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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Beer Bracketology

I have been meaning to comment on a little bit of genius I discovered on the Hops and Barley blog (I have been meaning to write about and link to it, and was shocked to discover it's now five weeks old--yikes, time flies!). It is a system for blind tasting that is so astute and so obvious that the second I read about it, I couldn't believe it hasn't become the standard for taste-offs. It has several virtues of the blind flights, not the least of which is drama.

They did it with the IPA category and started out with 32 beers (!). He describes it thus:
He picked 32 IPAs available from his local grocery store, and ranked them based on data and held a blind tasting (names were revealed only after beers lost) to determine round-by-round winners down to a single IPA Champion!
The way brackets generally work is that the field is divided in half or in fourths, and the low seeds are matched against high seeds. I'd probably do a version with 16 (32 seems more than I could manage), split the field so that there were twin sides, with #1 versus #8, #2 v. #7 and so on. In the first round, you'd have eight head-to-head matchups, then four, then two, then the final pairing.

The reason it's genius is because it allows tasters to make a binary decision. Blind flights with several beers can be overwhelming--especially when the beers are similar in style. But even very similar beers can be judged in a simple pairing. I got excited enough that I created a stout brackets using the Hops and Barley system based on beers I know are available in Portland as an example. The intention was to actually run the pairings, but I may never get that far. I include it here for fun. The wild card was for to accommodate availability--I saw two or three that are available sometimes. Also, you could get a growler from a local brewpub. (Click to enlarge.)

Someone should really run with this. Good stuff--


  1. Hmm... seems like a bit too much breadth of style. Wouldn't it make more sense to have a separate tasting for imperial stouts? IMHO, Rogue Shakespeare vs. Great Divide Yeti = Apple vs. Orange! Or am I somehow missing the point of this sort of tasting?

  2. Yeah, it's mainly because of availability. Finding 16 bottled stouts isn't the easiest task. One solution is to use few, but an even better solution would be to get some growlers from area brewpubs.

  3. Hey Jeff. Love the Blog and the honest reviews you give. With that said how about some props to the winner of that IPA challenge. ;) We were happy to see the results and to be honest a little suprised! Anyhoo keep up the good work!

    Ben D.