A Farewell to Flagship February … For Now

Flagship February

A Farewell to Flagship February … For Now

Stephen: Hey, Jay, the calendar is telling me that it’s Flagship February again. It was, of course, a concept born from a casual tweet that quickly developed a life of its own and, in the scant few years of its existence, a pretty sizable and devout following. Except that this year everything seems a bit different, doesn’t it? Almost like the idea of drawing attention to what we dubbed ‘the beers that got us here’ doesn’t seem so necessary anymore.

Jay: I agree, Stephen. After the last two years of the pandemic and huge shifts in how and where people drink their beer, not to mention kegged beer virtually disappearing and only coming back as bars and restaurants reopen to indoor dining over the last few months, to say there have been some changes would be understatement. In many regions, breweries started delivering beer directly to their customers, and restaurants were delivering cocktails and beer and wine to people at home, along with their meals. In many cases, what beer you could get was more limited, and we were happy just to get anything that tasted good.

Stephen: And through all of that, I think, people desired the comfort of the safe and the familiar. In other words, flagship beers. (Actually, it’s more than “I think”; statistics showed a rise in the sales of legacy beer brands throughout the pandemic, but especially so in the early days.)

So it seems a bit like Flagship February, which is to say a month dedicated to reminding people that such iconic flagship brands as Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Duvel, Fuller’s London Pride, and Schneider Weisse remain as good as they ever were, might not resonate as much in 2022 as it did when we started this in 2019.

Jay: I know that’s how I felt over the last two years. While we were locked down, I craved comfort foods, like the dishes I grew up with, and comfort beers, which are inevitably flagship beers. They consistently deliver familiar flavor profiles that satisfied my soul during what felt like uncertain and difficult times. And even as we’re starting to come out of that period (although Omicron continues to threaten to us pull us back in) I’m still solaced by a welcome glass of a flagship beer.

Stephen: Which is all for the good, I think. So with no disrespect to flagship beers, which remain mainstays in my beer fridge through times both breezy and challenging, I think we can safely put Flagship February on hold for at least this year. Although with indoor dining and drinking now just reopened in Ontario, I’ll still be heading up the road to my local, Bar Hop, to toast the month with a glass of something flagshippy.

In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except Death & Taxes, and Flagship February.

Jay: That’s a great idea, Stephen, though in my case I’ll visit my hometown bar, the aptly named Flagship Taproom, for a Death & Taxes or any number of familiar flagship beers. Even if Flagship February isn’t continuing in any organized fashion, the simple idea certainly lives on. The premise we began with was that there are many beers that were so good and so popular they helped spark and foster a shift in the beer landscape, bringing about a diversity in flavor (and even flavour) where before there was only sameness in the selections available. But along the way some of those took a backseat to a flood of beers intended to be the beer-of-the-moment and satisfy a constant craving for something new, and we were hoping for a little course correction. I think the ideal beer landscape is a balanced one, where consistent flagship beers, whales, unique one-offs, and everything else is available in equal measure, so that depending on the day, the weather, your food, your mood, and your whims, you can always find the perfect beer for you whenever you want it.

Stephen Beaumont is a veteran beer writer, co-author of the new, fully revised and updates 3rd edition of The World Atlas of Beer, as well as fourteen other books, including Will Travel for Beer and The Beer & Food Companion.. He is also the founder of #FlagshipFebruary.

Jay R. Brooks is a syndicated beer columnist, a co-founder of San Francisco Beer Week and the author of several books, including California Breweries North. He is also a founder and current president of the North American Guild of Beer Writers and developed and taught a Beer Appreciation certificate course for Sonoma State University.

Flagship beers were chosen by the individual writers with no input from the #FlagshipFebruary partners or sponsor breweries.

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