Beer Off! State vs. State vs. State
Which state has the best breweries? With the onslaught of the craft beer movement and the fact that all of our friends and family seem to be into it an idea struck me this past spring. We are always arguing about which state has the best beers. Our friends Emily and Andrew are from Michigan so they are always claiming dominance. My sister Kelly recently moved to Pittsburgh so she's always singing the praises of her local breweries. Heather and I, of course, love all of our New York options. Being the nerd that I am, a party game seemed like the perfect solution.
Here's how it worked. After some deliberation, I decided on four categories. They were session, IPA, stout/porter, and wild card. Session beers were defined as any beer at 5% ABV or less. The IPA and stout/porter categories were style specific. Finally, wild card could be anything at all. Heather and I had to choose the competitors for New York, my sister Kelly for Pennsylvania, and my friends Emily and Andrew for Michigan. We all met on our back deck along with some other impartial friends and the competition was on.
The process was pretty straightforward. For each round, everyone got four ounces of each beer. After tasting, everyone wrote their favorites on a slip of paper. We then publicly announced the results and jotted them down on a marker board. Those involved in bringing beers could hand out a single point to their favorite of the category, but they couldn't vote for their own. Everyone else could hand out three points to their favorite of the category and one point to their second favorite.
Round 1 Competitors - Session
Summer Ale - Brooklyn Brewery (New York)
Liopard Oir - Lavery Brewing Company (Pennsylvania)
Roggen Bitch - HopCat (Michigan)
Things started out quite confusing, as the slim definition used for session beer meant we got a variety of different styles. This round featured my favorite of the evening. Liopard Oir is a saison that uses brett yeast to give it a slight tartness. It was awesome. I've been on a saison kick and it hit the spot. Roggen Bitch from HopCat was a special treat too. It poured out of unlabeled bottles. We got to try such a cool beer thanks to the fact that Emily's brother brews for them.
Heather and I opted for Brooklyn Summer for this round. Easy drinking and very tasty, it just seemed like a good fit. After trying the competitors I thought we were sunk, however the rest of the party didn't agree. Summer Ale won the round and New York was up 1-0-0.
Round 2 Competitors - IPA
Flower Power - Ithaca Beer Company (New York)
Perpetual IPA - Troegs Brewing Company (Pennsylvania)
Two Hearted Ale - Bell's Brewery (Michigan)
This round shocked us all a bit. The beers were all very similar and very good! It was hard to tell one from the other. Flower Power stood out to Heather and I though, and we both thought it was easily the best. We've grown to absolutely love that beer as of late and would put it up against any IPA in the world. Perpetual and Two Hearted were both strong competitors but I didn't think they had as much of the grapefruit quality I love so much.
Sadly for New York though, when the voting came in, Two Hearted won. Of all of the categories on the night, this is the one I disagreed with the results of the most. While good, I know that Perpetual wasn't Kelly's first choice for the event. It would have been interesting had she brought whatever her original plan was.
Round 3 Competitors - Stout/Porter
Krysztoff Baltic Porter - CB's Brewing Company (New York)
Devil Bird Imperial Porter - Lavery Brewing Company (Pennsylvania)
Kentucky Breakfast Stout - Founders Brewing Company (Michigan)
Kelly and I discussed this round quite a bit in the days leading up to the party. We suspected that Emily and Andrew would be bringing KBS and thus knew it was an uphill battle for us. She ended up bringing another beer from Lavery Brewing Company and it was exceptional. Heather and I went with a bit of a dark horse in our mind. Krysztoff has won several awards and is an extremely tasty example of the style. We suspected that no one at the party would have had it before and we were right. It was a hard choice for us because we love virtually all of Souther Tier's stouts, so going with something different was tough. I'm happy we brought something surprising though.
In the end our fates were sealed. Everyone absolutely loved Kentucky Breakfast Stout and who can really blame them. This entire round was a hit though. Each beer was robust and awesome. Regardless, Michigan was now up 2-1-0.
Round 4 Competitors - Wild Card
Adoration - Brewery Ommegang (New York)
Imperial French Ale - Lavery Brewing Company (Pennsylvania)
Bam Noire - Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales (Michigan)
The fourth round was intended to be a bit loopy. I knew by this point we'd all have had quite a bit of beer in us. I wanted people to really bring some crazy things! In an effort to continue saving the adoration, Heather and I pulled a couple of bottles of one of our favorites up from the cellar. I was particularly hopeful that this beer would do well. One of our invitees announced to me that he despised it a mere days before I found out Ommegang may not make it again. I was hoping that, when trying beers blind, he would tell me he liked it and I could have that small victory. Sadly, Adoration would come in third in the voting and our hopes of tying Michigan on the night were dashed.
Emily and Andrew brought something from Jolly Pumpkin, another brewery that we were worried about in the days leading up to the event. It ended up winning the category, ending the night in a clear Michigan victory at 3-1-0. Bam Noire, the Jolly Pumpkin beer that won it, was interesting. I honestly didn't really care for it even though I love sours and maybe it's because I recently had Bam Biere, it's lighter cousin and loved it. The Imperial French from Lavery was really intriguing and a great choice for the wild card round. It was definitely something you don't get to try every day and I really liked it. My choice for the round would have definitely been Adoration though.
Michigan won and the party was a great success. We all had a ton of fun and trying all of the different beers was exciting. We may do another one as soon as this winter so that we can have access to a different round of seasonals. We'll definitely pick different categories and maybe decrease the serving size to two or three ounces. I don't think people will be allowed to bring the same beer again either. We'll call it the 'KBS' rule.
Mike on August 8, 2012 at 7:47pm EDT