Ask the Brewers #2: Flagship Beer?

by: Todd on 10-27-2002
What exactly is a "flagship beer?" You might have heard the term thrown around at a brewpub or by a beergeek friend. And, you might have gathered that it meant "the best," or something along those lines. According to Merriam-Webster OnLine, the word "flagship" means: the finest, largest, or most important one of a series, network, or chain.

So, applied to beer, is it a brewery's best beer? Perhaps best selling beer? Or it could be the quintessential offering from a brewery, or simply a brewer's favourite beer in their line-up of offerings? In all actuality it probably means something different to each brewery, and to find out I asked a few brewers ...


Our flagship beer - Shoals Pale Ale - happens also to be our biggest selling brand, comprising 42% of our total sales mix. (Compared to our next biggest seller, Old Brown Dog, at 22%)

In my opinion, however, a flagship doesn't necessarily have to be the biggest seller, but rather is the beer that best defines those qualities that a brewer wishes to be associated with. It is the one that embodies the culture and aspirations of a brewery, as opposed to being a brand that merely pays the bills.


Peter Egelston, President
Smuttynose Brewing Co.


A flagship beer should be a breweries' best beer. It should be the beer when people think of you brewery they think "Oh yeah! They have that stout!" Most often it turns out that the flagship is the best selling beer, which, in America, the best selling beer isn't always the best brew.

We make an Imperial Stout but as I said above the best isn't the best selling. Our Jack Russell's Best Brown Ale out sells the Imperial by a long way but a beer lover would prefer the stout. For the average beer drinker the brown is more accessible. I hope when people think of us they think of a stout brewery, though.

Eat, drink and be merry,

Jon Hill
Maine Coast Brewing Co.


We' started with Oerbier, which we decorated the crates with. It is a dark brown beer and some beer drinkers swear by blond, so we created the Arabier, later Boskeun and Stille Nacht.

Oerbier stays our flagship and people talk about the brewery as the Oerbier brewery. Or shorter; we have been to the Oerbier. The meaning of Oerbier is primitive, from the source. It came after several brews with beer kits from England which gave no satisfying results to us. So we said: or well we stop brewing or well we try with real spring water, fresh hops, only malt and fresh yeast, no colouring, no preservative and no filtering.

The Oerbier like it is now is still brewed like that. In terms of production, it should be between 3O and 4O% of the production. The production is about 23OO litres per batch and we do 13 on 4O brews per year of Oerbier. We still consider it as the flagship and the decoration of eg the van ,glasses, crates, and self-adhesive stickers are with Oerbier on. PS the NAT en Straf on the glass means 'wet and strong'.

All the best,

Kris Herteleer
De Dolle Brewers

To me a brewery's "flagship beer" is the beer that the brewery feels best represents them. It is the product that they think is the best, or at least believe that the consumer will think is the best. It is the beer that leads the pack. We at Maplewood Farms Restaurant & Brewery don't really have a "Flagship Beer". We brew so many different styles that I would have a hard time choosing. But since you have that gun pointed to my head, I guess I will have to say that our newly produced "Minuteman Gold" is, or rather, is becoming our flag ship beer. (Ask your parents about it - they had it at the Holyoke Brewers Fest) We have brewed this beer twice now and both times it has sold remarkably fast.

Thanx for asking...

Daniel Kramer
Maplewood Farms Brewery


Our Flagship beer is our Certified Gold. It is our most popular filtered beer other than our seasonals. It is our flagship because we always try to have it on tap. All of our other beers rotate throughout the year. Certified Gold is moderately hopped and sweetened with Munich malt. We sell almost as much Gold as our IPA's which are our most popular style of beer now.

Thanks again for asking.

David Wollner
Willimantic Brewing Co./ Main Street Cafe


Flagship, great question. I believe it is the beer that best represents your company, brewery, brand. Ultimately, hopefully, it also sells the most.

We only had one style, Tremont Ale, for a number of years, and it was only available on draft, so it was our flagship by default. It remains our flagship to this day. Tremont Ale makes up 90% of our draft business (which is half our total volume), and 60% of our bottle business.

It is rare for a craft brewer to produce only one style (i.e., Bass, Guinness), as the craft consumer demands variety. So I think the flagship is a way of saying "we (brewers) prefer if you (consumers) drank this beer all the time, as it is far more efficient to produce one stream of beer, as opposed to ten".

Thanks for the soap box.

Chris Lohring
Tremont Brewing Company


Under Flagship beer we understand a special beer brewed with best ingredients only and is in the most cases a beer called "Bock" and is also the breweries best seller. Our Flagship beer is Steam Whistle Pilsner, a true German style Pilsner Lager, brewed according to the Bavarian Purity Act, using only 4 ingredients, water, malted barley, assorted German hops, and imported yeast.

