Beer Bracket 2009 - Week 4

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chimayWelcome to Week 4 of the 1st Annual Steve's Word Beer Bracket. As my grandmother always says, it's on like Donkey Kong in a rather revealing thong. In this week's article we find out who will be the last competitor in our maddening Final Four. Have a gander at how the bracket shapes up now here. If you enjoy reading, laughing, and learning, take a look-see at how we arrived at the results for Week 1, Week 2, and Week 3. This week's winner was determined by yet another newbie to Steve's Word. In our efforts to stay hip to what all the youths are up to, we've employed the services of youngster Chase Booker. This recent college grad somehow found time between writing term papers, twittering, and playing Xbox 360 to write a studious and entertaining breakdown of his bracket. Let's get to it! 

Round 1

1 Chimay Première vs 16 Foster's

Foster's is really crappy.  I only ever buy it by accident when I am on my way to a party and, at the bodega, am faced with the holy trinity of Bud Light-Miller Lite-Coors Light and iconoclastically decide to buy something that tastes virtually the same as all three of them but has a different label. Chimay, as we all know, is a wonderful beer -- many people's first introduction to Belgian trappist-style ales, and truly one of the best.  As you can imagine, Chimay proceeds, because I hate Foster's and I don't know why I ever find myself buying it because it's absolutely horrible.  Problem is, Foster’s is only the first of the many bad lagers I had the honor of tasting for my bracket.  Thanks, Mitchell

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2 Flying Dog Tire Bite vs 15 Tiger

Flying Dog -- a brewery perhaps best known for its labels, thus its high seed (good thinking, guys) -- goes up against Tiger Beer, a generic Singaporean brew. Tire Bite, a golden ale/Kölsch-style beer, pours with a relatively thin head and pale gold color. It's pretty okay, with a fizzy carbonation and subdued malt.  Tiger is a basic Asian lager-style beer, with a thin, crisp taste, suited to spicy food or hot weather when you’re worried more about thirst than flavor.  Tire Bite wins, but pretty much anything would have because Tiger is boring and they sell it in stupid covered six packs so you have to buy all of them even if you only want one. And I barely wanted one.

3 Newcastle Brown Ale vs 14 Peroni

The next match-up is with two beers from across the Atlantic. The continental Peroni going head-to-head with the upright and English Newcastle Brown Ale.  Neither beer is particularly complex, truth be told, and tend – rightly – to be something of fallback drinks: one may reasonably order Newcastle when looking for something reliably ‘English’ that says ‘ale’ on the label at a bar calling itself a ‘pub.’  Similarly, Peroni seems most appropriate (and likely to be drank) when you’re at an Italian restaurant, know nothing about wine, and realize the guy on the Moretti label is not always the conversation fodder you are hoping for.  As for the beers inside the bottles, Peroni is a basic lager, exactly what you would expect from a country more focused on wine and reinforcing stereotypes, with a thin head, bright yellow color, and bitter aftertaste.  Newcastle has a nice, caramel tint with a nutty malt easily trumps the Peroni, which was perhaps handicapped by embarrassing memories of a high school trip to Italy – but the fact that it isn’t very good didn’t help its case much, either. coney

4 Coney Island Lager vs 13 Bear Republic Red Rocket Ale

This match was supposed to be between Coney Island Lager and Bear Republic Hop Rod, but I couldn't find the Hop Rod, so a substitution was in order.  These two beers are actually an appropriate match; both come from California (like Pabst-acquired Lone Star, Coney Island Lager is geographically misleading!), mix "old-world" and "new-world" beer styles, and have garish labels in true American fashion. The favorite, Coney Island Lager, is a nice, malty lager with an appropriately American hops element that develops late; while not a traditional lager, it's far and away better than the other lagers I've had to try for the bracket. The Bear Republic Red Rocket Ale, similarly, is a deep red ale with a heavy mix of malt and hops. In the end, Coney Island Lager advances, even if the label bothers the hell of out of me.

