There was an event in Indianapolis this weekend called Brew Bracket. 400 beer lovers head to the Fairgrounds to do blind tastings of local beers and vote for a winner in a March Madness style bracket. We learned about it a few days before the event and considered going. But then we realized it would be 30 minutes of beer tasting sprinkled among 3.5 hours of Bill and I staring at each other, and decided not to go. (We're hoping to learn about the next one with enough advance warning to get a gang of people to go with us, so I only have to spend 30 minutes or so staring at Bill and the rest of the time chatting with friends.)
Instead, we decided to have our own brew bracket at home with the 10 beers we brewed and bottled this year.
We collected a bottle of each type and a fancy jam jar to pour it in. I also made a spread sheet of each beer, listing the grains and hops (and their proportions) used in making it. It was Very Geeky.
They looked like this, lined up from lightest to darkest.
Bill was very excited to get started.
We tasted them from lightest to darkest and talked about what we liked and didn't, and tried to understand the characteristics of the grains and the hops we used. Then, we set up a bracket and picked our favorites. (We also played Stump The Beer-o [an amended version of Stump the Wine-o] where one of us closed our eyes and tried to guess the two beers that were handed to us by smell and taste alone.)
We determined we really like the unusual beers the best - a grapefruit hefeweizen, a spruce lager, our pumpkin ale with homegrown pumpkins, and a brown - the only beer we've brewed so far from all grains and no extracts.
We thought about the suppliers of the kits and ingredients we have brewed. Three of our favorites were recipes from books and the pumpkin ale was a kit from Northern Brewer. (We bottled a Winter Spice Ale from a NB kit yesterday and preliminary tastings say "YUM!" We also re-racked a Peat-Smoked Porter from them yesterday. That one needs a little time to age, but has promise.)
We did NOT drink the full bottles of each of the ten beers. Much alcohol was sacrificed for our experiment, but we found it to be a fun and enlightening exercise...maybe an annual event??
Bottle Cap Key: The numbers are the month and year it was bottled.
A - Altbier (Brewer's Best Kit)
BAG - Brown all-grain (Monkey Paw Brown Ale recipe from "The Complete Joy of Home Brewing" by Charlie Papazian)
CR - Cream Ale (Great Fermentations kit)
GH - Grapefruit Hefe (an alteration of this recipe)
P - Porter (Dred Brown Porter from Great Fermentations)
PMP - Pumpkin Ale (Northern Brewer Smashing Pumpkin Kit with added 6-row and pumpkin mash)
SP - Spruce Lager (Black Honey Spruce Lager from the Papazian book)
T - Tripple End kit from Great Fermentations
W - Witbier (Brewer's Best Kit)
W2 - Witless in Indiana (GF kit)