Harald Sowade, Brewmaster
Steam Whistle Brewing


Thanks for asking. We probably don't share the same definition of 'flagship' as you observe because we consider 4 brands our 'flagships' as they are available all year long in both bottles and draft. Our top-seller and most recognized beer is the HopDevil Ale, which comprises about 52% of our overall output.


Bill Covaleski
Victory Brewing Company


Nutfield Old Man Ale is our flagship beer. It is our flagship beer because it is our core product, or our leading brand which we always try to build upon. It represents about 2/3 of our sales.


Jim Killeen, President and Founder
Nutfield Brewing Company


What "Flagship beer" means to me is probably not what it means to most brewers. In the most general terms, it means putting your best foot forward, which in most cases is a brew that far outsells the others in a brand family. Here at the Matt Brewing Company, we have found our entire Saranac family of products to be our "flagship." Although our Saranac Pale Ale sells more barrels than our other five year-round products, our Trail Mix, a mixed pack of all six beers, actually sells more cases in a month than any of our single brews. We feel that our customers have grown to appreciate the variety of quality products we produce and enjoy having a selection of different brews to choose from. This brewery was built on a foundation of quality and we feel that the success of our "Flagship," Saranac, reflects our consumers' recognition of that quality across all of our brews.

Jim Kuhr, Brewmaster
The Matt Brewing Company


When I started the Crooked River Brewing Co. I considered all beers sold year-round as our "flagship beers" in order to differentiate them from our seasonal or special occasion brews. Thus, Crooked River Select Lager, Original ESB, Kolsch, Irish Red, Robust Porter and the just released Light Lager were the flagships, vs. Pumpkin Harvest, Yuletide Ale, and so forth.

Now that CRBC is part of Snyder International Brewing Group, that definition of the word "flagship" would include five Wild Goose brands (IPA, Oatmeal Stout, Porter, Nut Brown and Amber Ale), four Blue Ridge beers (Amber Lager, ESB, Porter and Golden Ale) and a host of Hudepohl-Schoenling brands (all the Christian Moerlein brands, Little Kings Cream Ale, Hudy Delight, Burger and Burger Light.) It seems to me that calling all of those our "flagships" is somewhat peculiar.

So, because your question got me to ponder a bit, I am changing my definition as of today. From now on, whichever beer sells the most in its brand family gets the title. That would mean Wild Goose's flagship is the IPA, which is certainly the best seller in the group at about 48%. In Crooked River I'll have to assign co-flagship status to the ESB and the Select Lager, which have sold virtually equally since 1994. Blue Ridge also has two beers tied for first, the Amber Lager and the Golden. I won't assign a flagship brand in the Hudepohl family, because they compete in such widely different markets as to make the label meaningless. (If you insist, I'll say the Christian Moerlein Select because it is the premium member of the family, if not it's top seller. So much for sticking to my own definition of "flagship".)


Stephan Danckers, Brewmaster
Crooked River Brewing Company


Our flagship beer is Holyoke Dam Ale. This is the first product that we released to the public in 1996. I feel this "amber" ale or pale ale represents the company in our idea of what good beer should be; flavorful well balanced hop and malt in a style that most are familiar with. It's not our hefe-wiezen or our 100 IBU Hop Monster, those are some extremes of our spectrum. Dam ale is the most consistent seller year round. It is lapsed occasionally by say Summit House Octoberfest or some of our other seasonals. I feel the flagship beer lets the public know what you are capable of as a brewer, and hopefully invites the consumer to experience more of what you have to offer.

Thanks for asking,

Jason Dunson Todd
Paper City Brewery


The Flagship for Magic Hat is #9. This is not by something that we say but from what our customers tell us, as #9 is 60-65% of our sales. Otherwise, our sales consist of a pretty even mix of the rest of our ales.

Todd, Brewer
Magic Hat Brewing Company


"The best beer we can possibly make and still sell at volume. It may never win a medal, but it allows us to continually move ahead." - David Howard, Head Brewer.

From my perspective, the numbers first: Country Ale represents 33% of our volume. We brew and package in draft and bottle nine styles. We strive to have Country Ale be our lead brand, which it has always been.

We all drink Country regularly. It is our most delicate beer and therefore most difficult to make consistently. It is crafted with five different malts and four hop varieties. Since Country Ale's most valuable asset is its balance, it does not seem to get much attention from the critics.

However, I just zipped over to the reviews and should mention that I am very pleased with comments. They epitomize what we feel a flagship beer should be for a brewery that sells 90% of its production in one county, 100% in one state. It's all about being clean, drinkable and balanced for our flagship.

Thanks for your continued dedication to consumer education.

Ned LaFortune, President
Wachusett Brewing Company
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