Beer Bracket Final Four

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final four Editor's Note: It's here! The moment has finally arrived. Today is the day we announce the winner of our 1st Annual Steve's Word Beer Bracket. Or is it? You've been intensely following the regional playoffs for several weeks here, here, here, and here. Our Final Four format did not play out as originally intended due everyone's zany Summer schedules, so we had each of our bracketeers remove all bias from their previous picks, put all four beers into a ring, and see who came out on top. Each Bracketeer found his or her own special way to determine the winner. We think you'll enjoy it. Let's get started.  

 

Mitchell Frye

I look at the final four and I see a beer for everyone; The sophisticated, four-eyed Three Philosophers; a chillaxing, good looking Hoegaarden; the slutty and unpredictable Victory Hop Devil; and the drunken hick uncle, Dale’s Pale Ale.  I would love to see these interacting at a summer BBQ, I’m sure there would be no conversation that could possibly interest everyone. It would be a party with lots of uncomfortable silences to start, then followed by all out debauchery, the way most uncomfortable parties seem to end up.  After a fierce battle using fold up chairs, broken bottles and some truly confusing riddles (thanks Three Philosophers), Victory Hop Devil takes it down.  During this fierce competition I tried to find the perfect beer for a hot, summer, 4th of July weekend, and though beer-pong dominated my activities this week, the beer I would drink on the side would be Victory Hop Devil, distracting me from the mosquitoes that were dead in my solo cups.

 

Avery Booker

And so the Battle Royale commences. The simulated Belgian ale, hoppy East Coaster, understated aluminum-swathed Coloradoan and the "real" Belgian white boy, come together. And as much as I'd like to mix them all together and call it a (delicious) day, fair is fair. After a lovely experience trying all four of these incredible beers, I will keep this nepotism toupee on my head and give the gold medal to the winner of my bracket, Brewery Ommegang's Three Philosophers ale. I don't know what it is about it. This beer is haunting. It's the beer equivalent of the song "Roxanne." It gets in your head and dances around in there like a bastard and you still love it nonetheless. Despite its relatively hefty price tag -- ranging anywhere from $10 to $13 for a big fancy corked bottle -- Three Philosophers, in my twice-given opinion, is unbeatable. To be quite honest, even though I make it sound like this was so easy -- and that I had Three Philosophers pegged to win all along -- this was harder than I expected. In the end, I think all four of these beers were fantastic, but what I guess pushes Three Philosophers to the top of the heap is not just its deep yet not "stout" complexity and subtle cherry aftertaste but its blending of Old World tradition with American microbrew ingenuity. And if one out of every ten European beersnobs could spend a little time with a beer like Three Philosophers (or Hop Devil. Or Dale's, even), I think we'd have an all-around better reputation in the beer world. That said, I still have to give my old favorite Hoegaarden a firm pat on the back. Hoegaarden, which I tried for the first time in its native habitat -- Belgium -- in 1999, was my first "gourmet" beer experience, and as a result I've always had a soft spot for it. The fact that it's a bodega superstar in New York makes me love it even more. My final ranking: 1.) Three Philosophers 2.) Hoegaarten 3.) Dale's Pale Ale 4.) Hop Devil Fake Belgium and Real Belgium -- BOOYAH!

 

Chase Booker

The Final Four is a motley crew, with two distinctly American pale ales heading up against a Belgian witbier and a Belgian-style, American-brewed Quadrupel.  Let's get down to it. Dale's Pale Ale This was the winner of my bracket, but we were pointedly asked to come with a "clean slate," so we'll have to evaluate this from the beginning.  It is now pitted against beers that are more stylistically similar, in particular the IPA-inspired Victory Hop Devil, which, truth be told, highlights its weaknesses.  Dale's Pale Ale is smooth and easy-drinking, still a nice surprise coming from a can, but it is not, perhaps, the strongest candidate here.  Maybe the novelty has just worn off. Ommegang Three Philosophers Careful readers will recall my difficult relationship with fruity beers, Magic Hat #9 in particular.  Like virtually everybody, however, I do like Belgian ales.  Three Philosophers is a deep, full-bodied ale that manages to stand out even in the superlative Ommegang lineup, in no small part because of its subtle cherry presence, which is neither overwhelming nor easily overlooked. Hoegaarden To be honest, if Mitchell had let me get on with that bracket, I don't think Hoegaarden would have been the winner.  But that's fine, because I get to decide here.  I do enjoy Hoegaarden; with what seems to be a quickly expanding availability, it is becoming as commonplace as Stella Artois, and is much nicer to drink, so I can't fault it on those grounds, at least.  Maybe it's the familiarity (Hoegaarden must have been one of the first non-lagers I ever had), but Hoegaarden does not excite me the way it once did. Victory Hop Devil Hop Devil, another Beer Bracket contestant I had failed to try before, poured a nice, reddish amber and smelled heavily of flowery hops.  The flavors are strong and upfront and not particularly fussy -- sharper than Hop Devil's stylistic competition, Dale's Pale Ale. My honeymoon with Dale's Pale Ale has come to a close, it seems, and Hoegaarden's  charms are a distant if fond memory; in essence, this has become a contest between Hop Devil and Three Philosophers: floury bitterness against fruity sourness.  I'm at a loss as to how I should choose between these beers, so I'll just have to:  Three Philosophers.

 

Elle Scoots

We now bring you to the final four finale, where the best of the arbitrary best meet and go hop to hop in a four corner showdown.. all will be consumed but only one will go home a winner.  In one corner we have Three Philosophers, the deep thinking fancy pants from Cooperstown New York, packing four times the punch and coached by the ever popular and always successful Ommegang.  In another corner, Hoegaarden stands tall, soaking in its popularity but quivering on the inside with mass produced insecurities. The third corner brings us Victory Hop Devil, the sly and devious brew that can play dirty and will bite you unexpectedly. And finally we have Dale's Pale Ale, sitting in the fourth corner, not even in uniform, ignoring the crowd and playing xbox 360.  The bell rings and all four enter the ring.  Hoegaarden is the first to go, stripped of its false bravado by its more complex competitors and left exposed for what it really is: a nice and simple beer that has no place in such a ruthless competition.  Next, Three Philosophers takes a suprise blow when it pauses to discuss the irony of it all and asks, "what's the point?"  This third runner up leaves the rink, still lacking any life skills, and returns to the world of academia to teach Intro to Epistemology.  The crowd is pleased. We are left with Hop Devil and Dale's, two rough and tough ales that wont take no for an answer. It's a close competition and the fact that Dale's brings quality in a can almost gives it the upper hand, but in the end it is Hop Devil that knows how and when to play the game.  This fierce and tatsy beer may kick you when you are down but it always hurts so good, and that to me says winner. Editor's Note: Holy crap! Did you see what just happened? OK, how good are you at math? There's a tie! The tournament isn't over. Set your internets to www.stevesword.com this coming Friday to find out who will be the ultimate champion.

2 Comments

  • 1

    Harumph, I think Three Philosophers would at least teach junior-level Epistemology.

  • 2

    [...] Today we are announcing the winner of The First Annual Steve’s Word Beer Bracket. This past Wednesday we thought we were going to come away with the true winner but the judges stunned us all and left [...]

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