Author Stephen Beaumont recently tweeted a proposal for beer drinkers to cerebrate “Flagship February,” and you can count us in.
Beaumont’s mission is to put a spotlight on beers that often go overlooked now, but have done some heavy lifting for craft breweries over the years. A story in Forbes explains it more thoroughly. As for us, we’re bringing the celebration to our own streets. Most of Minnesota’s breweries are still young yet, sure, but even year-old operations rely on flagships to help keep the doors open.
This last weekend, after we distended our stomachs and stretched out our shirts with a meal at Revival, we bellied up to Sweeney’s Saloon for an impromptu “fantasy flagship” draft. “We” means Rob Wengler of Limited Release Beer, my buddy Hornish, and me. It was a pretty spontaneous doing, challenging and – at times – a little bit heated.
Here are the rules we drummed up at the bar:
- We chose beers either defined by the brewery as a flagship or listed by the brewery as a year-round offering. In a couple of cases, we employed Scrabble rules: It’s a word if you think it’s a word and the other players are too lazy to check. I don’t think any beer picked in the third round is technically a flagship, but oh well.
- Any Minnesota brewery whose beers are easily accessible in the Twin Cities area was on the board. In the name of making this unnecessarily difficult, only one choice was allowed per brewery.
- The draft went six rounds (as in six-packs). Hornish picked first, I went second, Wengler third.
Scroll down if you want the whole story. If you just want to see what we picked so you can piss and moan about it on some Facebook group page, here you go:
Hornish: “Surly Furious. It’s the standard. It’s where the scene started. It’s what everything else is judged by.”
Wengler: “That was the gateway beer for many craft beer geeks.”
Hornish: “If you want to bring something to a party, nobody will complain if you bring Furious.”
Frank: “Well shit, if he went with Furious number one, I should probably …”
Wengler: “This is your number one pick, man. This is the top of your list. This is the one you don’t want anyone else to steal.”
Frank: “Well, I don’t want anyone else to steal this so I’m going Steel Toe Size 7.”
Wengler: “You @$#%&!!”
Frank: “Best IPA made in Minnesota. Fight me. And that’s all I’m going to say.”
Wengler: “I’m gonna go with Rain Drops, from Barrel Theory. Raindrops is what happens when you have some extraordinarily talented brewers from a big brewery, who leave and suddenly are let off the chain to make what they want to make, and they just go ape-grunt dry-hopping an IPA into just a juice bomb.”
Hornish: “I’ve got to bring up Modist Brewing Company‘s pHresh.”
Wengler: “That wipes out my Dreamyard, then, right?”
Frank: “That also wipes out my First Call.”
Hornish: “[Modist is] my favorite in the Cities. They’re my number one overall, and the only reason Furious made it to the top of my list is strictly due to drafting purposes. pHresh is an easy drinker. It’s sweet, it’s tart, and I could pretty literally drink a keg.”
Frank: “Lupulin Hooey is going to be my second-round pick. This is about as far as I go with really aggressively-hopped beers, but the flavor in Hooey! I don’t usually jump off a cliff and say something like this, but Hooey is kind of … adventurous? That beer is just a great time, from front to back.”
Wengler: ”I’m guessing I’m going to be stealing this one from you, Frank, which is fine because screw you: BlackStack Local 755.”
Frank: “God damn you!”
Rob: “Fantastic IPA. It’s got a cult following of people who will just go ape-grunt running around liquor stores trying to find it and hoard it. It is a very respectable beer, and I can understand the hype.”
Hornish: “I’ve seen more Double Shot Cold Press Black around the Twin Cities than I have the regular cold press black. Can I claim one or the other?”
Frank: “I’ll give you Cold Press Black.”
Hornish: “It’s a smooth black ale. It’s a good Minnesotan beer. Got to show some love for the Twin Ports, and if I can get a darker beer in here, Bent Paddle Cold Press Black is one of the best Minnesota has to offer.”
Frank: “My number three is going to be Dangerous Man’s Chocolate Milk Stout.”
[Wengler’s middle finger goes up and stays up for a while]
Frank: “I’m honestly surprised it got this far without being picked.”
Wengler: “I was going to with my next pick!”
Frank: “This is another one that’s really easy to explain. Chocolate Milk Stout. You think of that phrase and what you want, you get. It’s silky, boozy, chocolaty, [weird growling noise].”
Wengler: “I’m going to go Mirror Universe. A New England IPA, juicy, nice, big, easy to drink. I don’t know that this is absolutely available all the time, but it’s usually available and it is probably one of their more popular beers. It has the most Untappd check-ins of all the beers Fair State makes.”
Frank: “Is it because it’s an attention piece? If you just have their Pilsner, it’s not as fashionable; but if you have Mirror Universe, you’ve got to check that one in.”
