“What new IPAs do you have?” better sums up American drinkers in 2019 than any other phrase I overhear at beer bars. When craft beer began to gain steam in the 1980s and then ramp up again in the early 2000s, exploration and trying something new was at the core of its message. In 2019, though, that means some drinkers—in their relentless quest for Untappd check-ins and tried-it-first bragging rights—have forgotten the flagship, core beers that first grabbed their attention. #FlagshipFebruary seeks to correct that.
The idea began with a tweet from beer writer Stephen Beaumont, who was responding to a VinePair article about the struggles of flagship beers to attract increasingly fickle beer drinkers. His campaign has since garnered support from bars who are pledging to offer specials or throw events next month that highlight flagship beers. (This Forbes piece has also helped spread the word.)
For the unfamiliar: A flagship beers is usually a brewery’s core offering, the beer it built its reputation on—New Belgium Fat Tire, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Widmer Brothers Hefeweizen. Often they’re impeccably made beers that didn’t just pave the way for those breweries, they’ve come to define their respective beer styles. But they risk getting lost if beer drinkers stop buying them in favor of the latest, newest, flavored, barrel-aged new kid on the block—or if new drinkers are never introduced to them in the first place. Though we may think everyone knows how about Allagash White or Anchor Steam, there is an entire crop of drinkers turning 21 today who need their elders (me? shudder) to put these beers in front of them and suggest how absolutely delicious they are.
Some critics have already chimed in, questioning whether we need to “save” beers that may have just run their course. I say that’s dead wrong. Flagship beers tend to be easy-drinking, everyday styles that pair as well with a dinner party as they do with watching a football game or going to a house party. Unless we want the beer aisles to only contain pastry stouts, fruited sour beers, double dry-hopped hazy IPAs, and flavored everything, we need to appreciate the relevance flagship beers still have in 2019.
It’s not yet February, but I figured we can all get a jump on the celebration with my own list of some favorite flagships. This isn’t exhaustive, by any means, but these are beers I stock my fridge with week after week, order at bars when I see them on draft, and recommend heartily to new drinkers. Naturally, I want you to share your own favorite flagships in the comments, please:
- New Belgium Fat Tire, amber ale
- Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
- Allagash White, witbier
- Anchor Steam, steam beer
- Firestone Walker DBA, British pale ale
- Widmer Brothers Hefeweizen
- Deschutes Black Butte Porter
- Sam Adams Boston Lager, Vienna lager