Beer Madness: Round 4, down to David and Goliath

The Washington Post’s annual Beer Madness focused on selections from local craft breweries in the annual tournament pitting 32 beers against each other in a bracket-style tournament. (Zoeann Murphy/The Washington Post)
April 16, 2013

When the dust cleared and the fallen were dragged from the field of battle, two beers remained.

Interestingly, one of them represented the Crisp category.

Crisp beers by definition are well balanced, moderate in alcohol and formulated to refresh rather than bowl you over. These beers are great by the pint or pitcher, a welcome addition to picnics and touch football games. But serious beer tastings, the kind that involve three-ounce sampler glasses and a lot of swishing and swirling, tend to favor the bigger and bolder brews.

Nevertheless, Legend Pilsner edged out the intensely herbaceous Stillwater Cellar Door, 5-4.

Pilseners tend to be simple, straightforward beers. But our panelists found an unusual amount of complexity in Legend’s version. “Honeyed, spices, orange blossom, rich flavor, caramel,” commented Carolyn Stromberg, even though she gave the nod to the “super bubbly and effervescent” Cellar Door. Range chef de cuisine Matt Hill picked up a waft of “banana” and “well-balanced fruit” in the Pilsener, while Scott Schenkelberg claimed to detect a “Belgian yeast smell” in the nose.

“I’d drink this any day!” enthused Jeanne Segal about the sage-scented Cellar Door. Yet she opted for Legend Pilsner, which she pronounced “more versatile for pairing with food.”

In a face-off involving the alpha and omega of beers, the piquant, amber Flying Dog Double Dog Double Pale Ale decisively bested the ebony-hued, roasty Dominion Oak Barrel Stout, 7-2.

Stromberg noted “candied grapefruit zest” in Double Dog, while Hill detected “pears, white pepper.” Joe Wallace compared this double IPA to HopSlam from Bell’s Brewery in Galesburg, Mich. — high praise indeed, as HopSlam, a cult favorite, sells out every spring even at prices reaching $25 per six-pack.

Gina Chersevani and Doris Dixon (“always go with the malt roast!”) cast the votes for the Oak Barrel Stout.

This match-up created cognitive dissonance among the hop heads. Schenkelberg pronounced Oak Barrel a “great dessert beer,” underscoring “great.” Segal went with Double Dog (of course, she is the daughter of a hop farmer), but termed her vote the “Sophie’s choice” of decisions. U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) wrote, “If I could, I would send 3 and 4 [the Double Dog and the Oak Barrel] to the playoff.”

With Delaware’s last entry eliminated, it boils down to Virginia vs. Maryland for local bragging rights. Will Legend’s David be able to slay Flying Dog’s Goliath?

The bracket: To vote for your favorite remaining beers and to see how the panelists’ votes compare to readers’, go to www.washingtonpost.com/beer-madness.

Next week: Winner takes all.

Kitsock is editor of Mid-Atlantic Brewing News.

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