Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | March 18, 2010

Washington Post’s Beer Madness

The Washington Post has launched a March Madness tournament style beer competition, wherein a small group of judges picked from 32 bottled beers in four categories to see which was the best of them all.The categories are Lagers, Dark Beers, Pale Ales and Freestyle (though the word Pale in the Pale Ale category was clearly not influential).

In consultation with Brickskeller owner Dave Alexander, we picked 32 beers (all bottled) from 22 nations on six continents. (All right, England and Scotland are part of a single entity called the United Kingdom, but they have very different brewing traditions, so we didn’t let questions of sovereignty deter us.) We wanted strong contenders, but nothing too obscure; that would defeat the purpose of narrowing the field to that most spectacular beer anybody could — and should — quaff.

The bracket is viewable here.

I have to say that while the selection has some cool imports and four solid American microbrews (one in each category), the desire for a really international competition substantially watered down the pool, especially but not exclusively in the lager category. That one includes Stella Artois, Tsingtao, Singha, Dos Equis Amber, Pilsner Urquell and Heineken. Other prominent global brands include Guinness, Fuller’s ESB, Smithwick’s, and Chimay Red. Look a lot of these are beers that I like quite a bit (Guinness, Smithwick’s & Chimay). But frankly, if the beer has ads on TV, that should almost immediately disqualify it for consideration. Do American microbrews really need to be paired against beers that spend more in annual ad budgeting than these breweries do in production? Why not spend more time identifying interesting picks or international microbrews instead? I mean, Heineken, but not a single entry by Dogfish Head? It’s pretty crazy. Moreover, even some of the good international beers could be represented by less famous big breweries.

Of course, griping about the bracketology is just the beginning. If I see Heineken or Tsingtao in the finals against Hitachino Nest White Ale and Hitachino Nest doesn’t win…wow.

More than anything else, it’s clear that even in the Brickskellar, there are people who aren’t going to explore and find new, creative, lesser-known beers, many of which are still widely available.

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