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Bentley MBA class examines 20-year evolution and growth of The Boston Beer Company

March 24, 2004

Associate Professor of Management Alan Hoffman's experimental new MBA course has nothing to do with beer - even though MG 755 is called "The Organizational Life Cycle: The Boston Beer Company -- Brewer of Sam Adams Boston Lager."

(The Boston Beer Company founder Jim Koch talks to students in Bentley's graduate management class who are studying the company's organizational life cycle.)

"The class is about taking a look at 20 years of a company's evolution and growth over the course of a semester - the product just happens to be beer," said Hoffman in a recent interview. "By the end of the semester, our students will have a solid understanding of how one
company has navigated through its challenges in a highly regulated and competitive industry. It's a great way to learn how businesses really operate."

Over the past 20 years the evolution and growth of The Boston Beer Company has been the subject of industry interest, media coverage and business school case histories. But rarely do graduate students get this kind of behind-the-scenes, longitudinal look at a company's organizational life cycle from idea to success, according to Hoffman. The class, which filled up within two days of its being announced, has been nicknamed, "Sam Adams 101".

The course meets on Thursday evenings from 7:30 - 9:50 p.m. and nine Bentley faculty members alternate weeks with eight representatives from The Boston Beer Company so students get a mix of theory and real-world practice. One week the class met and had a tour of the Samuel Adams Brewery in Boston. The areas that are being covered include: entrepreneurship; operations management; financial operations and the initial public offering; marketing and public relations; organizational structure and change; ethics, law and responsibility; and strategy and innovation.

"I'm aware that people enjoy hearing the story of Samuel Adams," acknowledged Boston Beer Company founder and brewer, Jim Koch, who discussed entrepreneurship in the first class of the semester and will return on April 8 to discuss strategy and innovation and the introduction of Sam Adams Light beer. "But it had never occurred to me that there was a semester full of material there until I saw the proposed course outline. Professor Hoffman has done a terrific job weaving together the presentations by our senior managers with academic presentations from various faculty members who have different areas of expertise."

(At left: Graduate students learn about the brewing process at Samuel Adams brewery in Jamaica Plain.)


Studying The Boston Beer Company provides a "live" case history and teaches students how the company moved through its organizational growth, from a two-person startup in 1985, to a $200-million publicly held company with 350 employees.

The course is the brainchild of Hoffman, who has kept a careful eye on The Boston Beer Company over the years. "It's a local company, and I watched it turn the American beer industry on its ear," said Hoffman. "As a professor of business strategy, I kept noticing one strategic innovation after another, from its initial product launch, to its IPO to its introduction of Sam Adams Light. I've read various case histories that have been done about the company, and I thought that a longitudinal look at this company on the verge of its 20th anniversary would be enlightening, educational and a whole lot of fun. We're enormously indebted to the people at Samuel Adams for working with us to make this course a reality," he concluded.

Enthusiasm for the course has been unanimous from the 35 students who are enrolled. "We have seen first hand the values and vision of the company," said Jessica Hayes, a second year MBA student enrolled in the course. "Perhaps the most valuable lesson I have learned is that you cannot be successful on your own; you must surround yourself with talented people in order to allow yourself to see the big picture. Without hesitation I would say this is the best class I have ever taken in terms of enjoyment and knowledge gained."

"This unique course has been a truly invaluable experience," said Chris LaFratta, who is working on his MBA part-time while working as a program manager in global customer services at Philips Medical Systems. "Highlights of the course include meeting Jim Koch and his management team, touring the brewery in Jamaica Plain, tasting samples of Sam Adams and listening in on the company's 2004 fourth quarter earnings announcement call."

BENTLEY UNIVERSITY is one of the nation’s leading business schools, dedicated to preparing a new kind of business leader – one with the deep technical skills, broad global perspective, and high ethical standards required to make a difference in an ever-changing world. Our rich, diverse arts and sciences program, combined with an advanced business curriculum, prepares informed professionals who make an impact in their chosen fields. Located on a classic New England campus minutes from Boston, Bentley is a dynamic community of leaders, scholars and creative thinkers. The Graduate School emphasizes the impact of technology on business practice, in offerings that include MBA and Master of Science programs, PhD programs in accountancy and in business, and customized executive education programs. The university enrolls approximately 4,100 full-time undergraduate, 140 adult part-time undergraduate, 1,430 graduate, and 43 doctoral students. Bentley is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges; AACSB International – The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business; and the European Quality Improvement System, which benchmarks quality in management and business education. For more information, please visit

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