In years past I have filled out brackets and I am ashamed to say that this is the first year since 2001 that I have not filled out a bracket. The added play-in games have thrown off my tournament timing. Since I cannot participate in the Facebook discussions about how I picked Dayton to knock off Ohio State in the first round, I am participating in a different March Madness.
The Washington Post has organized it’s Beer Madness brackets again. Last year, the five round tournament placed local beers head-to-head in an all out fight for the best beer in the DMV. A panel of nine judges will gather at Meridian Pint to judge the field of brews. The judges consist of beer professionals and Washington Post readers with their own beer credentials.
Here is this year’s judging panel:
U.S. Rep. Peter A. DeFazio (D-Ore.), co-chairman of the House Small Brewers Caucus. The congressman has become a regular on our panel after joining as a reader in 2012.
Miles Gray III, managing partner at Smith Commons Public House.
Erica Skolnik, a craft beer fan and the baker behind the extraordinary croissants and other goods at Frenchie’s.
Two in one: Ruth Gresser, chef-owner of Pizzeria Paradiso, judged on the first night, then handed the reins to Paradiso beer manager Greg Jasgur for the second.
The readers (and what they wrote that drew us to them, including their favorite domestic craft beers):
Bryan Berghoef, 38, pastor and author of “Pub Theology: Beer, Conversation and God” and host of weekly sessions on that topic at pubs and microbreweries in the area. “My palate has expanded, as has my religious and philosophical outlook — but don’t tell my wife, she thinks I’m off doing ‘the Lord’s work’!” Beers: Harmony Star Stuff Belgian Dubbel; Ommegang Three Philosophers Quadrupel Ale; Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale. He lives in 16th Street Heights.
Echo Rummel, 61, of Silver Spring. Rummel included an off-color joke that can’t be printed in a family newspaper, and also wrote, “When I subscribed to the Beer of the Month Club over 20 years ago, I only wish I’d realized that my interest in craft beer could lead to career opportunities.” Beers: Dogfish Head 90 Minute Imperial IPA, Magic Hat HiCu, Sneaky Pete Imperial IPA.
Bruce A. Johnson Jr., 46, of Bowie, Md. An attorney, Johnson wrote, “I am as passionate about beer as I am the law, even though I cannot drink it first thing in the morning or take it to court.” Beers: Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale, Dogfish Head Shelter Pale Ale.
Lauren Smith, 27, of Dayton, Md. Smith works at I.M. Wine in Fulton and is the founder of the Maryland chapter of Barley’s Angels. “I’m the only woman I know who is this passionate and knowledgeable about craft brews,” she wrote. Beers: 21st Amendment Back in Black, Maui Coconut Porter, Stillwater Of Love & Regret.
*** I’ve added Twitter handle links to those judges who I could find on Twitter. Feel free to attempt to sway to voting ***
This years brackets are divided into “four regions”: Crisp, Fruit & Spice, Malt, and Hop. Here’s how the Washington Post defined each category –
Crisp: Lighter, refreshing but flavorful beers with a sense of balance.
Fruit & Spice: “Yeast-forward” might be a better term, as only two of the eight beers in this category actually contain fruit or spice. Rather, these beers tend to draw their earthy, fruity and spicy flavors from the byproducts of fermentation.
Malt: This new niche replaces last year’s Roast category.We wanted to broaden the field from porters and stouts to include paler brews that derive their bready, biscuity, nutty and toffeeish flavors from less thoroughly roasted grains.
Hop: This is a divisive category — some folks simply can’t stomach bitter beer — but IPAs are generating more excitement than any other niche. Hops are expanding our vocabulary. They impart aromas and flavors described as earthy, peppery, floral, grassy and resiny, not to mention a fruit salad of associations such as grapefruit, tangerine, pineapple, kiwi, passion fruit, gooseberry and melon.
I’m a hop-head. So I will definitely be pulling for the hoppiest beers to win because everyone knows that hoppy beer makes people happy.
If you want to join in the fun, head over to Meridian Pint this weekend and join the judging. Fill out your own bracket and see if your pallet agrees with the judges!