Beer Madness, Round 5: It’s down to two

April 12, 2011

A wheat wine from DuClaw Brewing in Abingdon, Md. An Americanized version of a Belgian tripel from Flying Fish Brewing in Cherry Hill, N.J. A coffee stout from Evolution Craft Brewing in Delmar, Del. A double IPA from Lagunitas Brewing in Petaluma, Calif.

None of those breweries existed 20 years ago; neither did any of those styles. And now they were competing for supreme bragging rights in The Post’s super-size version of Beer Madness, with our panel of tasters having ousted 60 competing beers in four previous rounds, all held at Birch & Barley/ChurchKey in Logan Circle.

First, the Fruit/Spice category trumped Malt, as Flying Fish Exit 4 American Trippel made short work, 7-2, of DuClaw Misery (the strongest of the Final Four, at 11.2 percent alcohol by volume). Our panel praised Exit 4 for its fruit-cocktail melange of flavors, for its hop character, for its brisk carbonation. “Hits a different flavor on each part of the tongue,” wrote Christina Hoffman. “Floral, fruity, tangy, crisp” was the assessment of Restaurant 3 executive chef Brian Robinson.

Two rounds earlier, Duff Gillespie had vowed that if Exit 4 advanced any further, he’d kill himself. This time he selected south Jersey’s take on a traditional abbey style: “My favorite Belgian didn’t make the cut, but B [Exit 4] is quite nice.”

Beer got your tongue? Our normally loquacious sommelier Kathryn Bangs of Komi quietly cast her vote for Exit 4, signing off with the comment, “You have enough notes by now . . . right?”

Hiromi Kowaguchi was the most vocal supporter of DuClaw Misery, writing, “Beautiful aroma, flavor. Not too malty, but great depth of flavor.”

The second contest on our card produced a sharply split decision, as our Hops champion, Lagunitas Maximus, edged out Evolution Rise Up Stout (winner in the Roast category) by a razor-thin 5-4 margin. We were getting into apples-vs.-oranges territory here. Bob Tupper, of Tuppers’ Hop Pocket Ale renown, summed up the dilemma: “How can you choose between this nice IPA, well brewed, with well-blended flavors, or the big coffee jolt?” He picked the Lagunitas “because this beer is so much harder to brew than the coffee.”

“Both are good for their category,” noted Whitney Meagher. But she gave the nod to the Lagunitas because it was “a little more versatile, something you could also have with a meal.” That was the first time in this year’s contest that food-friendliness determined the outcome of a matchup.

Next week: East Coast takes on West Coast for the Beer Madness crown.

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