Have you guys filled out all your brackets? I'm a bit behind this year. I've taken care of "Vegan Pizza Toppings," "Aunts Who Have Disappointed Me," "Bands I've Never Heard Of," and "Dudes Named Gary," and today I hope to get to "NCAA Men's Basketball," but I doubt I'm going to find time to complete Thrillist's "What Is The Best Craft Brewery In America?" bracket, which they thoughtfully published yesterday just in time to draw the Beer Internet's ire away from Drunkspin's shoddy stout listicle.
Many people regard the Thrillist beer bracket as a deeply flawed and half-assed attempt to stir up shit and cash in on this year's flare-up of our annual bracket mania. These people are 100 percent correct. It is a stupid bracket, both in conception—distribution hassles mean no one has access to all 64 breweries, so no one is qualified to vote—and in execution: If your bracket doesn't have room for Tröegs, your bracket can fuck off.
But that said, the reactionary defenders of the Craft Beer Movement™ who want the bracketeers drawn and quartered for crimes against brewski need to settle down. This bracket is as dumb as a hot dog, but it's also just as harmless. Some people think it's fun, probably, and what's wrong with helping those silly souls waste a pleasant bit of time? I'm pretty sure Boulevard will recover from their egregiously low 14-seed in the Midwest. This bracket is a naked popularity contest, of course, which means it will reflect the market, not influence it. So we don't need to care. Let's all join hands and not care.
Now let's turn our focus to the Official 2015 Drunkspin Beer Bracket Challenge! You compete like so: Go to the Thrillist bracket—sure, give 'em a click, they're not hurting anyone, and I have some friends who work there—and count up how many of their 64 breweries you've even heard of. If you get a perfect score, you need to either diversify your interests and/or stage a Drunkspin coup, because you're way ahead of me. Next, tally how many of the breweries you've actually known in the biblical sense. This can be very broadly defined to include a sip or two here or there at a festival, or a swig at one of those spooky underground bottle-share parties where all of your town's gray-market bubble-wrappers get together to swap gulps from that month's mail-order haul. In my case, for instance, it means I count Cigar City on the basis of one not-real-fresh can of Jai Alai I had when already drunk.
Now, the easy part: Admit to yourself, your maker, and your Thrillist just how many of these 64 breweries you are fully qualified to comment on. I'd say I'm more than passingly familiar with about 15 total (I've tried beers from exactly half of the field), and I do this for some semblance of a living. I realize that's a commentary on my own sloth—it can be reasonably argued that I'm unfit to lead this sloppy flock if I can't even get it together to sample all 16 breweries in my home region—but it's also a testament to the foolishness of the errand.
This is why Drunkspin is cutting out the preliminary bullshit and just declaring a winner in our inaugural "What's The Best March Madness Beer?" contest. We're pleased to announce that Allagash Saison beat out a stellar field of Schlitz served at 63 different temperatures to capture the crown. While 42-degree Schlitz put up a valiant fight in the final, there was just no denying Allagash Saison, a 6.1-percent alcohol-by-volume Belgian farmhouse ale from Portland, Maine, that debuted just in time for last year's NCAA tourney (hence the garish orange label, or so they told me on the tour).
Saisons might be my favorite style of beer, and Allagash might be my favorite brewery. Who cares about me, I realize, but unlike Thrillist, I'm not fronting like the Drunkspin bracket represents the distilled wisdom of the nation's leading beer-thinkers. They say "we asked beer experts from four different regions of the country to select the top 16 craft breweries in their respective region." I, on the other hand, say "I really like Allagash Saison, it's good and springy and seems perfect for watching basketball nonstop for the next couple of weeks; also, when I took the Allagash tour last month, they gave me a free bottle of Curieux when the guy who arranged the trip let on that I am a beer blogger favorably disposed toward their company." My statement's not as cool, but it's also not an obvious fucking lie.
Allagash Saison is brewed with three different grains, three hop varieties, and Belgian candi sugar, resulting in a rich, complex beer that is simultaneous fruity and spicy, which is a pretty neat trick. It opens with the traditional saison aromas of black pepper and cloves, but it also shows an uncommon degree of citrus. The fruit becomes more defined with time, as the general citrus-tropical notes sharpen into orange and pineapple—according to my one dumb tongue, anyway—before giving way to pepper and light pine on the long, dry finish.
So congratulations, Allagash Saison, on being named A Really Good Beer That This One Guy Loves. You've earned it.
This is Drunkspin Daily, the Concourse's adequate source for booze news, reviews, and bullshit. We'll be highlighting a beer a day in this space; please leave suggestions below.
Will Gordon loves life and tolerates dissent. He lives in Cambridge, Mass., and some of his closest friends have met Certified Cicerones. Find him on Twitter @WillGordonAgain. Image by Jim Cooke.
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