March Madness – Round Two

Second Round

South Region

(1) Westmalle Trappist Tripel v. (8) Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel Solstice D’hiver
Winner: Westmalle Trappist Tripel
Comments: Although Solstice D’hiver was a solid and enjoyable beer, it couldn’t stand up to the Belgian-y goodness of Westmalle’s offering.

(5) Fuller’s ESB v. (4) Fuller’s Vintage Ale (2009)
Winner: Fuller’s ESB
Comments: Man, this was a close one. I loved both beers and they had very different flavors. What it came down to for me is that Fuller’s ESB was the best ESB that I’ve ever had. I couldn’t say that about Fuller’s Vintage Ale (2009), even though it was a fantastic beer. It came down to the wire on this one.

(6) Samuel Smith’s Yorkshire Stingo v. (3) Unibroue Trois Pistoles
Winner: Unibroue Trois Pistoles
Comments: It’s been awhile since I tasted the Unibroue offering and honestly, I had a little trouble recalling the flavors. When I went back and read the review, it was obvious that this was a beer I enjoyed and didn’t have a problem beating out Yorkshire Stingo.

(7) Fuller’s London Pride v. (2) Fuller’s London Porter
Winner: Fuller’s London Porter
Comments: It’s another matchup between two offerings from the same brewery. Nice! This one wasn’t really a close matchup for me either. I fell in love with the London Porter, which Katie picked up a sixer of for me. The London Pride was a decent beer, but not nearly as satisfying as the porter.

West Region

(1) Founders Red’s Rye v. (9) Schlafly Christmas Ale
Winner: Founders Red’s Rye
Comments: Red’s was the best rye beer I’ve ever had. Schlafly’s was a decent holiday brew. This was a blowout.

(5) Carton Boat v. (4) Southern Tier Krampus (Imperial Helles Lager)
Winner: Southern Tier Krampus Imperial Helles Lager
Comments: This was a close one, but that was because neither brew wowed me. Boat was a decent pale ale and Krampus was middle of the road for me too. Krampus won because it pushed the envelope a little more and I could see grabbing for one of these in the fridge before Carton’s brew.

(11) Samuel Adams Alpine Spring v. (3) Terrapin Reunion Beer 2011
Winner: Terrapin Reunion Beer 2011
Comments: No surprise here. I loved the Terrapin beer. Give me almost anything with a chili pepper and I’ll probably enjoy it. Alpine Spring was a solid beer, but couldn’t match Terrapin. Easy win.

(7) Lagunitas Censored v. (2) Southern Tier Pumking
Winner: Lagunitas Censored
Comments: This was another tough one. Both were solid beers that I really enjoyed. But, I used the same mindset as with the Unibroue matchup. Pumking isn’t my favorite pumpkin beer and Censored is probably one of my favorite ambers in a style that tends to bore me. Censored brought serious flavor to the party, so it eked out the win.

East Region

(1) Anchorage Bitter Monk v. (9) Saranac White IPA
Winner: Anchorage Bitter Monk
Comments: This was another blow out. Bitter Monk brought hops, balance and brett. Saranac White IPA was a good, refreshing beer, but got overwhelmed in the flavor department.

(5) Kane Head High v. (4) Founders Centennial IPA
Winner: Kane Head High
Comments: Upset alert! This was a close one, but Head High was a little brighter and the flavors worked for me a little more than the Founders offering. I think it’s because I’m not the biggest fan of Centennial hops. But, the local brew won this one by a hair.

(6) Sierra Nevada Estate Homegrown Wet Hop Ale v. (3) Port Mongo IPA
Winner: Port Mongo IPA
Comments: I think I remember enjoying Sierra Nevada’s brew more than I did, but regardless, Mongo had lots of different flavors and was way more complex than the Estate. They won by a mile.

(10) Magic Hat Encore v. (2) Stone 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA
Winner: Stone 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA
Comments: Yeah, no comments really needed on this one. Stone 15 was one of the best beers that I had during this time, period.

Midwest Region

(1) Avery Out of Bounds Stout v. (9) 21st Amendment Allies Win The War!
Winner: Avery Out of Bounds Stout
Comments: Another matchup that was a blow out. 21st was a borderline drainpour for me and Out of Bounds was a real treat. Avery takes it.

