BEER WITH A SOCIALIST: #FlagshipFebruary is right in my wheelhouse, and Pints&union will do its little bit for the cause.

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When can we get those cans?

I’m a beer-first kind of guy, which isn’t altogether hard to understand. But if we take it a step further and inquire exactly which beer comes first, things get a tad murkier.

I’ve answered this question in many different ways during the past four decades. There were imports, and later microbrews; the latter morphed into “craft” beers, and eventually “craft” beers were being imported, too. I was fine with St. Pauli Girl until it became clear that the very best German beer originated in an obscure valley somewhere in Franconia; last month in Munich, I drank my weight in Paulaner. I was a hophead, a gravity head, a sourpuss and a dedicated follower of fashion.

Then I wasn’t any longer.

I suppose there are many more reasons for this conversion than sufficient space allotted to list them, although in a very fundamental sense, if one awakens each morning to a planet seemingly gone insane, it’s understandable to begin reconsidering the merits of focus and stability.

What gives us hope and strength even if they take our iPhones away? A pint of tasty, timeless and honest beer, that’s what.

More power to anyone and everyone who defines their beer lives via the new norms of brute strength, elusive rarity and sheer hoardability. I’m happy to have done my part in bringing you to this juncture. Rock on and have fun, while I reverse field, flee the neo-conformist pack and recall the wonderful wisdom of Joe Stange, quoted in this space just last year.

What one word, or phrase, do you think should be used to describe beer that you’d like to drink?

Comfort.

In the beers I try I’m not looking for one-night stands. I’m looking for future wives. I’m looking for the ones you invite into your house because you might want to live with them, to grow more familiar with them; they walk in on you in the bathroom and you don’t even mind. Few beers are so easy to get along with. Few offer the sort of depth that allows a lifetime of getting acquainted.

Thus the beer program at Pints&union, once aptly described by my wife as a conscious attempt to recreate a portion of the Rich O’s Public House ambiance  from around 1997 — with or without the couches in the barroom.

  • Or, beer’s greatest hits … and some that will be.
  • Or, 47 beautiful beer classics … and four ugly ones (Louisvillians will know the reference)
  • Or, comfort beers, golden oldies, brews you can sing along to …

Here’s the list, updated last week.

What the majority of these beers have in common is being idiotically undervalued in on-premise settings, having been supplanted by the “always a new beer hourly” approach of coddling short attention spans.

Last week the beer writer Stephen Beaumont addressed this phenomenon and offered an idea to do something about it.

A New #FlagshipFebruary Campaign Aims To Save Core Beer Brands Before They Disappear, by Tara Nurin (Forbes)

Deservedly or not, millennials get blamed for a lot of things, not least of all the slow demise of the flagship beer. Called everything from fickle to promiscuous, millennial craft beer drinkers stereotypically flit between the newest, hottest, rarest releases with no regard for the workhorse core brands that, to apply the most common cliché, “keep the lights on” for brewers who bank on their steady sales for sturdy ongoing revenue.

Beer writers like me do a lot of hand wringing over this, particularly as it pertains to the old classics–Sierra Nevada Pale Ale gets mentioned most often–that built the craft beer industry in the first place. Our laments are more than sentimental. The nation’s most pioneering and influential old craft breweries, all of which built their businesses on a flagship or two, are struggling mightily – and not so successfully — to compete in a world where a decent number of upstarts don’t even craft a core beer.

“A lot of beer drinkers have developed a sort of ADD with respect to the beers they drink, so going for a glass of beer at the bar or pub becomes less a pleasant distraction and more a relentless search for what’s new and exciting. In this mad rush towards the unusual and unknown, we tend to forget the great, familiar and still-wonderful beers that guided us all along the path to the craft beer renaissance,” emails globally renowned beer journalist Stephen Beaumont, who’s authored 13 books on the subject.

On Tuesday, Beaumont decided to officially do something about this important but admittedly first-world problem. He’s launching a campaign called #FlagshipFebruary, a month-long international celebration of flagship beers.

Bravo! This is my kind of crusade; so is Lew Bryson’s Session Beer Project, which is referenced in the article.

At Pints&union, where the beer program largely has been built around the notion of rediscovering classic and flagships, we’ll be doing our little bit for #FlagshipFebruary by tapping Anchor Steam at month’s beginning. We’re getting two kegs, which is all the wholesaler has; as I’ve learned during the past seven months, it’s not easy to return to a flagship mentality when wholesalers systematically reduce the presence of classics in favor of overstocking one-offs, seasonals and specialties.

On the general topic of my beer life as of January, 2019, the following was ranted last evening at Facebook. I approve these words, given that I wrote them; moreover, they’re a composite snapshot of my mood entering the new year.

Back in the early 1990s at the original Rich O’s Public House, we started selling what I considered to be “good” beers to lots of you who remain friends today. I didn’t always know what the hell I was doing with these beers, but I believed strongly in the VALUE and SUSTAINABILITY of what I was doing with them. Although I’m unsure from whence this confidence came, there was no doubt in my mind that better beer was a trend, not a fad.

I cared very little about what others were doing with their beer programs, because for the most part, beer programs didn’t even exist — and I knew I could do it better than most of them, regardless. The local scene has changed IMMENSELY since then, and in metro Louisville, lots of folks are doing wondrous things with beer, whether as brewers or better beer bars. No one appreciates their success more than me. But I still have my shtick, and my shtick abides.

The Pints&union beer program is getting close to where I want it, although there’s still tweaking to be done and a few adjustments to be made. The chief virtues of this list are stability and timelessness, and there are no apologies to be made for this “greatest hits” approach.

As Irving Thalberg told the Marx Brothers prior to Night at the Opera, it can’t be constant comedic fireworks and ceaseless hamsters spinning their wheels; comedy has to play AGAINST something fixed and solid. So does good beer.

If you need to have a different beer every time you come in, there are approximately 60 on this list — that’s more than two months’ worth, and let me know when you come out the other side; I’ll see what I can do in a post-graduate sense.

I’m too old to be all adrenaline-charged and cocky, and yet the beer I know how to do, I can still do well. I’ve had 35 years of practice. Thanks again to Joe C Phillips for the opportunity to prove it.

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