Beer Madness is The Washington Post’s annual bracket to pick the best brews in America. There’s a public voting bracket and results from a blind-tasting panel, which are described below.
And then Avery’s hard-to-pronounce marvel came up against Maine Beer Company Another One, a bright, fresh, citrusy IPA. Another One wasn’t as flashy as some in the competition, such as Jester King’s Black Metal Imperial Stout or Epic Brewing’s Big Bad Baptist, but it had steadily made its way through the bracket, consistently beating better-known breweries, including Allagash and Brooklyn, by a vote or two.
In a close fight, you go with the brawler. And in a very tight decision, the Beer Madness blind-tasting panel of readers and experts voted 4-3 for Another One.
“As much as I’d love for a sour beer to win, I think [Another One] is the more well-structured beer,” explained Jack Rose Dining Saloon whiskey manager Brittney Roberson. “It stands up better over time and has a cleaner finish. This beer, quality-wise, is top-notch. I think you can taste the softness/clarity of the water.”
Reader panelist Debra Crerie went with Another One, based on its versatility: “This is eminently drinkable with anything or nothing,” she assessed, pointing to “bright hops with pineapple and pine.” Mid-Atlantic Brewing News editor Greg Kitsock tipped his hat to the competition: “Congratulations to [Avery] for lasting until the end, but I’ll cast my vote for the hoppy, citrusy IPA that’s gotten a little better with each round.”
But not everyone found merit in the IPA: “I have one job to do tonight, and that’s to vote against this beer,” wrote reader panelist Shelley Cazares, who penned a love note to Liliko’i Kepolo: “I gotta hand it to you, little guy. You’re tart and fresh but strong.”
Neighborhood Restaurant Group beer director Tim Liu, who had predicted Another One’s victory in his comments over several previous rounds, found himself “surprised to vote against it.” Instead, he picked the Avery, asking, “What do judges get for participating? Hopefully a six-pack of this beer.”
Reached by phone, Maine Beer Co. brewer and co-founder Daniel Kleban said the 2016 Beer Madness champion came about as the result of an experiment. “One of the brewers was developing a recipe for a black IPA that came to be known as Weez,” he explained.
Kleban decided to use similar hops and yeast, but swap out the dark malt for a lighter mixture, including red wheat malt and Carapils malt, to create a beer with a bright golden color. “I thought it would be cool to show consumers what kind of impact a malt has on beer,” he said. “Really, it was just an educational thing, so people could taste them side by side.”
Launched in June 2013 alongside Weez, this science project quickly became a staple of Maine Beer Co.’s year-round lineup. “Another One isn’t our best-known beer, but it gets some of the highest praise of any of the beers we make,” Kleban says. Maine’s beers, including Peeper and Mo, are becoming easier to find and more popular in Washington, which Kleban says is a bit of a surprise.
“You’re around for a certain period of time and you generate some buzz among the craft beer geek crowd, but then you flip a switch and your beer starts showing up at locations outside craft beer bars,” he says. “It brings in a whole new demographic of people who are open to trying new things.”
Now that Another One is the Beer Madness champion, we expect many more people will be open to trying it. In the Washington D.C. area, Another One can be found on tap at Smoke and Barrel, Lost Dog Cafe and Barrel, and at liquor stores, including Schneider’s of Capitol Hill and Sherry’s.
Beer Madness Final Four recap: Maine and Colorado will face off for the title
We’re down to the Beer Madness Final Four. The champions of our geographic regions are Maine Beer Company’s Another One IPA, representing the Northeast; the Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery’s Milk Stout from North Carolina, representing the South; Jester King’s Black Metal Imperial Stout from Texas to represent the Midwest; and Avery’s Liliko’i Kepolo from Boulder, Colorado, to represent the West.
The Beer Madness semifinals pair the Northeast and South on one side of the bracket, and the Midwest and West on the other. In an interesting quirk, each matchup pairs one light beer against one dark beer.
Northeast vs. South
Coming into this bout, Duck-Rabbit’s Milk Stout was the master of close calls: The dark, rich beer had won its two previous tastings by identical scores of 4-3. Maine Beer Company’s Another One, by contrast, had come off of trouncing Dogfish Head 6-1, and its momentum continued. “This drinks well from start to finish,” wrote Jack Rose whiskey manager Brittney Roberson. “The body is nice and full, the finish is lingering.” Neighborhood Restaurant Group assistant beer director Tim Liu enthused, “Nothing will stop this beer from winning!”