(12) Samuel Adams Holiday Porter v. (4) Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter
Winner: Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter
Comments: This impressive brew from Flying Dog easily won this contest. I enjoyed the Holiday Porter, but Flying Dog brought more roasted malts and bold flavors.

(6) Left Hand Fade To Black Volume 3 – Pepper Porter v. (3) Green Flash Double Stout
Winner: Green Flash Double Stout
Comments: This entire region had pretty clear cut winners for me during this round, well except for the next matchup. I found a lot of issues with Fade To Black and found almost none with Double Stout. It was everything the style should be.

(10) Victory Storm King v. (2) Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout (2011)
Winner: Victory Storm King
Comments: Many people will not agree with my opinion on this major upset. I loved both beers, but there were a few reasons that I picked the Victory brew. First, I didn’t have huge expectations for Storm King but I had huge ones for BCS. Storm King threw my expectations out the window and delivered a great brew. BCS was solid and enjoyable, but for all of the hype I heard about it, I expected it to be a little bit better. Also, I tried Brooklyn Black OPS before BCS…and I loved it. Trying BCS without the aging was a bit of a letdown. 

You can see the updated bracket here Round 3.

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March Madness – First Round Day Two

Here are the remaining matchups from Day 2:

South Region

(7) Fuller’s London Pride v. (10) Wychwood Hobgoblin
Winner: Fuller’s London Pride
Comments: Another easy matchup, despite the rankings. Hobgoblin was a bit thin and not really flavorful to me. Fuller’s won this one by a lot.

(2) Fuller’s London Porter v. (15) Molson Golden
Winner: Fuller’s London Porter
Comments: If I sampled Molson at home, it would have been a drainpour. But, I couldn’t find a sink at the bar to dump this in.

West Region
(1) Founders Red’s Rye PA v. (16) Beach Haus Classic American Pilsner
Winner: Founders Red’s Rye PA
Comments: Another blowout. Founders Red’s Rye was flavorful and complex. Beach Haus was just fizzy and wet and yellow.

(8) Samuel Adams Old Fezziwig Ale v. (9) Schlafly Christmas Ale
Winner: Schlafly Christmas Ale
Comments: This was a close one. Although Old Fezziwig was an easy drinking winter seasonal, it didn’t floor me. The Schlafly brew smelled like Christmas to me with lots of spice. In the end, the Schlafly won despite the fact I could only have one or two. It packed more flavor, more complexity and I could see grabbing for a bottle before I grabbed the Old Fezziwig out. 

(7) Lagunitas Censored v. (10) Flying Fish Grand Cru Winter Reserve
Winner: Lagunitas Censored
Comments: I really didn’t like the Flying Fish offering at all. The Lagunitas offering just delivered for me. Easy to pick out the winner on this one.

(2) Southern Tier Pumking v. (15) Bell’s Pale Ale
Winner: Southern Tier Pumking
Comments: After sampling Pumking, it’s easy to see why craft beer drinkers seek this one out year after year. Bell’s Pale just paled in comparison…

East Region
(6) Sierra Nevada Estate Homegrown Wet Hop Ale v. (11) Rogue Yellow Snow IPA
Winner: Sierra Nevada Estate Homegrown Wet Hop Ale
Comments: Although I really enjoyed both beer, the Sierra Nevada won out. It satisfied the hop head in me more. Had the Rogue gone up against a different beer, it may have made it to the second or third round.

(3) Port Mongo IPA v. (14) Weyerbacher Hops Infusion
Winner: Port Mongo IPA
Comments: I loved Mongo IPA and I couldn’t stand Hops Infusion. I mean, I had to search for the hops. Another blowout.

Midwest Region
(1) Avery Out of Bounds Stout v. (16) River Horse Belgian Freeze Belgian Style Winter Ale
Winner: Avery Out of Bounds Stout
Comments: Nothing surprising here. River Horse just came up flat for me on this one and I was floored by the flavors on Out of Bounds.

