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Sunday, February 3, 2019

Flagship February Targets BADD

One of the themes circulating around craft beer these days is the fixation on new and special beers. Those beers easily capture the imagination of beer fans who want something different with each order. That situation has worked to the detriment of established beers. It's a cultural phenomenon.

The blame for this movement is generally placed on millennials, who are the ones driving the contemporary craft beer bus. But we're all to some extent responsible for Beer Attention Deficit Disorder (BADD) because we've all been programmed to seek and taste new stuff.

One might argue that the interest in new beers is the result of a maturing industry. There was a time when anything not macro lager represented a huge step forward. No more. Today, there are a ton of breweries that have to differentiate themselves with unique beers. We search them out to see what's new.

The Flagship February campaign is intended to reshift our attention, if only momentarily, to some of the standards that helped launch and shape the craft industry all those years ago. Most of those iconic beers have been substantially reduced in stature (or forgotten) in the BADD era.

During the month of February, a collection of beer bars will showcase flagship brands. It's billed as an international program, but it's unclear to me how extensive the list of participating bars is. Here in Portland, Belmont Station is participating. They were pouring Deschutes Mirror Pond the other night. Majority owner Lisa Morrison told me Bridgeport IPA and Widmer Hefeweizen will soon follow.

It's worth noting that flagship beers have shifted over time with consumer tastes. In the case of Bridgeport, the original flagship (draft only) was Bridgeport Ale. After they brewed Blue Heron for an Audubon Society fundraiser in 1987, it became the flagship and remained so for a number of years. When Bridgeport IPA came along, it more closely aligned with consumer tastes and eventually became the Bridgeport flagship, a status it retains today.

The situation at Deschutes is similar. I always thought Black Butte Porter was their flagship. Or maybe Bachelor Bitter. It wasn't until later that Mirror Pond stepped to the forefront. Their flagship brand today is apparently Fresh Squeezed IPA, which has a short history. Picking Mirror Pond as the beer to pour for Flagship February seems appropriate.

Another point is that some of the flagship beers have themselves changed. Tasting Mirror Pond the other night, it seemed to have less pop than I remember. Widmer Hefeweizen is a much softer beer today than it was during the early years. How do I know? Because they brewed a handful of Hefs from different years as part of their 30th anniversary celebration in 2014. Ben Dobler, then the head of the innovation program, walked me through a highly instructive tasting.

It hardly matters that some of the flagship beers have changed a bit over time. They symbolize a simpler time in craft beer, a time when breweries had a few core beers, a couple of seasonals and that was it. The hyper competitive market of today has completely swamped the old model. Modern beer fans want something different almost every time they order.

Regardless, I know I'll be ordering flagship beers when I see them this month. It would be cool if the campaign were a big success, though I have my doubts, given the current state of the beer culture.


  1. To my mind, Black Butte Porter is and always has been Deschutes' flagship.

  2. BBP was never my favorite Deschutes beer, but I can definitely see your point. I'm not exactly sure who decides which "flagship" beer to pour at these beer bars. It may be the bars.

  3. Super Article. I see this all the time. What's new? Whats the new flavor what have you added this time. You heard it over and over. Great article. Cheers to Flagship.


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