The feeling wasn’t unanimous, though. “OMG, really? Why are you still here??” wrote reader Shelley Cazares, who’d voted for Duck-Rabbit and against Another One in each of the previous rounds. “Opposite ends of the spectrum,” noted reader Andrew Yu. “Hoppy IPA, full-bodied porter. I do have to say the dark wins out here.” In the end, though, it was Another One that won out 5 votes to 2, and advanced to the final.
Midwest vs. West
Avery’s passionfruit-kissed Avery Liliko’i Kepolo witbier was the undisputed favorite coming into the regional championship, having won its previous matchups 8-0, 6-1 and 6-1. But it would face a tougher test from Jester King’s Black Metal Imperial Stout, which had fought its way through a tough Midwestern bracket. As with the other semifinal, this is an odd couple of a pairing: A light, fruity white ale with just 5.4 percent alcohol against a potent, hoppy imperial stout of around 10 percent alcohol.
“Stop serving me this beer. Are you trying to get me drunk?” joked Tim Liu after receiving his glass of Black Metal, before adding a confession: “(Actually I voted for this three times.)”
Multiple judges expressed “surprise” that the tart Avery beer had advanced to the semi-final, “since sour ales are an acquired taste,” opined Mid-Atlantic Brewing News editor Greg Kitsock. “I’m getting a little more complexity in this one than before – some peaches and apricots.”
Judges wrote that they enjoyed the Jester King – “Really getting complexity here,” noted Andrew Yu. “It’s surprisingly fruity.” – but there was only going to be one winner. As the City Paper’s Tammy Tuck explained, “It’s undeniable, isn’t it? How delicious this beer is? Tropical fruit in the form of luscious, juicy passion fruit.” She called the choice between Jester King and Avery “pretty impossible, but the winner for me is the one I’d prefer the bottomless glass of,” and that was Liliko’i Kepolo. The final score was 5 to 2, setting up a Maine vs. Colorado matchup in the final.
Beer Madness Third Round recap: The Final Four is set as Liliko’i Kepolo wins again
Can any beer stop Avery’s Liliko’i Kepolo? After winning 8-0 and 6-1 in the two opening rounds of Beer Madness, the tart witbier, brewed in Boulder, Colorado, with Hawaiian passion fruit, routed Epic’s Big Bad Baptist, a whiskey barrel-aged imperial coffee stout from Utah, by another 6-1 vote to reach the Final Four.
“I voted for both of these beers [in the second round],” noted Neighborhood Restaurant Group assistant beer director Tim Liu, who cast a vote for Avery this time. “For this matchup, I went with drinkability. I want to drink a lot of this.” Jack Rose whiskey manager Brittney Roberson also found herself split, but also went for Avery. “Really tough round, but I love this beer. Great balance of sour citrus and tropical fruit.”
As in the second round, Mid-Atlantic Brewing News editor Greg Kitsock was the lone vote against Avery. He described the West regional final as “A study in opposites. The sour ale is starting to grow on me, but I still have to stick with the coffee beer: A big, spicy palate-pleaser.”
There was a similar blowout over in the Northeast, where the regional final was between Maine Beer Company’s Another One IPA and Dogfish Head’s Romantic Chemistry, a brand-new IPA brewed with mango, apricots and ginger. City Paper columnist Tammy Tuck described Another One as “Packed with flavor. Delicate, but prominent hops. Bready. I really like this beer.” Reader Deb Crerie praised Maine for as “Bright, hoppy, clean finish. Much more interesting to keep tasting this brew [than Dogfish Head].” Maine beat Delaware 6-1.
The voting was closer in the South, where Duck-Rabbit Milk Stout edged Cigar City Jai Alai IPA 4-3. Readers Shelley Cazares, a fan of Duck-Rabbit from previous rounds, complained that Cigar City “tastes like every other craft beer you can find at any hipster bar in the U.S.,” so she voted for “our smoky friend.” Tammy Tuck wrote that “Neither of these is my favorite beer of all time, but if I have to choose the one I’d rather drink, it’s the chocolately, malty marvel.” Reader Andrew Yu, who’d cast votes for Duck-Rabbit in previous rounds, changed his tune this time: “Mr. Liquid Smoke is going to have to step aside: [Jai Alai] simply outclasses it in my mind.”
The Midwest region final came down to a battle between Jester King of Austin, Texas, and Lagunitas, which launched in Petaluma, California, but now makes its beer for the East Coast in Chicago. It wasn’t much of a contest: Jester King’s Black Metal Imperial Stout beat Lagunitas’s Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale 5 to 2. “I’m only human and I’m kind of enamored by this freak of nature,” wrote Tammy Tuck. “So many layers.” Brittney Roberson also went for Jester King: “This smells/drinks a little boozy, but with time, it settles and is enjoyable to drink.” Dissenting votes came from the hopheads: Lagunitas is “a little sweeter than I usually go for, but it works, I think,” wrote Andrew Yu. “Nice note of hops to finish it off.” Greg Kitsock wrote that “I love the bright, citrusy, prickly flavor on this one.”
