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Beer Madness, Round 2: Tropical fruit and fresh laundry

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Round 2 of this year’s Beer Madness competition produced two 5-4 squeakers and one 8-1 blowout, as palates and memories began playing tricks on the tasting panel.

The delicate Fordham Helles Lager defeated the darker Eliot Ness Amber by a hair’s breadth, 5-4. Reader/judge Samantha Polinik pronounced the Helles “fresh and springish,” while reader/judge Jim Munsterman praised its “pleasant snap to flavor.” Even Komi sommelier Kathryn Bangs, who panned this beer in Round 1, lauded its “great finish” and “great texture.”

The hoppy Prima Pils lost to Sword Swallower, 7-2. Our tasters found the latter more complex, picking up notes of butterscotch, tropical fruit, apple, cardamom and even — according to mixologist Gina Chersevani — “light blue cheese.” Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) voted for this strong lager (7.2 percent by volume) but added that it “didn’t seem to be in the same category” as the pils.

“I remember this one — still getting a lovely subtle smokiness balanced with sweet melon,” wrote reader/judge Halley Fehner of DreamWeaver Wheat, the first entry in the Fruit & Spice category. (Actually, she had ascribed smokiness to Optimal Wit in the previous round.) “This is the true champagne of beers,” gushed Bangs, although she wound up voting for its opponent, Saison Rue, as did our panel, 7-2.

Defending champion Flying Fish Exit 4, with its fruity and honeysuckle flavors, handily beat Siamese Twin, 6-3, although Palena pastry chef Agnes Chin thought Exit 4 smelled like “fresh laundry” and gave it a thumbs down.

In the Hop slot, Polinik liked the Public because she could drink a few without getting “hopped out,” while Bangs picked the District’s hometown brew for the opposite reason: “Whoa — high intensity. Seems like an imperial style.” It bested Belgo, 7-2.

Chersevani detected notes of “wet socks, light vinegar, apple cider” in Burton Baton but voted for it anyway. Bangs complained that the woody, whiskeyish double IPA was “too rich for my blood,” but it still beat Red’s Rye, 5-4.

“I can’t believe my favorite beer from last week didn’t make it!” groused Bangs after judging the Roast category.

Alas, memory is fickle. Her choice from Round 1, Maui Coconut Porter, was back again, and once more it thumped the competition (Allagash Black this time), 8-1. “If this was a wine, it would be a dark, rustic Chateauneuf-du-Pape,” wrote the sommelier. Finally, Sublimely Self-Righteous retired Sierra Nevada Stout, 7-2.

Next week: Will the Coconut Porter juggernaut roll onward as we choose a Final Four?

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