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BrewBracket 2011 Summary

Me, the SLF, @brewjockey (who promises to blog for the site one day), @flinchbot and a few (hundred) others had a great time at the Indianapolis Brew Bracket on Sunday.

Here’s how it worked:

  • Sixteen Indiana Brewers each entered an IPA into the bracket.
  • Round One was half of the Sweet Sixteen, eight of the beers in four head-to-head match-ups.
  • Round Two was the other eight.
  • Votes were tallied, I failed to win any free swag at the raffles.
  • Round Three was the Elite Eight, the winners of Rounds One and Two.
  • Votes were tallied, and I still failed to win any free swag.
  • Round Four was the Final Four, the winners of Round Three (obviously)
  • Votes were tallied, and I think I failed to win any raffles but things were getting a bit hazy at this point so I can’t be sure if there were raffles.
  • The Championship was held, a victor was named, and the SLF, @flinchbot, and I headed north to honor the 2nd place beer. We are, after all, 2nd place drinkers.

How did I do? Not great.

Of the 8 contests in Rounds One and Two, I successfully picked the winning beer 3 times. Ouch. In Round 3, I predicted two of the four contests. In Round 4, I picked both winning beers. And I successfully picked the Champion beer. A total of 8 out of 15 contests or .533.

Of course I wasn’t trying to predict which beers would win, but rather get the  beer I liked into the next round; but still, who would have thought my tastes would diverge so much from the mean? Not me.

Other things to note:

  • I got surprisingly tipsy. In total we each had about 4 beers across 4 hours. I suppose there’s something to be said for the consistency of the drinking. We were essentially shooting beers two-at-a-time spread evenly across the time. So while the body did OK processing beers during the first two rounds, about midway in Round Three, things got noticeably…lighter…and flavors became harder to distinguish.
  • I was surprised to see that Half Cycle not make it out of Round 1. Not necessarily because it’s a good beer but because I remember about 8 people in front of me all voting for it in a row. Goes to show you can’t always depend on your statistical sample.
  • Half Cycle smells remarkably of weed. Somehow It’d never really hit me like that before but it was fairly unmistakable while tasting blind.
  • Blind tasting is difficult. It was nice that we all knew what style characteristics to look for, but beyond that it was very hard to figure which beer I should vote for. Which beer is “better”? Should I look for the most style-consistent beer? The most hoppy? The most unique? The one I think I would enjoy a pint of?
  • Related to the above point, I was often confronted with the notion of choosing between two very different beers. There were a couple I ended up voting against because they just didn’t seem to be IPAs, but were still very good beers.
  • I didn’t dislike any beers and was saddened when so many of the beers I’d enjoyed in Rounds 1 and 2 didn’t return in Round 3.

Liz and Jerry - Runner up and victor, respectively

I thought the people behind Brew Bracket did an excellent job and I look forward to the next one. Here are some recommendations for what I think would be improvements.

  1. More pourers; tasters sit. I know it just sounds like I’m just lazy, but it would have been more convenient for me if I’d been able to take notes and not feel like I had to rush from station to station like I was at a crowded beerfest. It is my personal opinion that what would be lost in “festive ambience” would be made up for in a more relaxed tasting environment and more time between samples. Some of the festiveness could have been captured by using big round tables where strangers could meet and talk over beer.
  2. More time between samples. Related to the above, with a dedicated pourer (or two) for each table, more time could have been spent between rounds discussing the beer, and possibly not getting wasted.
  3. Water for my mouth. I know water was for sale, but I think something like water should be provided for tasters even if they aren’t certified judges.

All things considered, these are very tiny suggestions for a very good event and if nothing changed between this event and the next one, I’d still be excited to participate. Hopefully all the brewers left in the same good spirits they entered the contest. None of the tasters I talked to during the event thought they were picking “the best” beer. Everybody was just there to taste good beer, and I think they succeeded. The contest atmosphere seemed to be taken for what it was, all in good fun.

Here’s how the tournament went. Click the photo to go to the Brew Bracket Event Results page.

And you can check out a few additional photos of the event at the DrinkingClass Flickr page.

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Posted in Barley Island, Bee Creek Brewery, Beer Styles, Bier Brewery, Bloomington Brewing Company, Brew Bracket 2011, Brugge Brasserie, Crown Brewing, Figure Eight Brewing, Flat12 Bierworks, India Pale Ale-(IPA), Indiana Beer, Jerry Sutherlin, Liz Laughlin, Oaken Barrel, People's Brewing Company, Ram Restaurant & Brewery, Rock Bottom Brewery-College Park, Rock Bottom Brewery-Downtown, Shoreline Brewery, Sun King Brewing, Upland.