles start the brewing process separately and are brought together before hops are added. The finished product is then canned, not bottled. Sam Adams is one of a number of brewers and winemakers testing metal to appeal to millennials.

Sam Adams wanted to create something portable so people could easily take beer to parties or other occasions, Koch said. It also wanted to develop a flavor that was lighter than India pale ales, which tend to be bitter and contain more alcohol, so people could drink more of it.

"It takes craft beer into occasions where craft hasn't fit as well," Koch said. "We wanted a lot of flavor but we didn't want a lot of bitterness and fullness."

Koch envisions the final product as a competitor to imports from big brewers like Constellation Brands' Corona and AB InBev's Stella Artois. Whether the brew can peel people away from such brands remains to be seen. Sales of Mexican beers in particular are booming.

Craft sales, meanwhile, have slowed. Sales of the Sam Adams franchise declined 16.6 percent last year, according to Nielsen off-premise scans provided by Beer Marketer's Insights.

To promote Sam '76, the company is hosting 11 launch parties and debuting a new 15-second ad. Even with the company's best efforts, Koch recognizes the beer's success is at the mercy of consumers.

WATCH: How Jim Koch turned his Sam Adams brewery into a $1 billion company