We’re living in a bit of an upside-down right now. Normally, this time of year, millions of Americans would be filling out March Madness brackets. Instead, the NCAA canceled its men’s basketball tournament for the first time since its inception in 1939 after fears of COVID-19 swept the globe.
Obviously, the general populace’s health and well-being are far more important than sports. And fortunately, Dave Baker and I played out the 2020 Utah Beer News March Madness Beer Bracket Challenge without spectators (other than Wrigley). So we’re safe — for now.
That’s right. We filled out our own brackets with eight beers from eight Utah breweries. Read on to learn more about the matchups. Listen to the accompanying podcast for more tasting notes, as well as tips on hosting your own March Madness Beer Challenge. After all, it may be all we’ve got.
Bonus: Subscribe to the Utah Beer News Podcast to hear Dave Baker and Tim Haran whittle a field of eight Utah beers down to one champion in the inagural Utah Beer News Beer Bracket Challenge.
March Madness: Utah Beer News Style
For the sake of time (and the health of our livers) we opted to forego a field of 68 or even 64. Rather, we selected our very own Elite Eight. Eight beers from eight different Utah breweries vie for the title of 2020 Utah Beer News March Madness Champ.
It’s not really a contest, of course, and there are no prizes awarded. Taste is subjective. With that in mind, here are a few notes:
- Again, this isn’t scientific. It’s for entertainment purposes only.
- In other words, we didn’t create spreadsheets evaluating IPA rankings. We didn’t track sales data to learn which lager is Utah’s best-seller. I selected eight beers that are anecdotally (and sometimes empirically) well-regarded. Or that I simply enjoy. I also tried to pick four head-to-head matchups that compared similar styles and ABV amounts.
- The beers are also relatively easy to find around Salt Lake (yes, that’s another limitation — we didn’t venture outside the valley to procure the contestants). I purchased all but one at the source (I picked up one beer at my local Harmons after learning it wasn’t available at the brewery’s package agency).
And now, it’s time for the opening tip. Here we go!
Round 1: Lager Region
We opened Round 1 with two relatively new lagers, both 4.7% ABV. Templin Family Brewing’s Granary Kellerbier hit the floor to face Bohemian Brewery’s Sir Veza Mexican-style lager.
Granary Kellerbier jumped in front quick, taking a commanding lead with its fresh-baked breadiness and touch of lemon. But Sir Veza, which is a fan favorite, stormed back with a honey-like finishing sweetness.
It’s no secret that Kellerbier is one of my favorite local lagers. Sir Veza, however, also holds a spot in the fridge.
In the end, Dave and I both agreed that the Kellerbier, with its German malts aroma/flavor and noble hops character, gets it into the Final Four.
Winner: Granary Kellerbier (T.F. Brewing)
Round 1: Hazy IPA Region
2 Row Brewing’s Tastes Like Citrus (7.1% ABV) took the court against young upstart In the Pines (5%) from Level Crossing Brewing. We tried to match ABV levels to make for an even playing field, but some teams just have a height advantage.
Nevertheless, the sessionable In the Pines put up a fight against the more robust and experienced Tastes Like Citrus. Both beers provide plenty of desirable citrus and/or pine aromas and flavors without much hop bitterness.
Winner: Tastes Like Citrus (2 Row Brewing)
Round 1: Dark Beer Region
Two porters — a taste of old vs. new — battled in this opening round. Wasatch Brewery’s Polygamy Porter, which first hit the market in 2001, faced RoHa Brewing Project’s Project Porter, a recent seasonal brew. Each clocks in at 5% ABV and each offers doses of chocolate creaminess coupled with roasted malts.
While Dave preferred the classic chocolate character present in Polygamy Porter, my tastebuds gravitated toward the roast of RoHa’s Project Porter. In an unprecedented turn of events, each beer moves on to the Final Four in its respective bracket.
Winners: Split Decision
Round 1: IPA Region
Uinta Brewing’s Hop Nosh matched up against SaltFire Brewing’s Series of Singularities (Lotus). In another battle of old vs. new, each beer brought its A-game. Both beers clock in at 7.3% ABV but are easy drinking.
Hop Nosh offers a hefty dose of citrus, supported by caramel malts. While Hop Nosh is one of my favorite local IPAs, I couldn’t get past the super-fresh tropical notes I picked up in SaltFire’s contender. Dave identified a green tea-like character in the Lotus that complemented the fruit notes nicely.
It came down to the wire, but SaltFire edged Uinta to advance to the Final Four.
Winner: Series of Singularities Lotus (SaltFire Brewing)
Now, it gets interesting. The matchups are no longer style vs. style. We pitted a lager against a porter on one side of the bracket. And a hazy IPA vs. a traditional IPA on the other.
Granary Kellerbier vs. Polygamy Porter/Project Porter: While Dave and I disagreed on the first-round matchup of porters, we were in full agreement in this tilt. For us, with spring around the corner and well-made lagers calling our name, T.F. Brewing’s Kellerbier advanced to the championship.
Winner: Granary Kellerbier (T.F. Brewing)
In the other matchup, I just couldn’t get over the Lotus hop variety showcased in SaltFire’s Series of Singularities. Dave, meantime, raved about the juiciness of 2 Row’s Tastes Like Citrus.
In what will set up two different title games, Lotus advanced in my bracket while Tastes Like Citrus moved on in Dave’s.
Winners: Split Decision
Here we are. An assortment of half-empty cans (and one bottle) litter Utah Beer News World Headquarters. All but one tasting remains.
In Dave’s bracket, he’s deciding between T.F. Brewing’s Granary Kellerbier and 2 Row Brewing’s Tastes Like Citrus.
In my bracket, T.F.’s Granary Kellerbier is matching up against SaltFire’s Series of Singularities Lotus.
And the Winner is…
What a tournament! Who needs the real thing with basketballs and Jim Nantz and busted brackets after Day 1, amirite?
The 2020 Utah Beer News March Madness Beer Bracket Challenge provided intrigue, drama, and, most important, tastiness.
As you replay the highlights in your mind (with a One Shining Moment soundtrack), raise a glass to our champion. Yes, it’s a unanimous selection.
Templin Family Brewing’s Granary Kellerbier outlasted each opponent to claim the 2020 title.
Congratulations to the folks at T.F. Thank you to Dave Baker for sharing his tasting notes with us. If you haven’t listened to the podcast yet, you really should. I learn a ton each time I listen to Dave describe beer.
Until next year… Cheers!