(8) Avery Samael’s Ale v. (9) 21st Amendment Allies Win The War!
Winner: 21st Amendment Allies Win The War!
Comments: Wow, this one was difficult and not because I really liked both. It’s actually because I thought both were disappointing and I didn’t like either. This is one of the few matchups that I had to pick the lesser of the evils…

(5) Mikkeller Barrel Aged Chipotle Porter v. (12) Samuel Adams Holiday Porter
Winner: Samuel Adams Holiday Porter
Comments: As much as I loved the regular Mikkeller Chipotle Porter, this one completely missed the mark for me. It was actually that month’s biggest disappointment. Samuel Adams Holiday Porter isn’t the best porter I’ve ever had, but I could see throwing a few back without a problem. It upset the Mikkeller offering. 

(4) Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter v. (13) Samuel Adams Black and Brew
Winner: Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter
Comments: This was an easy one. I loved the big and bold flavors of Gonzo, which were the opposite of Black and Brew. Black and Brew was a bit underflavored to me and just didn’t bring as much coffee as I would have liked. 

(6) Left Hand Fade To Black Volume 3 – Pepper Porter v. (11) Sixpoint Diesel
Winner: Left Hand Fade To Black Volume 3 – Pepper Porter
Comments: Another difficult matchup. One beer was supposed to push the flavor envelope and didn’t. The other was just a mediocre stout. I’d have to go with the Left Hand, just based on my affinity for peppers, even though it was just okay.

(3) Green Flash Double Stout v. (14) Samuel Adams The Vixen
Winner: Green Flash Double Stout
Comments: This is a matchup that I wish didn’t happen in the first round. I loved Double Stout and I knew it would easily skate through the first round. But, I liked Vixen. I liked that Samuel Adams was trying different things and I love chili peppers. But, alas, it wouldn’t make it to the second round. 

(7) Fegley’s Brew Works Rude Elf Reserve v. (10) Victory Storm King Stout
Winner: Victory Storm King Stout
Comments: Another upset in the same region. Once I tried Storm King, I fell in love with it. It was everything that a stout should be to me. Rude Elf was decent, but not something I would seek out again. 

(2) Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout (2011) v. (15) Victory Otto Ale
Winner: Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout (2011)
Comments: Another matchup that wasn’t shocking. Brooklyn BCS packed a lot of stouty goodness. Otto was a beer that I was really looking forward to trying from Victory. But, it just fell flat. Brooklyn BCS won by a large margin. 

Now that we’re done with the first round…you can find the updated bracket right here –> Round 2.

March Madness 2012 – First Round Day One

First Round Matchups

South Region

(1) Westmalle Trappist Tripel v. (16) Dos Equis Special Lager
Winner: Westmalle Trappist Tripel
Comments: This was an expected blowout. Dos Equis was just fizzy and wet, and that was the good qualities about it. It just couldn’t stand up to a tasty Belgian brew.

(8) Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel Solstice D’hiver v. (9) Baird Rising Sun Pale Ale
Winner: (8) Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel Solstice D’hiver
Comments: Talk about a close one. Baird came with some complex flavors making for a very unique pale ale. But, they just couldn’t stand up to the dark fruit and spicy hops of Solstice D’hiver.

(5) Fuller’s ESB v. (12) Ridgeway Criminally Bad Elf
Winner: Fuller’s ESB
Comments: I would say that Fuller’s came into the game underranked. It’s probably the best ESB I’ve ever had and had no trouble beating out a less than impressive barleywine that was all too thin and missed the mark. 

(4) Fuller’s Vintage Ale (2009) v. (13) Morland The Tanner’s Jack
Winner: Fuller’s Vintage Ale (2009)
Comments: Another matchup that wasn’t close. Fuller’s just had much more flavor and left me wanting for another sip immediately. 

(6) Samuel Smith’s Yorkshire Stingo v. (11) St. Peter’s Fruit Beer (Grapefruit)
Winner: Samuel Smith’s Yorkshire Stingo
Comments: It’s really not that hard to win against a beer that was a drainpour. Just saying. 

(3) Unibroue Trois Pistoles v. (14) Oxfordshire Marshmellow
Winner:  Unibroue Trois Pistoles
Comments:  Dark fruits and brown sugar beat out this mediocre ESB without a problem. 

West Region

(5) Carton Boat v. (12) Long Trail Hibernator
Winner: Carton Boat
Comments: An easy drinking Jersey brew? That definitely beat out Long Trail’s offering. 

