As we near the end of Round One (voting ends Saturday!), there are a lot of scores that need to be settled. People have both rallied behind fan favorites, and given us some surprising underdogs. When the brackets were first created, we asked our judges to give us their thoughts. Here’s what Hour Detroit magazine’s Michigan Beer Blogger, Jerry Blakeslee has to say about the first round.
It’s another strong showing from the folks at Bell’s, Founders, and Short’s, who take up almost half of the available slots in the Michigan bracket. The rest of the field is a nice sampling of some of the stronger products of a diverse group of brewers. As more beers hit distribution, the field will certainly become more diverse.
I’m a little disappointed in the world bracket. It is mostly full of beer from the US. I was hoping to see more representation from the global beer scene. The total number of imported beers is 6 of 32 possible. Belgium (2), England (1), and Canada (3) are the only countries represented from the rest of the world [Editor’s Note: Jerry forgot Denmark, so there are 7 imported beers]. Germany, The Czech Republic, Switzerland, Poland, France, Spain, Ireland, and Scotland all have some amazing beers, which are usually available on shelves just a few steps away from the beer from our continent. Many of the best representations of a specific style come from these countries. I think that the few truly global beers represented here may be passed over in voting due to either American brand recognition or people never actually having tasted some of these selections.
Overall, American IPAs still dominate the selections (~36%). There are many great varieties of beer that are not in the competition because of the IPA taste craze. Lager, Pilsner, ESB, Kolsch, Bock, Hefeweizen, and Brown Ales are either under or not represented. Sours were a pleasant surprise with 8 of the 64 selections; it’s nice to see Goze, Berliner Weiss, Flanders Red, and other wild yeast fermentations in the competition.
Round one has some interesting pairings in both brackets.
In Michigan, I look for a few of the usual suspects to advance to round two: Two Hearted, Norm’s Raggedy Ass, The Poet, and Neopolitan Milk Stout. There are a few close calls, like the Oarsman/Loch Down and the Dirty Bastard/Sky High Rye pairings.
In the Global bracket, I fear most of the international competition could be eliminated in the first round, most likely due to brand recognition or people who have not tried the competition. Last year’s champ, Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald takes on Dogfish Head Festina Pêche, which is dangerous right out of the gate. Look for an upset, though with Canada’s Flying Monkeys The Chocolate Manifesto taking on Oskar Blues Ten Fidy – both of these stouts are powerhouses, but the sweet, creamy profile of The Chocolate Manifesto may be enough to cause a few beer tears on its way to the final four.
I encourage all voters to get out there and try all of the beer in the competition; there is some amazing stuff out there. You may find something new that you really enjoy.