5 Allagash White vs 12 Stoudt's Scarlet Lady ESB

In a more exciting turn of events, the next match was incredibly between two more beers I had heretofore never consumed.  To boot, nothing tasted like Foster’s, although the worst wasn’t yet over. Allagash White is a fancy beer, seeing as it has a cork, but comes from America, which you can tell because it has a picture on its label.  Since it was in a fancy bottle and was a relatively high seed, I had high hopes for Allagash White, and it did deliver. It has a nice, creamy color, with a citrusy, flowery aroma and thick head.  The Allagash White is an extremely good American white beer and is wonderful to share (only partly because the bottle is one of those really big ones, and because people are impressed by the cork).  I tried the Scarlet Lady after a just-under-ten-mile walk when I was in no mood to move or think; thankfully, the deep red ESB was just what I needed. True to the style, it was nicely balanced, with strong hop and malt (but a noticeable emphasis on the latter), and was an easy drink.  The problem, of course, is that I needed to pick a winner between these two solid, very dissimilar beers.  It was a difficult call, but in the end, I had to go with the Scarlet Lady, partially from ale-fatigue and partially because the ESB is a bit of a stylistic outlier in my bracket.  What an upset! I would also like to take a moment to point out that this is the only match-up in the first round without a lager.  I’ve still got a long way to go.

kenzinger6 PBC Kenzinger vs 11 Carlton Draught

Kenzinger and Carlton Draught were two beers that I had not heard of, let alone tried.  After a futile search for Kenzinger in Brooklyn, I gave up and forgot to keep looking -- notably without trying a cursory Google search or whatever.  Serendipitously, I happened upon Kenzinger on tap at a restaurant in Philadelphia and thankfully had the foresight (for once) to order it.  The Kenzinger is a nice, light Kölsch whose citrusy hops complimented my hamburger and the weather and made me like Philadelphia even more. In part because it reminded me that despite Philadelphia's draconian and confusing alcohol laws and its old-timey-costumed tour guides, it's way coller than Boston. Also, Carlton Draught is crappy, so it lost.

7 Magic Hat #9 vs 10 Lone Star

Magic Hat #9 went head-to-head with that all-too-proud (former) citizen of my home state, Lone Star.  (If Lone Star looks like an unreasonably high seed, keep in mind it is mostly higher than the likes of Foster’s, which we met earlier.)  Magic Hat #9, the eponymous brewery’s popular and increasingly visible ‘not quite pale ale,’ pours with a thick head and a deep amber color.  The beer’s aroma is characterized by the fruity apricot flavor, which similarly dominates the taste, with its sweetness overwhelming the relatively strong, citrusy hops. Lone Star, by contrast, tastes a lot like what beer tasted like when your dad let you have a sip of his when you were 8. In defense of Lone Star, it’s functional: you drink it when you’re thirsty and incidentally might not mind being a little drunk.  Truth be told, despite its national distribution (which I was unaware of until the other day), Lone Star can’t really be given its due without a trip to South Texas where it can be accompanied with brisket and half a loaf of sliced white bread. But even then, it’s there to be drank, not paid attention to, like Tiger. Magic Hat #9 has an ideal context rather easier to find, as it seems best suited to those times when you’re at a bar and it’s the only ‘good beer’ they have.  Although I enjoy Magic Hat #9, I can’t generally drink more than one in a sitting – the fruit is too strong and sweet and heavy.  Although I was somewhat hoping for an upset here, Magic Hat #9 advances, because Lone Star is lousier than I remembered, and it’s not even made in San Antonio anymore.

8 Sapporo vs 9 Dale's Pale Ale

The final match-up in Round 1 takes place in the Pacific Ocean theater, with Dale’s Pale Ale, hailing from Colorado, matched up with Sapporo from Japan.  Sapporo is a beer I am quite familiar with through the cheap happy hours mentioned in the first of the Beer Brackets.  A standard Japanese “rice lager” with a thin head and sharp yellow color, Sapporo is a low-maintenance, refreshing beer that very much requires a proper setting – ideally a $3 pint at a Japanese restaurant.  I, of course, was in my living room, but imagination sufficed.  Dale’s Pale Ale, on the other hand, was entirely new to me; I’d seen cans around and heard tell that it was “better than you’d think,” but until now had never tried it.  Pouring it into a glass I found it to be a deep, dark color, which was the first surprise.  The next surprise was the taste – despite the self-consciously low-rent look of the can, I found a solid, hoppy American pale ale that went nicely with oven nachos.  I can imagine that, had I never heard of Dale’s Pale Ale, I might have happened upon it by chance, nestled between Schaefer’s and Stroh’s in the six-pack aisle of Key Food.  Judging by appearances, one would expect Sapporo to be the nicer of the two, and it is a pretty nice, unassuming beer; in the end, however, it’s more in line with the Foster’s-Tiger-Carlton-Lone Star style of thin lagers.  Even if it’s the best of these, that isn’t saying awfully much.  Dale’s Pale Ale, despite its can-only distribution (as far as I can tell), easily trumps Sapporo, and makes me realize once again what a fan I am of American-style Pale Ales.  And with Coney Island advancing to the second round, I wouldn’t want Sapporo to advance anyhow – lagers dominating one round is enough for me.

