Fighting Flagships | Vol. 3

In this edition of Fighting Flagships, I’ve decided to scrap my scoring system. Unlike in normal reviews — where that bottlecap graphic is the carrot on the stick — Fighting Flagships is less about scores and more about the prestigious Golden Godzilla! Scoring each beer as I go along shanks the dramatic tension and dumps it in a river because you can just scan the article, see the scores, and know who’s gonna win. So from now on, you’ll find no scores in Fighting Flagships. They ruin the suspense.

Also my new template wigs out when I put too many photos in one article or whatever. As you can see, it’s dangerously close to wigging out even without the scores. OK, first beer!


1. Samuel Adams Boston Lager (Boston Beer Company)

This may be the most well-known brew I’ve reviewed yet — aside from Game Day Ice, of course. Ugh … I just threw up in my mouth a little.

Boston Lager pours like diluted honey and builds a decent head. Scents of sweet malts and bitter earth emerge from the glass. The flavors are coarser than those found in most mainstream beers, possibly because it isn’t a Czech pils; it’s a Vienna-style lager! A nicely balanced one, too. You can taste earthy hops in every sip, but sweet malt sneaks in and lifts this beer above other mainstream lagers by making it complex and drinkable. This is a good option for beer nerds who find themselves in ale-literate joints like Applebees.

Wow. That pun rocked.

Others to try: Double Bock, Noble Pils, Cream Stout, Blackberry Wit … Boston Beer makes a ton of solid beers. Just pick one; you might like it!


2. Alaskan Amber (Alaskan Brewing Company)

I see a reddish brown ale with a thin, swirling head. I smell aromas of soft, sweet malt. I taste simple, sweet, malty flavors. Nice look. Nice smell. Nice taste. But nothing particularly remarkable. Then again, not every beer needs to be remarkable.

Alaskan’s Amber is the quintessential tastes-like-a-beer beer. But that’s not a bad thing. It mixes things up a bit with some spicy hops and toasted grain, but overall this is an unabashed session beer — which isn’t surprising, given its wide distribution, reasonable price, and easygoing flavors. Nonetheless, I doubt I’d buy it all the time. But then, I’m a picky weirdo who loves trying something new and different almost every time I drink. If you’re the opposite kind of beer lover, and you’re in the mood to drink a solid beer (and lots of it), Alaskan Amber certainly won’t compel you to go online and write a review like this. Or this. OR THIS.

Others to try: Smoked Porter, Baltic Porter, Stout — apparently I like their dark beers! They make good beers in other styles too, though. Their ESB is worth a try. Which leads me to our next contender:


3. Anvil Ale ESB (AleSmith)

AleSmith. What a badass name for a brewery.

As I pour this ESB, a rocky beige head heaves skyward like a meringue sail swelling over a surprisingly dark sea. It smells overwhelmingly of pears. Sweet, fruity, intense.

I need a machete to cut through all the foam, which is so retentive I’m forced to taste the head before the beer: It’s sharp and nutty, like sunflower seeds. After the foam finally retreats I taste the pears again, along with peanuts and toasted wood. A gentle, deliciously smooth beer, Anvil hits the palate with a delicate bitterness that’s impossible to resist. You won’t find a better introduction to AleSmith’s lineup.

Others to try: Start with this one. Then move onto their IPA. Then Wee Heavy. Then Speedway Stout. In that order. If you love mouth-melting imperial stouts, take on that list in reverse.

And the Golden Godzilla goes to AleSmith’s Anvil Ale ESB!


6 Responses to “Fighting Flagships | Vol. 3”
  1. fil says:

    Pears huh? I may have to give Anvil Ale a try . . anything that wins the Golden Godzilla MUST be good

  2. Ben says:

    i don’t particular care for the alaska or sam adams (although it really depends where i get the sam adams, for some reason). i’d never even heard of this “anvil” thing. but i’ll add it to the list.

    • Scott says:

      It’s funny, neither of those beers are my favorites from their breweries. (Anvil won by a fairly large margin, heh. 😀 ) I’d suggest trying some of the others I mentioned if you get a chance!

  3. Tom Butcher says:

    Hmm… That Anvil beer sounds pretty good—I’ll have to give it a shot if I ever go somewhere that AleSmith distributes to.

    The format of this article seems rather odd though; these are three completely different beers. Doesn’t that make it a bit difficult to compare them directly? I mean, the Boston Lager isn’t even in the same family as the other two beers!

    • Scott says:

      That’s definitely something I’ve considered. But it’s the nature of the article’s design; one brewery may consider a stout its flagship while another goes with a pilsner or amber. (More lean toward the latter two, but some don’t.) I’ve also considered doing variations on the concept by comparing three beers from the same brewery or three beers in the same style made by different breweries.

      But the point of Fighting Flagships is, in general, to take three flagship craft beers (I’m pushing that label a bit with Sam Adams, but you get the idea) because those beers will be that brewery’s most widely distributed offering. So, if one of my readers sees these three on a shelf somewhere, they’ll have some idea about what each tastes like and maybe which to try first. Perhaps that why I used to simply score them instead of picking a “winner,” since, as you said, it’s an apples and oranges situation. Hrm.

      Anyway, thanks for the thought-provoking comment!

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