2012-02-13 15:34





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By Jim Koch[1]

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When I was a teenager, my dad did everything he could to dissuade me from becoming a brewer. He’d spent his life brewing beer for local breweries, barely making a living, as had his father and grandfather before him. He didn’t want me anywhere near a vat[2] of beer.

So I did as he asked. I got good grades, went to Harvard and in 1971 was accepted into a graduate program there that allowed me to study law and business simultaneously.[3]

In my second year of grad school, I had something of an epiphany I’ve never done anything but go to school.[4] I thought, and I’m getting pressured to make a career choice for the rest of my life. That’s stupid. The future was closing in on[5] me a lot earlier than I wanted.

So, at 24, I decided to drop out[6]. Obviously, my parents didn’t think this was a great idea. But I felt strongly that you can’t wait till you’re 65 to do what you want in life. You have to go for it.

I packed my stuff into a U-Haul and headed to Colorado to become an instructor at Outward Bound, the wilderness-education program.[7] The job was a good fit for me. Heavily into mountaineering and rock climbing, I lived and climbed everywhere, from crags[8] outside Seattle to volcanoes in Mexico.

I never regretted taking time to “find myself”. I think we’d all be a lot better off if we could take off five years in our 20s to decide what we want to do for the rest of our lives. Otherwise we’re going to be making other people’s choices, not our own.

After three and a half years with Outward Bound, I was ready to go back to school. I finished Harvard and got a highly paid job at the Boston Consulting Group, a think tank and business-consulting firm.[9] Still, after working there five years, I was haunted by doubt. Is this what I want to be doing when I’m 50?

I remembered that some time before, my dad had been cleaning out the attic and came across some old beer recipes on scraps of yellow paper.[10] “Today’s beer is basically water that can hold a head,” he’d told me.

I agreed. If you didn’t like the mass-produced American stuff, the other choices were imports that were often stale.[11] Americans pay good money for inferior beer, I thought. Why not make good beer for Americans right here in America?

I decided to quit my job to become a brewer. When I told Dad, I was hoping he’d put his arm around me and get misty about reviving tradition.[12] Instead he said, “Jim, that is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard!”

As much as Dad objected, in the end he supported me: he became my new company’s first investor, coughing up[13] $40,000 when I opened the Boston Beer Company in 1984. I plunked down[14] $ 100,000 of my savings and raised another $ 100,000 from friends and relatives. Going from my fancy office to being a brewer was like mountain climbing: exhilarating[15], liberating and frightening. All my safety nets were gone.

Once the beer was made, I faced my biggest hurdle[16] yet: getting it into beer drinker’ hands. Distributors all said the same thing: “Your beer is too expensive; no one has ever heard of you.” So I figured I had to create a new category: the craft-brewed American beer. I needed a name that was recognizable and elegant, so I called my beer Samuel Adams, after the brewer and patriot who helped to instigate the Boston Tea Party.[17]

The only way to get the word out, I realized, was to sell direct. I filled my leather briefcase with beer and cold packs, put on my best power suit and hit the bars.[18]

Most bartenders thought I was from the IRS.[19] But once I opened the briefcase, they paid attention. After I told the first guy my story--how I wanted to start this little brewery in Boston with my dad’s family recipe--he said, “Kid, I liked your story. But I didn’t think the beer would be this good.” What a great moment.

Six weeks later, at the Great American Beer Festival, Sam Adams Boston Lager won the top prize for American beer. The rest is history. It wasn’t supposed to work out this way--what ever does?--but in the end I was destined to be a brewer.

My advice to all young entrepreneurs is simple: life is very long, so don’t rush to make decisions. Life doesn’t let you plan.


1. Jim Koc: 现为美国著名啤酒厂Boston Beer Company的总裁。

2. vat: 大桶,缸。

3. graduate program: 研究生项目;simultaneously: 同时地。

4. grad school: 研究生院;epiphany: 顿悟。

5. close in on: 接近,迫近。

6. drop out: 退学。

7. U-Haul: 一汽车租赁公司,此处指该公司的租车;Colorado: 美国科罗拉多州。

8. crag: 悬崖,峭壁。

9. think tank: 智囊团;consulting: 咨询的。

10. attic: 阁楼;come across: 偶然遇见;recipe: 食谱,秘诀;scraps: 小片,碎屑。

11. mass-produced: 批量生产的; stale: 不新鲜的,味道变坏的。

12. misty: 原指“有雾的”,此处形容“眼中含泪的”;revive: 恢复,使……复苏。

13. cough up: 支付,交出。

14. plunk down: (啪地)付款。

15. exhilarating: 令人兴奋的。

16. hurdle: 障碍,困难。

17. Samuel Adams: 塞缪尔•亚当斯(1722—1803),美国革命家、政治家。他积极参加革命活动,是自由之子的创建者之一和领导人,策动波士顿倾茶事件(Boston Tea Party),震惊全美;patriot: 爱国人士;instigate: 促成,策划。

18. 我在皮箱里装上啤酒和冰袋,穿上自己最醒目的西装,向一个个酒吧柜台走去。

19. bartender: 酒保,酒吧间男招待;IRS: =Internal Revenue Service,(美国)国税局。


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