By Jim Cyphert & The Flight Crew
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — A dozen years ago, the Flight Crew had something to learn about flavor … at least as it relates to beer.
Now that we’re immersed in craft beer, one could argue we’re well versed.
Premium Beverage has done its part through its mission of “bringing full-flavored beers to all of Ohio.”
Not many distributors do it as well.
Ron and Lisa Wilson founded Premium in 1995 in Columbus, just when smaller craft breweries were emerging and people were rediscovering quality beer.
After a few years of late nights delivering beer in family vehicles, the small crew grew into a company with nearly 100 employees and more than 5,000 accounts in Ohio.
Premium is privately owned and operated, offering a large variety of craft beers, meads and ciders throughout Ohio.
Representing more than 45 craft beer brands, Premium’s “Big Three” Ohio breweries are Cleveland’s Masthead Brewing, Columbus’ North High Brewing and Akron’s R. Shea Brewing.
What a line-up.
The Mahoning Valley is important to Premium. Masthead, North High and R. Shea are popular here.
Local sales rep Brendan Boyle says Premium serves 150 customers here, including craft beer retailers, grocery stores, restaurants and craft beer bars.
Brendan and the breweries coordinated the beers we sampled. Full flavor was in play with each.
R. Shea Brewing: Our Saving Grace Double Imperial Fluffernutter Stout (11.25% ABV)
Jason Jugenheimer – I love New England-style IPAs. Big, hazy and juicy beers are something I crave. R. Shea brews a couple of good ones, but they’ve crafted another beer with a namesake that’s also a New England staple and is celebrated Oct. 8 … National Fluffernutter Day. This big Double Imperial Stout is as rich and delicious as that sticky peanut butter and fluff treat.
It pours a beautiful dark brown and employs a thick mouthfeel full of flavor that’s a great balance of slightly bitter and sweet. Peanut butter, marshmallow and vanilla embrace your nose and your palate while you enjoy this beer and leaves you longing for a fire at summer camp.
Spring is here, but you may want to don a flannel or fisherman’s sweater while you enjoy this one.
Masthead Brewing: Single Origin Coffee Stout (6.9% ABV)
Dave Shively – I’m willing to bet that of the 8,000+ craft breweries in America today, only a handful can boast of being housed in a building on the National Registry of Historic Places.
Masthead Brewing Co. in downtown Cleveland has that distinction. In 1921, the venue was the site of the first Ford automotive dealership in Ohio. The irony in all of this is that Masthead’s Single Origin Coffee Stout pours out black, like used motor oil from a Model-T.
This brew smells like coffee, with notes of bittersweet chocolate and roasted malt. The smooth and creamy profile will also fool your palate, because there is nothing boozy about this 6.9% ABV beer. If you find yourself on the North Coast, give this one a try.
North High Brewing: Five Pale Ale (5.5% ABV)
Brian Long – During these times with the coronavirus, the “high-five” has left everyone hanging. But North High’s Five will make you want to high-five yourself for buying it.
This World Beer Cup silver medal winner pours a clear copper color with a fluffy head. It has crisp, tropical, citrusy flavors balanced by the dry hopping.
I couldn’t quite put my finger on the subtle herbal notes this pale ale has. But with a little digging, I determined it is lemongrass. Some compare this beer to drinking a session IPA. I agree.
I can see myself buying this beer several times over the summer and fall months because it’s definitely crushable and a tailgater (when allowed).
R. Shea Brewing: Hail Mary Double New England IPA (8.5% ABV)
Joe Sanfilippo – The sports term “Hail Mary” began at the University of Notre Dame. It’s still one of the most exciting plays in football, whether at the high school, college or pro levels.
Well, 90 years later, Akron’s R. Shea Brewing threw its own Hail Mary – and this one’s definitely a touchdown. This Double New England-Style IPA is brewed with five hops – Citra, Simcoe, Amarillo, Mosaic and Zythos. This combination gives this beer a taste of its own.
Hail Mary has plenty of aroma and pours a hazy gold full of goodness. It has plenty of hops on the mouth. When you’re down and out, and need that miracle beer, Hail Mary is where to turn. It comes in at 8.5% ABV, so be careful you don’t get sacked on fourth down with 9 seconds on the clock.
North High Brewing: Cover Crop (4.5% ABV)
Roger Gillespie – Cover Crop is collaboration between the Ohio Farm Bureau and North High Brewing to commemorate the bureau’s 100th anniversary. It’s an ale that’s very easy to drink and brewed with all-Ohio malts and hops.
There’s an aroma of sweet corn that’s noticeable during the pour. And it has a bright yellow color with a nearly perfect white head. Cover Crop offers a bread-dough malt flavor and has minimal hop character. With a clean, crisp finish, this beer will fit nearly every discerning palate. Give it a try.
Masthead Brewing: Tire Swing Hazy Pale Ale (5.5% ABV)
Jim Cyphert – Is there a better way to pass the time on a lazy, warm afternoon than swinging on an old tire tied to the end of a rope? Yes!
That’s swinging and sipping on Masthead Brewing’s Tire Swing Hazy Pale Ale. Masthead, opened in Cleveland in 2017, has developed quite a following here in the Mahoning Valley, thanks in part to Premium Beverage. With beers like this summer seasonal, it’s easy to see why.
Tire Swing bursts with notes of citrus and stone fruit. And it has just enough bitterness, hop flavor and aroma to keep craft beer lovers like me coming back. It’s tough to imagine this beer’s ABV is just 5.5%.