It would appear that I have entered uncharted territory, being described as "all a’giggle" and "excited and on-board", phrases not normally applied to this fine upstanding example of the Highland Scot, a study in taciturn. I refer of course to my enthusiasm, suspicious naturally, for the upcoming Flagship February. One of the reasons I am happy to support Flagship February is that it chimes so nicely with my Old Friends series of posts, several of which has featured brewery flagships that I hadn't drunk in a while.
It does however raise the question, in this era of almost weekly new beer tappings, one off collaborations, and limited availability releases, how do you identify a brewery's flagship? Well, Stephen Beaumont, the driving force behind the project offers this:
the beer that formed the foundation of the brewery… not necessarily its current best-seller
That pretty much seems to be on point for a definition. As an example I asked the brew master at Three Notch'd here in central Virginia what he considered to be their flagship beer, to which he responded 40 Mile IPA, despite the current best seller being their Minute Man NEIPA. I imagine then there will be a fair amount of IPA in the drinking of folks supporting Flagship February, I remember well sitting with the MD of another local brewery just before they started distributing widely in Virginia and being told they only chose an IPA as one of their packaged beers because it was expected by most craft beer drinkers. Thankfully though, in this part of the world at least, not every brewery has an IPA as their flagship.
The guys at Blue Mountain have their Full Nelson, a "Virginia Pale Ale" that is pretty much a classic American style pale ale, with all the citrus and pine hop thing you effect, you could almost call it "old school" but that would be a disservice to what is a fine, fine beer.
Just a wee bit down Route 151 (the Boulevard of Booze), Devils Backbone's flagship is their simply wonderful Vienna Lager, which I wrote about for the Old Friends series.
Coming into town itself and at South Street, one of my favourite haunts when it isn't January (side note, this year's dry month is harder than previous years), their flagship is Satan's Pony, an amber ale that is magnificently crushable and I wish they would have it on their forlorn beer engine, sans silly shit in the cask. It would be a revelation I am sure.
Again popping out of Charlottesville, to Starr Hill in Crozet and here we do have an IPA for a flagship, and again a beer I wrote about for Old Friends, the Northern Lights IPA, at one time the best selling IPA in Virginia. There was a question in my mind about whether Northern Lights would be the Starr Hill flagship, but since they no longer include Jomo Lager, Pale Ale, Dark Starr, or Amber Ale in their core lineup, it's pointless to ask.
As well as being an opportunity to remind myself of some beers I have enjoyed mightily in the past, Flagship February could also be the kick up the zythophilic arse I need to get to some of the newer local breweries and try their flagships
It is near impossible to think of a more polarising word, or beer style, in the beer world. For some the very idea of a pilsner is an adjunct laden pale lager made by one of the big breweries, after all, Miller Lite claims to be 'a fine pilsner beer' on the can. Others though, and here I count myself, can think of no higher expression of the brewer's craft that a well made pilsner that sticks pretty much to Reinheitsgebot, whether Bohemian or German in style.
It is also a word that actually fills me with excitement and dread when I see it on a taplist in a brewpub, tap room, or pub. At once I am both eager to try it and yet worried that it will turn out to be gack. Side note, you can always tell a shitty craft pilsner being made in the US because daft phrases like 'it has just the right amount of skunk to be authentic' - said 'right amount' is zero so please stop fucking around.
I spent most of last week in Charleston, South Carolina at a library conference. It was the longest time I have spent away from my little family since the twins were born just over a year ago, so I was happy to get home and do all those domestic bliss kind of things, the weekly shop being one of them. With the shopping out of the way we decided to grab some lunch at South Street Brewery, one of my favourite places to go for a drink in central Virginia. The beer is generally very good, Mitch knows what he is doing, especially with lagers (his helles is a very regular beer in my world), said beer is very reasonably priced, usually around $4.50 for a 16oz pint, compared to $6 for a similarly sized pint not that far away, oh and they have a glorious fireplace that now that the cooler months are upon us will be lit daily.
There, in the middle of the beer list was the word. Pilsner, a collaboration with a local real estate company, German malt, Czech hops, 4.3%, 28 IBU...like a cosmic alignment, dare I try. I trust Mitch, so I dared...
In the famous words of the motto of the SAS, he who dares wins, this was nailed on, Czech style pilsner in all it's drinkable, noble hoppy glory. So good was it that it stopped conversation mid flow, Anton Ego style, glass handed straight to Mrs V for her verdict....it passed muster, leading to the abandonment of her wine for a pint of nostalgia for the Czech Republic.
So if you are in the Charlottesville area get along to South Street and revel in the delights of a pilsner the equal of anything from Central Europe, yes including you Rothaus.
Back in October 2012 I was laid off by the company I worked for at the time. It was 10 o'clock in the morning when I got the news that it was happening, about 30 of us were laid off that day, and so I did what any sensible person does on such an occasion, I went to the pub. OK, maybe that's a British response, but by 11am I was on pint number 3 or 4. Said pints were all Left Hand's majestic Milk Stout, one of the few beers for which I will give up my animus against nitro. In a pleasing piece of circularity, I believe the nitro version is on tap at the same pub at the moment.
Anyway, this is not about the nitro version, this is about the non-nitro version that I picked up in the store last weekend, I guess at some point I should do a side by side comparison as I believe Left Hand also do a bottled version of the nitro. Before launching in to the tasting itself, look at this from the label:
I was thrilled to see a suggested serving temperature on the label, and while I won't be buying a 'stout glass' any time soon, my pint pot being more than adequate, I am glad that Left Hand encourage drinkers to take the temperature of their beer seriously. As I mentioned in a recent post I have taken to keeping my darker ales in the wine cooler, which is set at 54°F (12°C), so this was perfect as it poured....
Beautiful, perhaps I am odd finding beauty in an inky jet black liquid, but I found this absolutely entrancing in the glass. That thinnish half inch of mocha head clunk around doggedly. From that thing of beauty came a gentle roast aroma, a toffeeish thing that reminded me of dulce de leche, or creme caramel, all backed up by a lovely spicy hop note. In terms of flavours, lots of smooth chocolate and coffee (think Gervalia brand) going on, lovely stuff. Add to the mix some toast and biscuits with a really clean hop bitterness and you have a veritable smorgasbord of happiness to deal with.
Beauty is a word that ran through this beer like words trough a stick of rock, beautiful to look at, beautiful aromas, tastes, and so beautifully balanced that even at 6% abv this is a beautiful beer to just drink and drink and drink. Even though I will happily drink the nitro version, this is much more in my wheelhouse, and that wheelhouse may just be seeing more of it this winter.