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Beer Madness Round 2: The Elite 8

It’s unanimous: We can’t agree on anything.

None of the matchups in Round 2 of Beer Madness, our quest to find the region’s best brew, produced anything near a landslide; four contests were decided by razor-thin 5-4 margins, and four elicited 6-3 results.

In the Crisp category, Stillwater Classique barely survived, besting Dominion Lager 5-4. Reader panelist Lauren Smith recognized the Classique from the previous round: “I still love the smell of this beer,” she wrote, though mistaking it for a German-style hefeweizen (“light and wheaty, with a  banana-like undertone”). Reader panelist Bruce Johnson was the biggest backer of the Dominion Lager, scribbling, “wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, free spirit.” (Dirty little secret: He’d voted against it last time around.)

Smith also picked the winner in the other Crisp faceoff, choosing Bluejacket’s Forbidden Planet kolsch, a 6-3 victor over Lost Rhino Zlaty Czech Pilsner. “Very herbaceous with lemon grass,” she praised. Baker Erica Skolnik, one of our expert panelists, described the kolsch as “grassy, grapefruit, crisp.”

In the Malt category, Devils Backbone Vienna Lager, which won a 9-0 decision over Chocolate City’s Cornerstone Copper Ale last time around, faced a more formidable opponent in Atlas District Common. The Vienna barely escaped elimination by a 5-4 vote. Expert panelist U.S. Rep. Peter A. DeFazio (D-Ore.) cast his vote for the Vienna, terming it the “more complex” of the two similar, amber, malt-accented lagers.  But in the spirit of bipartisanship, he praised the District Common as “versatile for food and watching ball on TV.”

Cast a vote for your favorite each week through April 23rd.

Meanwhile, AleWerks Tavern Ale defeated the darker, roastier Evolution Lucky 7 Porter, 6-3. Skolnik termed the Tavern Ale an “obvious winner,” lauding its “smooth espresso” flavor. Pizzeria Paradiso owner Ruth Gresser begged to differ, concluding that “this one is a tossup” and choosing the porter. “Love it. Again,” reader panelist Bryan Berghoef wrote of the Tavern Ale. However, he’d cast his vote against that beer in Round One, loving the Burley Oaks ’Merica even more.

Smith Commons Public House managing partner Miles Gray III, who delighted us with his colorful comments in Round 1, offered uncharacteristically sparse descriptions in Round 2. However, the Fruit & Spice category seemed to reinvigorate him. “Great nose. I would call this beer ‘Vermont farmhand,’ ” he wrote of Victory Swing Session Saison, a 5-4 victor over Hardywood Singel.

Of Starr Hill’s The Love, Gray commented, “This beer deserves to go on. God speed, sir. God speed.” Yet he cast his vote for Franklin’s Golden Opportunity, a 6-3 winner. Smith viewed that same pairing as a fruit salad. “Yay banana!” she wrote of The Love. “Apple yumminess! This is probably my favorite of all the fruit and spice beers!” was her verdict on Golden Opportunity.

In the Hop category, hometown brew DC Brau’s The Public narrowly fell to Monocacy Riot Rye in a 5-4 decision. Smith found the Riot Rye (her preference) to be “a very balanced beer that would be perfect for drinking at March Madness.” She cautioned of The Public, “This one leaves my mouth dry, which makes me want to take another sip . . . might get one drunk fast!” Reader panelist Echo Rummel, however, was part of the sizable minority favoring the more aggressively hopped Public. “I probably like hops more than the average person,” she disclosed.

Finally, Tröegs Perpetual IPA drubbed Mad Fox Orange Whip IPA, 6-3. “The hops hold throughout. Nice late flavor,” Berghoef wrote of the Tröegs. He found the Orange Whip “subdued” by comparison — “decent but not quite.”

The regional breakdown: The First State became the first state to exit the competition, as Delaware’s lone entry, Dominion Lager, failed to make the grade. (“It had a good run,” commiserated Berghoef.) The District hung on by virtue of the Bluejacket Forbidden Planet. Both of the Pennsylvania brews advanced, and three of four Maryland entries survived to compete again. Last week’s big winner, Virginia, was the big loser, as four of its six beers were knocked out.

Fortunes change quickly in Beer Madness.

Kitsock is editor of Mid-Atlantic Brewing News. He will join today’s Free Range chat at noon at



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