Beer Madness 2015 final round: Your chance to pick best brew in America

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Earlier: Beer Madness finals

The final round of Beer Madness 2015 is an all-Missouri affair between Schlafly Kolsch and Boulevard Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale.

The Schlafly is a clean, crisp and fruity beer, and the winner of the 2010 World Beer Cup; it’s perfect for spring and summer sipping. The Farmhouse Ale, meanwhile, is a beefy 8.5 percent ABV, a “saison on steroids.”

Final Four

We’ve reached the Beer Madness semifinals, with Schlafly Kolsch and Founders Porter competing on one side of the bracket, and Green Flash West Coast IPA and Boulevard Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale on the other.

[RECAP: How the Beer Madness panel sees the Final Four]

Round of 8

With only eight beers remaining in Beer Madness, things are starting to get serious. Make your picks now, then read on for analysis about how we got here, and how the public’s bracket differs from that of our blind-tasting panel.

Before the Sweet 16, I had an inkling that our blind-tasting panel’s opinions of beers and the public’s opinions of beers were very different.

Now that we’re at the Elite 8, we can see just how far apart they are. Only three beers made it this far in both lists: Founders Porter, DC Brau’s On the Wings of Armageddon and Boulevard Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale.

[RECAP: How the panelists picked the Round of 16]

Panelists have consistently voted Terrapin’s Wake-N-Bake Coffee Stout through the bracket; the public dumped it out in the first round. Readers love Schlafly Kolsch, which beat hometown favorite Bluejacket Forbidden Planet to qualify for the last eight; the panelists didn’t move the St. Louis ale past round one.

Only one of the voting public’s matchups in the Sweet 16 mirrored the choices presented to the judges in the same round. Not surprisingly, they disagreed on the outcome. In a faceoff between Deschutes Fresh Squeezed and Green Flash West Coast IPA in the Hops region, readers chose Green Flash 465-395, while the judges went with Deschutes 5-3.

Round of 16

It’s time to make your picks for the second round of Beer Madness 2015.

Surprise: Through the first 16 matchups, the voting public and our blind-tasting panel only agree about half the time.

In both the Crisp and the Malt category, the public only selected two of the four Sweet 16s chosen by our panel. The differences were even more stark in the Fruit and Spice quadrant, where the public and the judging panel both overwhelming preferred Boulevard Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale, and then failed to agree on the outcome of a single other matchup.

[See how the Beer Madness panelists picked the first round]

The corner of the bracket where judges and the public seemed to be on the same wavelength was the Hops category, where both groups agreed that DC Brau On the Wings of Armageddon, Deschutes Fresh Squeezed and Green Flash West Coast IPA deserved to go through to the next round.

Not even beers that were near-unanimous picks by the panel were safe in the public ballot. While Abita Wrought Iron IPA, Stillwater Cellar Door and Spencer Trappist Ale did well in the blind tasting, they didn’t get past round one of the public vote. Familiarity is key: Spencer’s distribution is primarily limited to New England and the Mid-Atlantic, while Cellar Door isn’t usually found outside of craft beer bars and beer-centric liquor stores. Their opponents, Goose Island Sofie and Ommegang Witte, are much better known.

Local beers fared worse with the public than with the panel: The blind judges preferred six out of the eight locals, while the public favored four, disagreeing with the judges over the merits of Stillwater Cellar Door and Dogfish Head Piercing Pils.

Public voting for the Round of 16 will remain open through Wednesday. The Round of 8 begins Thursday.

Round of 32

It’s time for the Madness to begin.

The 2015 edition of Beer Madness features 32 beers from across America, arranged in a traditional bracket for four style categories: Crisp, Hops, Malt, and Fruit and Spice.

[How the 2015 Beer Madness field was picked | Meet the judges]  

As always, we assembled a panel of experts to conduct a blind taste test to crown their champion, but here’s your chance to determine the people’s champion for the 2015 Beer Madness tournament.

[A glossary of Beer Madness terms]

The first round of voting is open now; voting will be open through Sunday, so check back on March 16 for the start of the Sweet 16. We’ll also reveal our judging panel’s blind choices at the same time, so everyone can compare those results.

Fritz Hahn has covered bars, drinks and nightlife for the Washington Post Weekend Section since 2003, but he also writes about everything from Civil War battlefields to sailing classes. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram.
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