Wednesday, March 15, 2017
With one of the biggest beer-drinking holidays of the year two days away, craft beer lovers are pondering what to grab for their St. Patrick’s Day celebration.
After a recent visit to Superior Beverage, Flight Crew members have a good idea what to savor come Friday evening.
Superior Beverage opened in 1922 as Superior Wholesale at 785 W. Rayen Ave. Superior’s Northeast Ohio operations, including the Austintown warehouse, were consolidated in 2011 into a 500,000-square-foot operation in Glenwillow.
With 620 employees, Superior is one of Ohio’s largest beer distributors, serving 37 counties in central and northeast Ohio, including Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull.
Two of the top 10 craft-beer markets in America, Cleveland and Columbus, fall within Superior’s footprint, as do five sports teams: the Indians, Browns, Cavaliers, Blue Jackets and Crew.
“We’ve expanded our craft beer portfolio in the past 10 years,” said Joe McHenry, executive vice president. “Growth in craft beer continues. It’s reached about 15 percent of sales, compared to less than five percent five years ago.”
Craft beer specialist Jason Edwards is a fourth-generation member of the Antonucci family, which founded the company. Edwards combs the nation for unique craft beers.
“We’ve been fortunate to land some hot new craft beer brands,” Edwards said. “But, we’re careful to remain focused on our core brands, fitting new ones in where there are gaps.”
Superior’s portfolio includes beers from Columbus Brewing and Four String (Columbus), Market Garden (Cleveland), New Belgium (Fort Collins, Colo.), Samuel Adams (Boston) and Southern Tier (Jamestown, N.Y.)
More brands are coming to Ohio, including Terrapin (Athens, Ga.) and Cigar City (Tampa, Fla.).
McHenry and Edwards gave us a tour of one of the most technologically advanced distribution centers in the state. The efficient case-picking machine, manufactured by Vertique, the world’s leading provider of automated case-picking equipment, was most impressive.
When we returned to the conference room, we realized one of us must have picked up a four-leaf clover. What an incredible set-up McHenry and Edwards had put together for us to sample.
Here’s what the Flight Crew liked best:
Four String Brass Knuckle (5.75 percent ABV, 36 IBU)
Dave Shively: This pale ale features tasty bitter hops and citrusy grapefruit shots. It finishes crisp and dry, sustaining its hoppy presence.
I was drawn to Four String Brass Knuckle in part by the name, and that it came from a brewery I’d never heard of. This is the brewery’s flagship beer. It poured light amber in color, smelled bright and had tastes of caramel with a heavy grapefruit presence. It’s a great gateway beer for someone looking to try a crisp IPA that’s not real hoppy.
Market Garden Prosperity Wheat (6.0 percent ABV)
Jason Jugenheimer: This Bavarian-style Hefeweizen is a blend of wheat and pale malts, clove and banana aromatics and the zesty tang of wheat beer yeast.
Market Garden in Ohio City is one of my favorite breweries. They consistently brew high-quality beers and Prosperity Wheat is no exception. It’s a traditional Hefeweizen, blending the taste of sweet wheat, banana and lots of clove. It’s perfect to enjoy on the deck or in a German beer garden.
New Belgium Dayblazer Easygoing Ale (4.8 percent ABV, 13 IBU)
David Anderson: Blonde in color with a uniform, medium haze, this ale features a light initial sweetness followed by a subtle hop bitterness.
Dayblazer is a new addition to one of America’s top craft breweries. It has a blonde color and subtle hints of citrus and hops in the taste, neither of which are overpowering. It’s perfect to introduce to friends who haven’t made that leap into craft beers. Grab a few of these and have an ‘easygoing’ afternoon.
Market Garden Midnight Vorlauf (6.5 percent ABV)
Roger Gillespie: This robust porter is brewed with brown, chocolate and crystalized malts then blended with rich and clean cold-brewed coffee.
My beer of choice was Market Garden’s Midnight Vorlauf. The chocolate malts and cold-brewed coffee are noticeable in both aroma and aftertaste of this deep, dark porter. A great cold-weather option!
Downeast Craft Cider Original Blend (5.1 percent ABV)
Joe Sanfilippo: This cider uses a blend of locally grown apples and is fermented with an ale yeast and left unfiltered for a full-bodied flavor and smooth finish.
Downeast Cider was a pleasant surprise. It had a nice apple aroma as soon as I popped the can. It’s made with a fresh blend of Macintosh, Gala, Cortland and Red Delicious apples. It’s very drinkable, and was, without a doubt, one of the best ciders I’ve had.
Columbus Brewing Co. SFW (4.7 percent ABV, 24 IBU)
Jim Cyphert: This Belgian farmhouse ale is brewed with wheat, oats and fresh-ground coriander. A fruit and spice character combines with tropical notes from American hops for an explosion of flavor.
Explosion of flavor is dead-on! I was surprised when I placed this one to my nose to check the aroma and shocked when I took my first sip. I like my beers to burst with flavor, and some Belgians and farmhouse ales are a bit subtler. It’s definitely worth a try!