(4) Southern Tier Krampus Imperial Helles Lager v. (13) Bell’s Winter White Ale
Winner: Southern Tier Krampus Imperial Helles Lager
Comments: Another easy decision. Bell’s was an easy drinker, but Southern Tier brought more to the table. 

(6) Bell’s Amber Ale v. (11) Samuel Adams Alpine Spring
Winner: Samuel Adams Alpine Spring
Comments: Although Alpine Spring didn’t wow me, I could drink that one over and over. I couldn’t really see doing that with the Bell’s brew.

(3) Terrapin Reunion Beer 2011 v. (14) Flying Fish ESB Amber Ale
Winner: Terrapin Reunion Beer 2011
Comments: This was another blowout. I loved the Terrapin beer and the Flying Fish offering was just okay. 

East Region

(1) Anchorage Bitter Monk v. (16) Shock Top Wheat IPA
Winner: Anchorage Bitter Monk
Comments: None needed here. Anchorage by a mile. 

(8) Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye v. (9) Saranac White IPA
Winner: Saranac White IPA
Comments: This was the closest matchup of the night. Although I enjoyed both beers, Saranac impressed me a hair more.

(5) Kane Head High v. (12) Tommyknocker Hop Strike Black IPA
Winner: Kane Head High
Comments: Tommyknocker lost this one more than Kane won it. Tommyknocker missed the mark on this brew for me and I really enjoyed the Head High.

(4) Founders Centennial IPA v. (13) Boulder Mojo Risin’ Double IPA
Winner: Founders Centennial IPA
Comments: I really did not like the Boulder Mojo Risin’ Double IPA, so almost anything I put against this would win. Luckily, it was a brew that I really enjoyed.

(7) Sixpoint Spice of Life – Warrior v. (10) Magic Hat Encore
Winner: Magic Hat Encore
Comments:  Although Magic Hat Encore wasn’t an amazing beer by any standard, it came from behind to knock out Sixpoint’s offering.

(2) Stone 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA v. (15) Mikkeller Willamette Single Hop IPA
Winner: Stone 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA
Comments: Stone 15th made me have new respect for the style. This brew won by a large margin. 

March Madness 2012

March Madness is upon us, so here at the blog, I’m actually doing something to “celebrate” it. Like many other blogs and websites, I’ve decided to do a beer bracket for March Madness. But, I decided to do it a little differently. Here’s the methodology:

I took all the beers that I’ve reviewed from the first day of the season (November 15th) until March 6th. I listed the beers out and divided them into “regions.” The “South” region is International Beers, The “Midwest” region is Dark and/or Strong Beers (Stouts, Porters, Barleywines, Strong Ales), The “East” region is Hoppy Beers (IPAs and Double IPAs), and the “West” Region is whatever I couldn’t fit into the previous three regions. Some beers could go into multiple regions, but to make it even, I put them into regions that I thought would fit best. After dividing the beers into regions, I took their Beer Advocate scores and gave them their rank based on that. Some beers were tied, so it went to whichever was higher based on the MS Excel sorting. There were also a few categories that had more than 16 beers, so the lowest scores didn’t make the tournament. So, here are the regions and the corresponding rankings:

South – International Beers

  1. Westmalle Trappist Tripel
  2. Fuller’s London Porter
  3. Unibroue Trois Pistoles
  4. Fuller’s Vintage Ale (2009)
  5. Fuller’s ESB
  6. Samuel Smith’s Yorkshire Stingo
  7. Fuller’s London Pride
  8. Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel Solstice D’hiver
  9. Baird Rising Sun Pale Ale
  10. Wychwood Hobgoblin
  11. St. Peter’s Fruit Beer (Grapefruit)
  12. Ridgeway Criminally Bad Elf
  13. Morland The Tanner’s Jack
  14. Oxfordshire Marshmellow
  15. Molson Golden
  16. Dos Equis Special Lager

Midwest – Dark and/or Strong Beers

  1. Avery Out of Bounds Stout
  2. Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout (2011)
  3. Green Flash Double Stout
  4. Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter
  5. Mikkeller Barrel Aged Chipotle Porter
  6. Left Hand Fade to Black Volume 3 – Pepper Porter
  7. Fegley’s Brew Works Rude Elf’s Reserve
  8. Avery Samael’s Ale
  9. 21st Amendment Allies Win The War!
  10. Victory Storm King Stout
  11. Sixpoint Diesel
  12. Samuel Adams Holiday Porter
  13. Samuel Adams Black and Brew
  14. Samuel Adams The Vixen
  15. Victory Otto Ale
  16. River Horse Belgian Freeze Belgian Style Winter Ale

