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March madness 

Some tournaments are for hoops, others are for hops. We explain how to enjoy the fever for all things bracket-related with your own beer battle party.

click to enlarge Carol Roderick on the road to victory.
  • Carol Roderick on the road to victory.

If you follow current affairs at all, you know that March Madness is all about the NCAA tournament and the iconic brackets of teams competing. Even though I don't follow basketball, I get it.

But my ears perked up recently when I met a friend of a friend who was throwing her own March Madness party. It had nothing to do with basketball, and everything to do guessed it, beer.

The basic premise is to select a number of beers, then the beers compete head-to-head in a blind taste testing where participants vote on the winner and the majority rules. The Washington Post deserves credit for inspiring the idea, and your March deserves the madness of you throwing your own version. Here's how.

Getting started
Select a theme. For instance west coast versus east coast beers (Maritimes represent!), Canadian versus US, beers of the world. The possibilities are endless.

Then each person you invite has to bring a six-pack of beer suited to a particular category in the theme. Include home brews if your friends are talented.

Brews and brackets
Once everyone arrives, note what beer they brought and put the brackets together. Pick up at least two six packs from each category to make sure that there are enough pairs.

Once the bracket is assembled, begin the tasting, two beers at a time from the same category. Give everyone a small sample in a cup, simply labelled A and B. Participants taste both, then choose.

Whichever beer wins goes on to the next round. Ideally you want the beers to go through at least four rounds.

Eventually the best two go head to head, and the winner is declared.

Tasting notes
You can choose to cleanse your palette between tastings with something mild like unsalted soda crackers, but in general try to avoid food between tastings so that the taste of each beer is not altered. Food can come after the tasting is finished and the winner declared.

Stock up on:

• A Facebook account to send out an invite and track participants

• Bristol board, a marker and a ruler to draw up your brackets

• Small cups

• Ice

• Paper sleeves to mask samples

• Enough participants---or extra beer provisions---to bring one six-pack of each style

• Guidelines on what you are asking folks to judge (mouth feel, taste, a ranking scale, et cetera)

• After-judging munchies

• A prize for the winner (a gift certificate for a booze shop always scores)


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