April 5, 2011; Source: Patriot Ledger | When Jim Koch first began brewing beer in his kitchen in 1984, he was a bit strapped for cash, unable to secure financing for a risky new microbrewery venture. His Sam Adams is now the nation’s largest craft beer brewer, its stock has doubled in price in the past year, and S&P rates the Boston-based brewery as a four-star buy.

As a socially minded business, Koch is expanding the philanthropic commitment of Sam Adams to the sector that gave it birth – providing financing for not only to the hospitality industry but now to struggling microbrewers too.

The company is putting $100,000 into a fund that will be used to give microloans to microbreweries. It will be administered and underwritten by the internationally respected ACCION. Small brewers will be able to apply for loans as small as $500 and as large as $25,000 to purchase equipment or to pay for marketing campaigns.

It might sound small, but the money re-circulates. The pilot program Koch started in 2008, which focused on microloans in the food and beverage industries in New England, has loaned $540,000 to more than 50 businesses, with a goal of reaching $1 million in loans by the end of 2011. These microloans run from seven months to five years at interest rates of 8.99 to 15.99 percent, but are accompanied by lots of coaching and support from ACCION professionals.

This new commitment expands the geography for microloans for food- and hospitality-oriented entrepreneurs to the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York City. They’ve expanded their reach for microbrewers nationwide.

Among the recipients of Sam Adams Brewing the American Dream microloans are the Stow Café in Stow, Mass., Kleen Sweep Janitorial in Smithfield, R.I., Karl’s Sausage Kitchen in Saugus, Mass., Delectable Desires in Jamaica Plain, Mass., and the Arepas Café in Astoria, Queens. These loans have saved or created 540 jobs.

The demand is there for Sam Adams-funded microloans, though the track record is more food and hospitality than microbrewing. But those of us who remember the start of Sam Adams itself in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston recall its history as a community asset and employer. By all appearances, linked up with the very reputable ACCION, the Sam Adams Brewing the American Dream program is a fine example of social enterprise.—Rick Cohen