We have our Final Four. We’re one step closer to choosing the best craft beer in the nation.
Unlike the previous round of Beer Madness, Round 4 featured no squeakers. All four category finalists won decisively.
“This is milder, less flavor, not as complex,” Duff Gillespie wrote of Long Trail’s Double Bag. “That being said, I could drink a gallon of this stuff.” He cast his vote based on drinkability. But the majority of our panelists preferred the sweeter, fruitier and much more potent DuClaw Misery (11 percent alcohol by volume compared with Double Bag’s 7.2 percent).
Malt winner: DuClaw Misery, 7-2.
“This isn’t a beer, it’s a Japanese soft drink,” scribbled sommelier Kathryn Bangs about Flying Fish Exit 4. “Yuzu overload.” Her fellow panelists detected hints of grapefruit and pineapple. “I like how the hoppiness balances with the sweetness well,” added Justin Garcia.
Goose Island’s Pere Jacques also drew some raves for its big malt backbone and more subdued fruitiness. Among its backers was Gillespie, who grumped of the Exit 4, “If this makes it through this round, I will kill myself.” Nonetheless, he was still in excellent health after the tasting.
Fruit/spice winner: Flying Fish Exit 4, 7-2.
“It’s beers like this that got me to start drinking coffee at the age of 59,” wrote Bob Tupper about Evolution Brewing Company’s coffee-forward Rise Up Stout.
“Such amazing flavor — never gets old,” agreed Christina Hoffman. “I think both of these should make it to the finals,” wrote Gillespie about the Rise Up and its opponent, the roasty Edmund Fitzgerald Porter from Cleveland’s Great Lakes Brewing. But he gave Rise Up the nod for having “more layers.”
Roast winner: Rise Up Stout, 7-2.
Our two hoppy beers elicited detailed evaluations from Tupper, who described the aroma of Flying Dog Raging Bitch Belgian IPA as “big citrusy, leafy and floral” and likened the flavor to that of “candied hops.” But he preferred the Lagunitas Maximus, a double IPA, citing “mellow clean malt and nicely blended hops . . . pint-able.”
Hoffman opted for the Raging Bitch, which she felt was “hoppy yet light, great nose and not overwhelming.” Confessed hophead Hiromi Kowaguchi had listed Raging Bitch on her panelist application as one of her favorite beers but picked the Lagunitas Maximus for its “larger finish.”
Hops winner: Lagunitas Maximus, 6-3.
Next week: It’s beer armageddon, as four worthy contenders duke it out. Only two will remain standing for the final battle to determine craft beer supremacy.