March Madness betting pools are more common than allergies in spring. But this year, you have more than one chance to hand over your money to the office geek who studies the competition like a Las Vegas bookie. This March, you can also place bets on the Food section’s Beer Madness contest.
For the first time in the contest’s history Beer Madness has expanded to 64 breweries, thanks to the urging of Greg Engert, beer director of the Neighborhood Restaurant Group, which also includes Birch & Barley/ChurchKey. Engert pushed for, and then selected, all 64 competitors for this year’s Beer Madness, making sure that no single brewery had more than one bottle in the contest.
What’s more, Engert also dropped the mega-production breweries in favor of craft brewers only. He even organized the bottles and drafts into four unique categories -- hops, roast, malt and “fruit and spice” -- working to match similar beers in the first round so that some blabber-mouthed coffee-infused stout wouldn’t compete with a quiet little pilsner. By contrast, the first Beer Madness, just four years ago in 2007, boasted 32 competitors, included PBR, Rolling Rock, Coors Original and Budweiser.
Not that we endorse illegal gambling. No sir. This is just for, ahem, “fun.”
By the way, the official Beer Madness panel will deliver the final results on April 13, which means you have lots of time to sample all the bottles and draw your own conclusions. Good luck and good drinking.