East – Hoppy Beers

  1. Anchorage Bitter Monk
  2. Stone 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA
  3. Port Mongo IPA
  4. Founders Centennial IPA
  5. Kane Head High
  6. Sierra Nevada Estate Homegrown Wet Hop Ale
  7. Sixpoint Spice of Life – Warrior
  8. Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye IPA
  9. Saranac White IPA
  10. Magic Hat Encore
  11. Rogue Yellow Snow IPA
  12. Tommyknocker Hop Strike Black IPA
  13. Boulder Mojo Risin’ Double IPA
  14. Weyerbacher Hops Infusion
  15. Mikkeller Willamette Single Hop IPA
  16. Michelob Shock Top Wheat IPA

West – Random Beers

  1. Founders Red’s Rye PA
  2. Southern Tier Pumking
  3. Terrapin Reunion Beer 2011
  4. Southern Tier Krampus (Imperial Helles Lager)
  5. Carton Boat
  6. Bell’s Amber Ale
  7. Lagunitas Censored
  8. Samuel Adams Old Fezziwig Ale
  9. Schlafly Christmas Ale
  10. Flying Fish Grand Cru Winter Reserve
  11. Samuel Adams Alpine Spring
  12. Long Trail Hibernator
  13. Bell’s Winter White Ale
  14. Flying Fish ESB Amber Ale
  15. Bell’s Pale Ale
  16. Beach Haus Classic American Pilsner

Throughout the tourney, I’ll be going through the matchups and explaining why I picked which beer until we get to the National Champion. Feel free to take a look at the reviews regarding each beer. I’ll also be breaking up the matchups like the NCAA, with different first round matchups on different days (March 15 & 16th).

One final note regarding the bracket that you can find here and see the first round matchups…due to space constraints, I had to abbreviate some names of the beers. Let the March Madness begin!

Best Brews February 2012

I had a lot of brews this February, but here’s the cream of the crop:

1. Port Mongo IPA

A hop head’s dream! Get this now!

2. Anchorage Bitter Monk

A Belgian IPA with brett…so yummy.

3. The Lost Abbey Deliverance

A big brew with big flavor.

4. Fuller’s ESB

A great example of a style that I don’t have much experience with.

5. Founders Red’s Rye PA

A beer that truly showcases rye.

Honorable Mention: Samuel Smith’s Yorkshire Stingo

Biggest Disappointment: BFM Spike & Jerome’s Cuvee Delirante Collaboration Ale

I usually love anything Terrapin has a hand in, but this was just awful. Total drainpour.

Best Brews January 2012

January was a great month for beer. I had a really rough time choosing the best of the best, but here they are:

1. Stone 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA

Before this beer, I found black IPAs to be alright, but nothing outstanding. This beer is exactly what a black IPA should be.

2. Avery Out of Bounds Stout

Coffee, roasted malts, stouty goodness.

3. Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout (2011)

Lots of silky, bittersweet chocolate with hidden booze.

4. Terrapin Reunion Beer 2011

Chocolate and chili? Perfectly drinkable combination.

5. Westmalle Tripel

A solid Belgian.

Honorable Mention: Kane Head High, Founders Centennial IPA

And as a new feature for 2012, I’m going to also list the biggest disappointment beer of the month. For January this was Mikkeller Barrel Aged Chipotle Porter. The regular version I had was amazing and I had high hopes for the barrel aged version. Unfortunately, the barrel aging just overwhelmed the chilis.

Best Brews December 2011

What a month! I didn’t sample as many beers as I would have liked, but here was the best of the month:

1. Victory Storm King Stout

Another impressive offering from Victory.

2. Green Flash Double Stout

A silky stout with a lot of coffee. Delish!

3. Southern Tier Pumking

How did it take me so long to have this beer? Definitely going to be a new addition to my holiday beer lineup.

4. Sierra Nevada Estate Homegrown Wet Hop Ale

Lots of grapefruit came through in this easy drinking brew.

5. Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter

A wonderful porter with a dangerously high ABV to go along with it.