Friday, February 15th, 2019

Craft Beer Crosscut 2.15.19: A Flight of First Flagships

Ron Swarner

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Beer-Flights-Logo-no-wordsLook around at today’s craft beer world: A tidal wave of new breweries is concocting a tsunami of new beers. New brews — especially anything labeled IPA — arrive at a dizzying pace — many hazy, some with lactose and more and more with no residual sugar. They’re frequently “dropped” in special, limited releases and then disappear. People gobble them up and look for the next “new.” This trend bugged beer author Stephen Beaumont, concerned over the decline of flagship beer sales. Flagships are core beers that breweries produce year-round, generally meant to be readily available, lining store shelves and bar taps. Beaumont created the #FlagshipFebruary campaign to raise awareness of what he considers an industry problem, in which he encourages people to revisit old favorites and see what made them so great in the first place. Stephen Beaumont’s writing has inspired many bars across the nation to feature some of the great flagship beers in the month of February and Peaks and Pints is happily joining in. Every Friday, we point our daily beer flight toward flagships — #FlagshipFebruaryFridayFlight. Today, we’re featuring national flagship beers that either changed consumer tastes or how breweries approach making beer. Enjoy Craft Beer Crosscut 2.15.19: A Flight of First Flagships.

Craft Beer Crosscut 2.15.19: A Flight of First Flagships

New-Belgium-Fat-Tire-TacomaNew Belgium Fat Tire

5.2% ABV, 22 IBU

In 1988, Jeff Lebesch was riding his bike through the villages of Belgium, most likely a little wobbly as he visited brewery after brewery in search of inspiration. When he returned to the States, with the help of his marketing-savvy wife, Kim Jordan, Lebesch launched New Belgium Brewing Company in 1991 with a beer whose name you probably already know: the Fat Tire. Fat Tire is amber. It’s the definition of amber. Think tree sap oozing from between the bark. A thick, buttermilk head rises to the top, leaving tight lacing along the edges of the glass. The aroma was appropriately nutty, almost bready, like a walnut loaf fresh out of the oven — an aesthetic that matched the rich warmth of the color. To round out the experience, the nuttiness continued on the tongue, with a smooth and light texture that compliments its malty notes.

Deschutes-Black-Butte-Porter-TacomaDeschutes Black Butte Porter

5.2% ABV, 30 IBU

Opting for a porter as a flagship in 1988 was a bold move. The fact that Black Butte continues to be a bedrock brand for Deschutes Brewery — and that porter is now an industrywide bedrock style — more than affirms the decision. Named after a stratovolcano in the Deschutes National Forest near its brewery in Bend, Oregon, Black Butte Porter bears a hint of nuttiness, followed by the unmistakable smells of rich yet soft milk chocolate. The porter is slightly bitter in the first sip, but mellows out with a chocolate and roasted finish. As creamy and chocolaty as it should be, this is the porter all other porters strive to be.

Sierra-Nevada-Pale-Ale-TacomaSierra Nevada Pale Ale

5.6% ABV, 38 IBU

Sierra Nevada Brewing’s Pale Ale has been the beer drinker’s gateway craft brew for more than 37 years. Peaks and Pints doesn’t know how many times we’ve heard someone tell us that, for some reason, they ordered a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale at a bar instead of a Bud or Coors — and that this seemingly insignificant decision in their life was transcendent. No longer would they settle for watered-down corporate beer. Sierra was their introduction to the world of craft. To the possibility of bitter hop flavors. It was a palate shocker. The proverbial beer awakening. BTW, generous quantities of premium Cascade hops give the Pale Ale its fragrant bouquet and spicy flavor.

BridgePort-India-Pale-Ale-TacomaBridgePort India Pale Ale

5.5% ABV, 50 IBU

Northwest Portland’s BridgePort Brewing Co., a pioneer of Oregon’s beer scene and the state’s oldest craft brewery, announced Tuesday it’s closing its doors, becoming the latest legacy brewery in Portland to shut down. The brewery, founded in 1984, has ceased production in its Pearl District production facility and the brewpub will close March 10. And if you like IPAs, take a moment of silence for the BridgePort IPA, which was at the forefront of the IPA craze. BridgePort blended five hop varieties grown locally in the Willamette Valley to create a signature floral and citrus aroma. Bottle-conditioned, BridgePort IPA is exceptionally balanced with a soft round body and robust character.

Dogfish-Head-60-Minute-IPA-TacomaDogfish Head 60 Minute IPA

6% ABV, 60 IBU

Dogfish Head is one of the first and most successful craft breweries in the country, founded as a brewpub ion 1995 and now a 200,000-barrel-a-year operation. The brewery’s 60 Minute IPA, the brand’s flagship, is continuously hopped with more than 60 hop additions over the entire boil to create a powerful yet balanced East Coast blend with a ton of citrusy hop character. Inspired by a cooking segment he saw in the late ’90s where a chef added little increments of pepper over an extended period to enhance flavor, Calagione turned to a vibrating magnetic football game to create a system that would continuously add hop pellets during the entire time a beer boiled. The 60 minutes of continuous “A Northwest Hop” contributes to sweet aroma of apricot and pear — similar to a Riesling. The beer doesn’t taste as sweet as it smells and instead we get notes pungent grapefruit pith with a slight bitterness.