Over the past 20 years Northern Florida has emerged as a golf destination. Jacksonville is host to one of the most prestigious tournaments in golf, The Player’s Championship and just south of the city is the World Golf Village home of the Golf Hall of Fame and two world-class, golf master-designed golf courses. So, it was only natural that when the makers of Slammin’ Sam lager decided to launch their product in Florida, they chose the World Golf Village as the location for the launch party.
Casey Bierer, former Golf Channel commentator and owner of Slammin’ Sam Brewery, met me along with Sam “Jack” Snead, Jr. Jack is the son of the late Sam Snead for whom the new beer is named. We had made arrangements to sit and talk about the beer and Jack’s father.
“I was doing a story for the Golf Channel one day with Arnold Palmer about his drink,” Bierer said of how he got the idea for Slammin’ Sam lager. “During one of Arnold’s answers I started to think, ‘I love Arnold’s drink, but where’s the beer? Golfers love beer.’” And for many golfers, truer words have never been spoken. Nothing is quite as refreshing as a cold, crisp beer from the beer cart while shooting a round.
Bierer went on to explain that no iconic golf champion had ever associated himself with beer, “For me it was easy, my favorite player has always been Sam Sneed, he’s got the smoothest swing in the history of golf. And I know he’s got the greatest nickname in the world of golf: Slammin’ Sam. I just kept saying it over and over; “Slammin’ Sam, Slammin’ Sam.” I thought, wouldn’t it be great to name a smooth beer after him? And that’s kind of how it started.”
When asked if his father had a particular type of beer he liked, Snead said, “Well, he liked several, he didn’t have just one he liked. He didn’t really drink much, but he did like a beer when he fished. He was a great fisherman and we fished a lot. We used to carry some ol’ cans of beer in an old cooler down in the ice with the fish bait” At this Snead’s face lights up with a wide smile spreads and an accompanying chuckle. “The cans were slimy with fish, if you can imagine and I thought there was no way I’d drink the stuff, but we were so thirsty we did.”
“But, dad didn’t drink much, maybe one or two and that was about it.” Snead continued, “When he did drink beer it was a light flavored beer.”
Snead was instrumental in helping narrow down the flavor of Slammin’ Sam by tasting the other lagers on the market and making notes of the flavors. By a process of trial and elimination he and Bierer were able to come up with a flavor profile that they believe the Slammer would have enjoyed immensely.
“Sam wouldn’t like any kind of bitter beer,” Bierer said. “It had to be smooth and refreshing and easy to Drink.”
“The beer had to be smooth like his swing,” Snead said referring to his father’s golf swing that was known as the smoothest swing in golf. “We wanted a beer with a real smooth after taste, just real pleasing beer. That’s why we call it, ‘The smoothest beer in golf.’”
When discussing how the company decided to go with Stevens Point Brewery and Ray Klimovitz, recipient of the 2011 Distinguished Life Service Award from the Master Brewers Association of the Americas as the brewery and brewer of Slammin’ Sam, Bierer said, “Everything the Snead estate does with Sam’s name is first class, so I knew I had to find the very best brewery and brewer in the world I could get to make the beer. I was fortunate enough to find Ray and he agreed to work on the flavor profile for the beer. And he nailed it.”
Bierer continued. “We were lucky enough to get the Stevens Point Brewery to brew our beer. They are the fifth oldest continuously operating brewery in the United States and have won numerous awards. With Ray, in conjunction with the brewmaster over there we got exactly what we wanted; it’s a super-premium hand-crafted American lager.”
Currently Stevens Point is handling all of Slammin’ Sam’s capacity but, should they be needed, the company has agreements with two other contract brewers. The brew is currently available state-wide in West Virginia, Virginia as well as nearly state-wide in North Carolina. Distribution has just been set up in South Carolina, Georgia and, as of the launch, Florida.
Bierer and Snead believe that the brew they have come up with will have great legs in the premium lager category. “We came up with a brew that is really easy drinking but has a good body. It’s a beer you can enjoy whether you are playing golf, or tennis, or barbecuing in the back yard.”
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