Follow the judging for Beer Madness 2011: Celebrating US craft brews
on 09/03/11 at 10:38 amBeer
Last year, we went global in honor of the Olympics. This year, with a post-Prohibition record of more than 1,700 breweries operating in the United States, we doubled the field from 32 to 64 and decided to celebrate the glories of American craft brews.
All 64 breweries represented meet the Brewers Association’s exacting standard of “craft.” They’re small (even Boston Beer Co., with its 2-million-barrels-a-year output, is a guppy compared with such barracudas as Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors). They’re independent (not specialty divisions of large corporate brewers). They’re traditional (no corn or rice adjuncts were used to water down these beers for the timid).
By carefully rationing samples and spreading our tastings over two days, we were able to admit stronger styles that we had barred in the past out of sympathy for our livers.
Alcohol-wise, the contestants in this year’s Beer Madness run the gamut from a 4 percent (by volume) dark mild to a 12 percent wood-aged imperial brown ale.
Extreme beers – IPAs fermented with Belgian yeasts, coffee-infused stouts, supersized “imperial” versions of traditional styles – are the hot ticket in craft brewing. Excluding those beers, as we largely did in previous years, would be unrepresentative of the market, not to mention just plain ungrateful for all the work the brewers put into them.