Wengler: “You might see more Darkness check-ins than you see Bender check-ins, because even though Bender is available year-round …”
Hornish: “… everyone is going to check-in for their Darkness Day bottle.”
Hornish: “I think Urban Growler Cowbell Cream … man, everything you want in a beer that you just want to take out onto the golf course, or have with a couple of bar snacks. It’s a domestic without being domestic. It’s not too bitter, it’s not too hoppy, it’s not too boozy. It just hits all the sweet spots.”
Frank: “My number four is going to be Tin Whiskers Wheatstone Bridge. I wasn’t well-versed in craft beer when I found that beer, but I’d had nothing like it at the time. The chamomile tea and the honey. It just drinks so nicely, and it’s held my interest despite everything else that has come out. I still go for that one. I take a drink of it, and … the magic hasn’t left.”
Wengler: “I’m going to steal one from [Hornish’s] page, and go with a light, lawn mower beer: Lift Bridge Farm Girl. It’s something I can drink on a crazy hot day out on the lake. If they had 40-ounce bottles of it, I could sit and drink the whole thing straight down. It’s easy to drink, it’s not very alcoholic, it’s light, and it tastes good.”
Frank: “Edward Forty-Hands with Farm Girl, how long do you think that would take?”
Hornish: “Pryes Miraculum. You know, it is a heavier beer. It’s almost more of a double IPA. It really is more like a double IPA. It hits the bittering notes, and …”
Frank: “I remember when that beer first came out, back in 2014. It just showed up on tap lines at Butcher and the Boar and a bunch of other really great restaurants. And to think: Jeremy Pryes went three years with no taproom and no other beers but Miraculum. Three years! To pull off something like that, you’d better have a hell of a beer – but you try Miraculum and it all makes sense.”
Hornish: “Oh man, now my list has Surly Furious and Miraculum on it. That’s a good list. I’d drink all those beers.”
Frank: “I would hope so! My number five, I’ve got to make sure I get it. I’m gonna go with Ol’ Trusty. I’m going with Summit Extra Pale Ale. This is a no-brainer beer for me.”
Wengler: “I think I read at some point that Summit EPA was the most tap-handled beer in Minnesota, even more than Budwesier and Miller Lite.”
Hornish: “Most places have it on domestic pricing.”
Frank: “Both times I went to the Great American Beer Festival, Summit EPA won a medal – one gold, one silver – and if you go to the right bar at the right time, you can get that beer for $2. People shit on Summit, but you don’t stay this big for this long in the game if you’re not doing it right.”
Wengler: “I’m going to back to another lawn mower and go with Fulton‘s Sweet Child of Vine.”
Hornish: “I’ve been holding Lonely Blonde in my back pocket for all this time!”
Wengler: “An easy to drink, hoppy, nice beer, available in tons of places and one you drink by the pitcherful and have a great night.”
Hornish: “This is going to take a little time. I’ve been sniped so much here. [After a pause] I’ve got to do it to you guys. It’s got to be Bauhaus Brew Labs’ Sky-Five! Bauhaus just has it right. They have the big space, they’ve got the parking lot with the awning, they’ve got the food trucks and the bags, and that’s not even saying anything about their beer. That’s just the icing on top, really, the beer. It’s really awesome.”
Frank: “I have a lot of really solid options at Number Six, but I’m going with the devil I know: Boom Island Brimstone. That beer is one of the sneakiest nine-and-a-half percent beers out there. You just have to know, because it drinks so easy … but then you have two of them and you’re just out in space. Every once in a while they do a cinnamon variety, and that beer – Hoo! – I just love it so much. The number of late nights [Head brewer Kevin Welch] and I have had at the brewery, and just sitting back drinking Brimstone, too many memories.”
Hornish: (Before the final pick) “We won’t say Mr. Irrelevant because these were all near and dear to our hearts.”
Wengler: “This might be a little controversial because it’s borderline craft, but it’s the beer I usually get when I’m at dive bars and stadiums.”
Hornish: “I know what he’s saying!”
Wengler: “Grain Belt Nordeast.”
Frank: “That doesn’t even feel like a last pick. That’s just a perfect ending.”
Wengler: “Another pitcher beer you can sip and I drink it at so many Vikings games back before you could get real beers at games, the Twins games and everything else. Pullin’ pull tabs and having Grain Belt Nordeast. Craft beer geeks and non-craft beer geeks both like it.”
Frank: “That’s a beer you could bring to a party, drink it all night and not get tired of it.”
Hornish: “Not to mention the catchy theme song.”
WHO WON THE DRAFT?
We acknowledge that adding up our draft choices’ Untappd scores and averaging them out is no good way to determine a winner, but that’s what we had at the time – and we couldn’t believe how close our scores were. In the end, my beers were 0.01 better than Wengler’s and 0.08 better than Hornish’s.
*Scores as of Saturday, January 26.