Thursday, June 20, 2013

Brew Bracket: Pale Ales

I had a chance to attend my second Brew Bracket event this past weekend. As with my first experience, this event did not disappoint.

This one was larger than the last one with 16 breweries competing instead of 8. Participating breweries included: Barley Island, Bloomington Brew Company, Brugge, Evil Czech, Flat 12, Half Moon, Iechyd Da, Indiana City, People's, RAM, Rock Bottom College Park, Rock Bottom Downtown, Thr3e Wisemen, Triton, Upland, and the Union Brewing Company.

We got to spend the afternoon at the State Fairgrounds with some friends. Lots of laughing and time catching up and debating over whether orange or gray was the way to go. Clearly we're a group that takes things very seriously. Maybe we just take our beer seriously.

As far as we could tell, this was a great event. The Big Guy and I have had the opportunity to get to know Mike through the beer classes we've been taking. He's the man behind the curtain for the Brew Bracket. After this event we asked him what he thinks makes a successful bracket.

"In my mind, a successful event is when the people participating discover new favorite beers/breweries within the style. The blind tasting element strips away any perceptions about a specific brewery and allows you to focus on just the taste of the beer. So we hope that at every event people learn a little more about what they like within a beer style, as well as a few new beers/breweries to seek out after the fact. And that folks have fun. Usually you can tell that by watching and talking to the crowd, with maybe a little Tweet Wall monitoring on the side."

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I made it onto that tweet wall a few times during the event. There's something really fun about seeing the real-time reviews of things as you're voting and as you're tasting the beers.

This time the winner was Thr3e Wisemen's Rocky Ripple Pale Ale. Coming in second was Rock Bottom Downtown's Sugar Creek Pale Ale.

To the left is a picture of the actual bracket standings. I managed to pick the winners in all but 3 of the 15 head to head competitions. Pretty solid average. That tells me not that I know a ton about pale ales, but instead that in this category I tend to go for beers with more mass appeal.

This was an interesting event for me, because I'm not a huge pale ale fan, and I definitely don't care for IPAs. (Every time I say that, O-Dawg's heart breaks a little.) Having said that, I've learned more about pale ales through the beer classes that the Big Guy and I have been taking. I may not love them, but I can at least appreciate them and recognize when one is done well. I think this is a little bit like what Mike was talking about- getting out there and trying something new and being willing to step out of the box a bit. The Brew Bracket has done a variety of styles already and there are more to come this year. We asked Mike which style has been his favorite so far.

"I'm still a pale ale and IPA lover at heart. So this event and the first one we did in Spring 2010 with IPAs were two of my favorites. The stout was really nice because there's so much variation within stouts. Everyone thinks Guinness but the brewers here are doing so much more. And I loved the bourbon barrel aged beer event. So many wild styles all aged in a local bourbon barrel. It really showcased the creativity of our local brewers."

To me that's what this event is all about- the local brewers. It's a showcase for something unique, maybe even a good place to test something new and see how your audience reacts. I'm in marketing and I definitely like a good focus group or test market. There are some really unique things happening in the Indiana craft beer scene, obviously that's why we're here on the blog as well.

Mike and his crew do a great job arranging the afternoon's festivities. Having done some event planning for my day job, I know that for things to run as smoothly as they do for the attendees there's a lot of behind the scenes work that's necessary.

The Big Guy: The Brew Brackets are probably my favorite of the events / festivals that we go to. It mixes everything I love about a head to head competition with everything I love about beer. There are some awesome unique creations that come out here and then there are some really solid beers that are every day brews. They both have a chance of winning and that really makes this one of the coolest beer events in Indy.

This was the first event where the guys at Brew Bracket offered a VIP experience, so I had to jump on it. It was a totally reasonable $10 up charge on the basic tickets. For our ten bucks we got to hear from Andrew, the head brewer at Ram Downtown, Jerry from Rock Bottom and Rob from Flat12. We got to hear about what got them to be a brewer, what inspires them and some of their favorite moments in beer. Better then all the wonderful talks was the beer. We got to have a one off Java Bock by Rock Bottom Downtown. It was incredible. Anyone who counts these guys out because they are a "corporate brewery" is an idiot. Andrew does an outstanding job. I loved some of his unique seasonals and this brew was just

We asked Mike (handing out the awards on the right), one of the organizers of the Brew Bracket, if he planned to continue with the VIP experience and he said, "yes, we’ve been getting some good feedback on the VIP hour. As long as the folks there liked it, we’ll keep it as a component of the larger scale events." I am excited to see what a little more practive allows them to do with this awesome and reasonably priced perk.

I am officially 0 for 3 with these brew brackets. My two favorite brews of this event were Peoples and Bloomington Brewing company. Neither of them made it past the first round... I should probably just stop trying. I was 10 for 15 with my votes, not terrible. Everyone should check these events out. Mix an amazing amount of competition and beer-culture camaraderie then drown it all in wonderfully made beers and you get the Brew Bracket. Check it out.

Professor Beer: The Brew Bracket: Pales Ales was an excellent event (as they always are).  Alas, I was 8 for 15 on the voting, and my favorite of the event didn't even make it past the first round.  New for this event were VIP tickets, which as the Big Guy mentioned were definitely worth the extra cost.  I hope they continue to offer them for future events.
And some familiar faces from AMBERgeddon.

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