Here are the 32 American craft beers featured in this year’s Beer Madness competition, separated into four flavor brackets and listed alphabetically. They are all available year-round in the Washington area, in either bottles or cans.
Last year’s Malt category has been replaced with Crisp, to level the playing field a bit for (pale) lagers and lower ABV (alcohol by volume) brews.
Fordham Helles Lager
Fordham Brewing Co., Dover, Del.
This golden, malt-accented lager is patterned after the everyday brews that lederhosen-clad Bavarians quaff out of their liter steins.
Bell’s Lager Beer
Noted for its cult favorite Hopslam and its panoply of stouts, Bell’s Brewery also offers this well-balanced pale lager mellowed by a six-week maturation in the tanks.
Eliot Ness Amber Lager
The lawman of Untouchables fame served for seven years as Cleveland’s safety director; hence the brewery honored him with this ruddy amber lager in the Vienna style.
Festie Amber Lager
Originally brewed for the Oktoberfest season, this malty, slightly grainy Marzen-style lager has been promoted to a year-around brew and now comes in cans.
Back by invitation for a second crack at the title, this unusually hoppy and complex Pilsener derives its bite from German and Czech whole-flower hops.
Joe’s Premium American Pilsner
That’s brewery owner Adam Avery’s grandfather on the label of this well-hopped pale Pilsener, which is packaged in cans only.
Small Craft Warning Uber Pils
Hoppy and strong (about 7 percent alcohol by volume), this pungent pils from Clipper City’s Pyrate Fleet series returns for another engagement.
Coney Island Sword Swallower
The company is best known for its He’Brew the Chosen Beer label, but it also markets a Coney Island series of offbeat lagers, including this IPA-influenced Pilsener.
Port City’s first-ever offering was this traditional Belgian-style wheat beer, made with unmalted wheat and oats and spiced with coriander, orange peel and grains of paradise.
DreamWeaver Wheat Beer
Now ensconced in a new state-of-the-art brewery in Hershey, Troegs continues to offer this unfiltered, German-style wheat beer, with characteristic banana and clove notes.
After touring Belgium for “hands-on inspiration,” the Green Flash brew crew came up with this refreshing pale ale bottle-conditioned with the wild yeast Brettanomyces.
Brewer Patrick Rue’s take on a rustic Franco-Belgian farmhouse ale incorporates rye for an extra spicy character and a wild yeast to add “notes of leather and earth” over time.
Last year’s Beer Madness champion is an Americanized version of a Belgian tripel (a strong golden ale), melding citrusy American hops with a clove-like spiciness. Will it become the first repeat winner?
Brooklyn Sorachi Ace
Another Belgian-style farmhouse ale, Sorachi Ace takes its name from a Japanese-bred hybrid hop variety noted for its distinctive lemony flavor.
This blend of a Belgian-style quadrupel and the fruit ale Liefmans Kriek combines notes of chocolate and cherry. At 9.8 percent alcohol, it’s among our strongest contenders.
Belgian brewing takes a detour through Southeast Asia with this category-bending brew, a Belgian-style dubbel spiced with lemon grass and kaffir lime.
This assertively hopped, copper-colored ale was the first beer to be brewed and canned in the District since the Christian Heurich brewery folded its tent back in 1956.
New River Pale Ale
Three additions of hops in the brew kettle and a dry-hopping in the fermenter lend a citrusy/piney aroma to this pale ale, originally brewed a few miles away at the defunct Old Dominion brewery.
Wildeman Farmhouse IPA
This IPA/saison hybrid was originally brewed to mark the 25th anniversary of In de Wildeman, an Amsterdam beer bar. It won so many plaudits that the brewery has promoted it to year-round offering.
Belgo Belgian Style India Pale Ale
Four varieties of American hops liven up this cross-cultural beer, which is fermented with a Trappist yeast strain.
Red’s Rye PA
“An unyielding grapefruit bouquet” (so states the brewery Web site) and a firm caramel malt backdrop are the hallmarks of this russet-hued multigrain brew, made with malted barley and rye.
The brewer of this resiny rye PA, with a spicy pumpernickel finish, takes its name from the six-pointed star that was once a symbol of alchemists and beermakers.
The brewery warns that this West Coast India pale ale, on the cusp of being a double IPA, may remove the enamel from your teeth. Will the second time be the charm for the 2011 Beer Madness runner-up?
Immensely hoppy and strong (10 percent alcohol by volume), Burton Baton is a blend of an imperial IPA and English-style old ale that spends a month mellowing on oak before its release.
The brewery, which is packing up to move across the state border to Salisbury, Md., recommends pairing this robust porter with smoked barbecue or a chocolate dessert.
Maui Coconut Porter
The brewery adds chunks of toasted coconut post-fermentation to this full-bodied porter, which is freighted 4,800 miles from the islands to your local cooler.
This Belgian-style stout incorporates a special variety of dark candy sugar to smooth over the rough edges from the highly roasted malts.
Existent American Farmhouse Ale
Stillwater Artisanal Ales, Baltimore; brewed at DOG Brewing Co., Westminster, Md.
German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, gazing into the abyss, graces the label of this dark saison, a melange of chocolaty and earthy flavors.
Sierra Nevada Stout
The brewery gained its reputation from its pale ale but it has been producing this roasty, Cascade hop-accented stout almost from its beginning.
Schlafly Oatmeal Stout
Made with flaked oatmeal and English hops, this beer is a tribute to British stouts of the 19th century that were marketed for their nutritional value. Breakfast in a bottle, anyone?
Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale
The brewery refers to it as “liquid dichotomy,” alluding to the ebony color, caramel and coffee flavors, and a big Pacific Northwest hop flavor usually associated with paler ales.
This hoppy American black ale is made with roasted barley that’s been de-husked to add color and flavor while minimizing astringency.