Welcome to the 2nd Annual Utah Beer News Beer Bracket Battle. Unlike last year, in which we were one of the few who filled out a bracket (thanks, COVID-19), this time around we’re looking forward to sipping some tasty Utah brews while watching countless hours of March Madness.
Another difference this year is we’ve added a third taster to our panel. In addition to Dave Baker, who joined me in the inaugural tournament, this time around we welcome Ben Raskin (you might remember him from Episode 39 of the Utah Beer News Podcast).
However, just like last year, we filled out our brackets with eight Utah brews from eight Utah breweries. Read on to learn more about the matchups.
🎙 Listen: Beer Bracket Battle
BONUS: Subscribe to the Utah Beer News Podcast and listen to Dave Baker, Ben Raskin, and Tim Haran offer tasting notes on eight different Utah brews. They each fill out a March Madness-style bracket, with their favorite beers advancing for a shot at immense glory. Plus, hear exclusive stories and banter you won’t find anywhere else.Listen Now
Utah Brews Battle for Supremacy
For the sake of time (and the health of our livers) we opted to forego a full field. Rather, we selected our very own Elite Eight. Eight beers from eight different Utah breweries vie for the title of 2021 Utah Beer News Beer Bracket champion.
I mentioned this last year, but it won’t hurt to reiterate. Our Beer Bracket Battle isn’t really a contest, of course, and there are no prizes awarded. Taste is subjective. With that in mind, here are a few notes:
- 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 beer is Utah’s best-seller. I selected eight beers that are anecdotally (and sometimes empirically) well-regarded. Or that I simply enjoy.
- Instead of matching up style vs. style (as we did last year), half the bracket featured malt-forward beers and the other half leaned hop-forward.
- This year I made a concerted effort to grab beers from breweries that weren’t represented in last year’s competition. I also expanded the footprint to include Ogden breweries (next year, I’ll do my best to track down beers from the southern half of the state).
- I picked up each of the eight beers at the source — the individual breweries. And let me tell you, wouldn’t it be nice to at least have an option to have craft beer delivered to us? Write your representatives.
And now, it’s time for the opening tip. Here we go!
Round 1: Malt-Forward (1)
Our first matchup is an all-city one, matching up Salt Lake’s Bewilder Brewing’s ESB, an Extra Special Bitter, against Proper Brewing’s Proper Beer, an English-style Golden Ale.
What a way to start! We tasted the first beer Bewilder brewed on its own equipment and Proper’s 2020 GABF gold-medal-winning brew. Both are fan favorites.
Advancing: Ben and I selected Proper Beer to move on, while Dave advanced Bewilder’s ESB.
As a reminder, if you’d like to hear are tasting notes on the beers, be sure to download Episode 46 of the Utah Beer News Podcast.
Round 1: Malt-Forward (2)
We explored our first Ogden-area brewery of the tournament, getting a look at Talisman Brewing’s Uplifted Scottish Ale.
It went up against one of Utah’s newest breweries, Grid City Beer Works and its Brown Ale.
Advancing: In a rare unanimous decision, the three of us each selected Grid City’s Brown Ale to advance to the Final Four, though we did enjoy Talisman’s offering (and its label art).
Round 1: Hop-Forward (1)
In another inter-city rivalry, our first look at hop-forward beers featured a Salt Lake institution going up against an Ogden upstart. Desert Edge Brewery’s 2020 IPA did battle against UTOG Brewing’s OG Juice.
Both beers proved to be nicely aromatic and the citrus punch of OG countered more of a citrus/piney blend in the 2020 IPA.
Advancing: Dave and Ben chose the scrappy upstart, OG Juice, to advance, while my tastebuds preferred Desert Edge’s 2020 IPA.
Round 1: Hop-Forward (2)
Rounding out an ultra-competitive opening round, we pitted two of Utah’s oldest and most-revered breweries against each other.
One makes its home in Salt Lake and the other in Ogden. Red Rock Brewing’s Elephīno Double IPA went head-to-head against Roosters Brewing’s Ogden Double IPA.
Advancing: Dave and I selected Red Rock’s Elephīno to move on, while Ben shook his tail feather to the Ogden Double IPA from Roosters.
The brackets are on fire, with a diverse Final Four in place. Here’s how the brackets look heading into the final weekend of competition.
- Dave: ESB (Bewilder) vs. Brown Ale (Grid City); OG Juice (UTOG) vs. Elephīno (Red Rock)
- Ben: Proper Beer (Proper) vs. Brown Ale (Grid City); OG Juice (UTOG) vs. Ogden DIPA (Roosters)
- Tim: Proper Beer (Proper) vs. Brown Ale (Grid City); 2020 IPA (Desert Edge) vs. Elephīno (Red Rock)
Advancing to the Title Game: Grid City’s Brown Ale moved on for Dave and Ben in the upper half of the bracket. I stuck with Proper Beer.
In the hop half, and which can only be termed a massive upset, Red Rock’s Elephīno Double IPA lost a nailbiter. Dave and Ben punched a ticket to the title game for OG Juice. And I went with Desert Edge’s 2020 IPA.
Every beer started 0-0. It’s only through long hours in the brewery, hard work in the taproom, and an eye on the prize (reminder: there are no prizes) that a winner emerged. Well, in this case, three winners emerged.
- Dave: Brown Ale (Grid City) vs. OG Juice (UTOG)
- Ben: Brown Ale (Grid City) vs. OG Juice (UTOG)
- Tim: Proper Beer (Proper) vs. 2020 IPA (Desert Edge)
And the Winner is…
In an unprecedented and truly historic outcome, three winners emerged. Unlike the inaugural battle, in which T.F. Brewing’s Granary Kellerbier earned a unanimous victory, the 2021 Beer Bracket Battle wasn’t as clear-cut.
And in what may be a true Cinderella Story, Desert Edge Brewery’s 2020 IPA outlasted all others on my bracket.
- Dave: OG Juice (UTOG Brewing)
- Ben: Brown Ale (Grid City Beer Works)
- Tim: 2020 IPA (Desert Edge Brewery)
Congratulations to the winners, and thank you to Dave and Ben for joining me in tasting some truly delicious Utah brews.