Nevertheless, Jester King’s big, smoky stout joined Maine Beer Company, Duck Rabbit and Avery in the final four. Our bracket looks like this:
Beer Madness Second Round recap: Brackets bust as favorites are voted out
Here’s a truth we’ve learned in Beer Madness: Blowing away the competition in one round is no guarantee of success in the next.
In the first round of our annual bracket-style beer contest, the readers and industry insiders on our blind-tasting panel unanimously favored Avery’s Liliko’i Kepolo witbier over Great Divide’s Titan IPA, voting 8-0 to advance the beer from Boulder. Saint Somewhere’s Serge saison and Port City’s Optimal Wit witbier each came within one vote of a sweep, besting their challengers, 7-1. Any beer receiving that much support from the judges would seem to be a favorite to win it all — and yet two of those three beers fell in the subsequent Round of 16.
Here is a recap of the second-round action, sorted by the geographic regions that we’re using for this year’s bracket. (An important note: Reader panelist Quintin Jefferson wasn’t able to make it for the second night of tasting, for health reasons, so only seven votes were cast in each matchup.)
The tightest battle in the Northeast region came as Maine Beer’s Another One IPA, which had taken out Allagash Saison in the previous round, narrowly bested Brooklyn Lager, 4-3. Even some of the judges who voted for Another One praised Brooklyn’s entry: “Although I would probably reach for this beer in my fridge and be perfectly happy, it doesn’t stand out enough in this scenario,” wrote Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s assistant beer director, Tim Liu. “Its greatest strength, its balance, probably hurts it here.” He went with Maine, as did Washington City Paper writer Tammy Tuck, who called Another One “a lovely IPA with bright hops.”
The other Sweet 16 pairing in the Northeast featured Dogfish Head’s Romantic Chemistry IPA facing Bolo, a sour ale created by Baltimore’s Union Craft Brewing and Austin Beerworks. Dogfish Head won easily, 5-2.
Two very different beers faced off in the first of two battles in the South. Port City Brewing’s light Optimal Wit, the only beer remaining from inside the Beltway, took on Duck-Rabbit’s Milk Stout, a flavorful dark beer from North Carolina. Liu voted for Port City, calling it “kind of an underdog in this matchup. The other beer clearly overpowers this one in flavor intensity, but I like underdogs and the subtlety of this beer.” A majority of judges disagreed and voted for Duck-Rabbit. “The nose makes this beer,” opined Brittney Roberson, whiskey manager at Jack Rose Dining Saloon, who compared the aroma to “Folger’s coffee. It drinks like a pleasant, average stout, but the nose makes it worth drinking.” Reader panelist Shelley Cazares agreed: “Slightly smoky, but not harsh. Great for a rainy night by the fire, with a hound sleeping at your feet.”
The second match in the region was between two Florida breweries, Tampa’s Cigar City and Tarpon Springs’ Saint Somewhere. Cigar City’s floral Jai Alai IPA beat Saint Somewhere’s funky, gently sour Serge saison, 4-3.
Jester King’s Black Metal Imperial Stout continued its march through the bracket, crushing Schlafly’s Grapefruit IPA, a favorite in the previous round, 6-1. Black Metal is “smoky, caramel, chocolatey,” wrote Cazares. “If this beer were a person, it would be a lumberjack.” Roberson also voted for it, thankful that her tasting glass contained only a few ounces of the “big, boozy beer. I certainly couldn’t drink more than a pint without ending up on the ground, but I really like it as a smaller pour.” The only vote of dissent came from reader panelist Andrew Yu, who said the Schlafly was “like drinking a flower garden, in a good way, without all the annoying bugs and such.”
The other match in the Midwest also ended 6-1, with Lagunitas’s Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale routing Founders’ Dirty Bastard Scotch ale. Both of those beers had deadlocked 4-4 in the previous round, so a one-sided victory here was unexpected.
Avery Liliko’i Kepolo, which steamrolled through the first round, continued its dominance by beating Deschutes’ Black Butte Porter, 6-1. “So unusual, but really delicious,” wrote reader Debra Crerie, praising the “pear notes in a light, refreshing sour. I could drink a lot of this any day.” The lone dissenting vote came from Mid-Atlantic Brewing News editor Greg Kitsock, who called the Avery “not unpleasant – I could down one for breakfast – but one-dimensional.”