Round 2

1 Chimay Première vs 9 Dale’s Pale Ale

This is a particularly exciting match: a traditional Trappist bottle-conditioned ale against a less traditional American pale ale in a can.  Chimay, one of the first good beers I can remember having and a constant favorite, is reliable, beautiful and tasty.  Nevertheless, patriotism and sheer surprise kicks in with Dale’s Pale Ale, and given the importance of situation/season in my comrades’ beer brackets, the title goes to Dale’s Pale Ale – as much as I love Chimay, Dale’s Pale Ale is altogether more suited for the season and better-suited to all the foods I feel like eating right now.

4 Coney Island Lager vs. 12 Scarlet Lady ESB

This is another appropriate match-up for these beers. Both are American nontraditional versions of traditional forms (and both are nontraditional largely because of their hops). Also problematic because both are easy to drink, moderate alcohol content. In the end, despite its label, I have to opt for Coney Island Lager.

6 Kenzinger vs 3 Newcastle

With Dale’s Pale Ale’s victory over Chimay, Newcastle is the final import in this beer bracket.  But Kenzinger is better than Newcastle, so it wins, and America stands as the last remaining superpower in the world.

7 Magic Hat #9 vs 2 Flying Dog Tire Bite

I am not particularly wild about either of these beers, making this one of the less exciting matches of Round 2.  I enjoy Magic Hat #9, but the fruit is way too strong for me.  Tire Bite, by contrast, does not have any flavors strong enough.  Ultimately, despite my tepid opinion of #9, the “not quite pale ale” continues on to the Regional Semi-Finals.

Regional Semi-Finals

4 Coney Island Lager vs 9 Dale’s Pale Ale

In the semi's, it is down to American beers, which at the very least underlines the stylistic similarities between many of them. These two Western beers are good examples of the hoppy tendency of American beers I’ve been harping on. Once more, Dale’s Pale Ale continues on: I am a constant fan of American Pale Ales, it’s perfect for hamburgers, and – I’ll repeat it at least once more – I was surprised by what was held in them cans.

5 Kenzinger vs 7 Magic Hat #9

Although I have been constantly knocking Magic Hat #9, I guess at this point I must admit that it has to be a pretty good beer to get to the semi's; even if its competition hasn’t been too stiff (I’m looking at you, Lone Star), it’s really not so bad, and I do enjoy it well enough whenever I have one. But Kenzinger is better, in no small part because of its simpler, lighter feel.

Regional Finals

5 Kenzinger vs 9 Dale’s Pale Aledales

So now we are left with two middle-seed American brews.  Dale’s Pale Ale, despite its low seed and goofy can, knocked out Chimay Première (everybody’s favorite first-time Trappist-style ale) in Round 2 in something of an upset, so there’s high hopes for the Coloradan pale ale.  Kenzinger, which I had not heard of before the beer bracket (let alone tried), was also quite nice, although it’s hardly a problem getting past the likes of Carlton Draught.  With the weather warming up but still not reaching the inevitable humid highs of mid-Summer, both beers suit my momentary seasonal tastes, so I am ultimately forced to choose a winner based solely on more arbitrary grounds, namely: At this very moment, what would I rather be drinking?  And, to my surprise as much as anyone’s, I think I would have to go with Dale’s Pale Ale.

Tags: week, chase, bracket, booker, beer, 4

6 Comments

  • 1

    You are all doing a service for mankind.

  • 2

    This is incredible. Good job, Chase. I want to toss on an American flag cape -- a la Rocky -- and go running down Park Ave, looking for the first can of Dale's I can find and blasting an air horn.

    But it's not St. Patrick's Day, so I'd better not.

    Anyway, well done -- color me the proud older brother, and, as always, color me badd.

  • 3

    we are so proud of You y0ur favitot aunt The one that can't spell

  • 4

    You are making every fighter pilot ever born very proud. I'll be honored to do a shot of Jeremiah Weed with you and wash it down with a cold Dale's.

    Lima Sierra and Tango Mike Bravo.

    Spike

  • 5

    [...] Beer Bracket 2009 - Week 4 » [...]

  • 6

    [...] Chase Booker [...]

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