In the second battle in the West, Epic’s Big Bad Baptist, an imperial coffee stout aged in whiskey barrels, powered past 21st Amendment’s Toaster Pastry India-style red ale, 5-2.
The bracket looks like this as we go into the Round of 8:
Beer Madness First Round Recap: Big names fall as the blind-tasting competition begins
Ladies and gentlemen, Beer Madness will have a new co-champion in 2016. Boulevard’s funky-but-crisp Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale, which won the votes of our blind-tasting panel in 2015 and finished runner-up in our online reader bracket, was narrowly dumped out of the competition at the first hurdle by Schlafly’s Grapefruit IPA, a beer that uses grapefruit puree to augment its hop flavors.
Five of the eight panelists during our first tasting session, held earlier this month, voted for the Schlafly. City Paper Brew in Town columnist Tammy Tuck said it’s “like getting punched in the mouth by grapefruit,” and praised the “nice hops” and “super dry” finish. Jack Rose whiskey manager Brittney Roberson called it “nuanced and funky with some good citrus character.” Boulevard certainly had its defenders: Former Washington Post beer columnist Greg Kitsock praised the “Belgian-y fruit cocktail of flavors. Very soft, palate-caressing.”
The big winner of the night was Avery’s Liliko’i Kepolo, a witbier made with tart Hawaiian passion fruit. All eight judges picked it over Great Divide’s Titan IPA. Neighborhood Restaurant Group beer director Tim Liu said Avery’s beer had “really ripe fruit with a bit of a farmhouse quality,” while reader Shelley Cazares confessed: “Tart! I just made a fish face! Very fun, very tasty. Anything that could make you make that strong of a face and still taste good is a winner.”
Two other breweries narrowly missed copying Liliko’i Kepolo’s sweep. St. Somewhere’s funky, unfiltered Serge saison blew out Terrapin’s Rye Pale Ale 7-1. “This is the way you do a sour!” enthused Greg Kitsock. “Cherry-like, acetic acid bite balanced by sweet malt.” Shelly Cazares found it “A nice tart and funky beer. Not too tart, just a bit funky.” The dissenting vote came from reader Andrew Yu, no fan of sour beers, who wrote, “If I wanted to drink vinegar, I’d do that. I’m drinking beer for a reason here, people.”
Flying the flag for Northern Virginia was Port City’s Optimal Wit, a crisp Belgian-style witbier that has medaled at two of the previous three Great American Beer Festivals. Our blind judging panel concurred with that one, giving Port City seven votes, with only one for Richmond’s Hardywood Pils. Tammy Tuck gushed: “Bubblegum! Spice! Everything nice! Digging the creamy texture over the other beer’s sharp carbonation.”
The other local battle found Bolo, a sour session ale made by Baltimore’s Union Craft Brewing in collaboration with Austin Beerworks, taking on Diamonds, Fur Coat, Champagne, a Berliner weisse-style beer made by Washington’s Right Proper Brewing. Charm City won this round 5-2. “The nose is surprising, like pine needles and lemons,” wrote Brittney Roberson. “Palate is really good. It’s thirst-quenching and soft, but not particularly interesting.” Reader Debra Crerie was more enthusiastic: “Lemony and sour. The finish is so clean and smooth. Love this!” And the missing vote? Reader Quintin Jefferson declined to cast it. “Fermented pickle juice, anyone?” he wrote. Apparently Beer Madness can’t please everyone, but the host city is heading into the Sweet 16 without a representative.
Brooklyn Lager 4, Samuel Adams Boston Lager 4 (Brooklyn got the tiebreaking vote.)
Maine Beer Co. Another One 6, Allagash Saison 2
Dogfish Head Romantic Chemistry 5, Victory Helios 3
The Duck-Rabbit Milk Stout 6, Against the Grain Brown Note 2
Cigar City Jai Alai IPA 5, Abita Big Easy IPA 3
Jester King Black Metal Imperial Stout 5, Prairie Funky Gold Mosaic 3
Bell’s Expedition Stout 4, Founders Dirty Bastard 4 (Founders got the tiebreaking vote)
Lagunitas Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale 4, Great Lakes Alberta Clipper Porter 4 (Lagunitas got the tiebreaking vote)
21st Amendment Toaster Pastry 6, Alpine Nelson 2
Epic Big Bad Baptist Imperial Stout 5, Firestone Walker Wookie Jack Black IPA 3
Deschutes Black Butte Porter 6, Elysian Men’s Room Red 2