Wet Your Beak: Chicago Top 10 Craft Beer Bars

*Last Updated 9/4/18*

I often get asked by friends and acquaintances coming to Chicago what my favorite places are to get a great beer in the city of Chicago. I’ve lived here since 2010, and jumped in the scene in 2012 or so. It’s been interesting watching how things have progressed and changed as time went on as old reliable stalwarts of the craft scene in Chicago have kept up with the times or in some cases, fallen behind as beer has changed.

This post will be updated periodically as establishments come and go, or change. I don’t consider this to be the definitive list of Chicago beer, merely my favorite joints to go for a good pint. I’d also add there is a bit of location bias skewed towards the Northwest side, based on where I’ve lived in the city.

In no particular order, I present my Top 10 Chicago Craft Beer Bars.

Local Option
Nestled between a college campus and the Lincoln Park neighborhood is Local Option. Typically known for having one sizable beer event every month, Local Option hooked me in 2013 when I went to my first event there, called Pi Day on of course 3.14. You can always count on them to have multiple events throughout the year with BCBS variants and other rare stuff you might not see elsewhere in the city like kegs from De Struise or the occasional Loon. They also are home to a great tradition of Air Guitar championships. Food is available.

Links Taproom
Well known for their realtime updated beer menu displaying not only what’s on tap, but how much of a beer is remaining in the keg, Links became one of my favorites upon opening a few years ago. Being able to see what is about ready to kick, or what was just tapped is a nice feature that I’d like to see offered more. They typically have several notable beer events each month and often times, revered hype stouts last more than just a few hours here.

Their kitchen offers some fine encased meat options and their fries are pretty money as well.

Hopleaf
Where as Map Room has kind of lost relevance over the last couple years as the beer scene has developed, Hopleaf continues to wow and progress. Hopleaf is one of the best restaurants with an excellent beer program that has continued to offer great events and one of the better Belgian beer lists in the city. This is a great date spot as it has many quiet tables spread throughout the upper portion of the bar. Hopleaf is definitely the place to go if you’re in the Uptown/Andersonville area.

Bangers & Lace – Wicker Park
I imagine some might find this place pretentious. The crowd can be a little bit sometimes. I think Bangers & Lace is one of the bars I feel most welcome in by the staff. Sit at the bar, and talk beer with their smart and aware crew. This is one of the bars I value most for being able to bring non-beer friends to as they have a great cocktail program and a solid bourbon selection. Bangers & Lace is a place that generally doesn’t heavily promote its big beer tappings, which means some really great beers can sit here for days. The most notable of which was Lou Pepe Kriek 2007 that sat on tap for almost 2 full days back in 2014.

Bangers & Lace has a nice level of dark intimacy which makes it a great choice for a date as well. Their outdoor seating is also enjoyable when the weather is nice. Bangers & Lace serves food with a menu that regularly changes.

The Beer Temple
Brand new to the Chicago tap room scene, but an obvious pillar in the craft scene in general, The Beer Temple’s taproom is an excellent new facility with a taplist curated by one of the more admirable personalities in Chicago beer. The list features a very well rounded array of options from currently topical and popular hazy IPAS, to farmhouse ales/saisons, to ESB’s, imperial stouts and a spontaneous/wild beer line.

Timothy O’Tooles
Throwing this spot in to the list as one of the better downtown beer locations, as well as one of the better craft joints to watch sports at. Far too often, many craft beer joints turn their nose up at athletics on TVs if they have televisions at all. That’s fine. There’s a place and time for that. But beer and sports are so inexorably linked that you might want a good spot to indulge in both. Timothy O’Toole’s is the choice for that.  This location is also decent if you’re a tourist in Chicago who won’t have the time to get out to some of the further flung locations on this list.

Sheffield’s
The single best option for a Cubs pre-game or post-game beer is Sheffield’s in Lakeview. Sheffield’s does carry some great credit as a bit of an OG beer destination. Typically Goose Island does one of their Bourbon County Black Wednesday events here. They also typically have some really enjoyable cellar bottles they bring out from time to time or tease in a wine fridge near the back bar. They have some solid barbecue here and hold tap takeovers very frequently. Definitely the best beer bar in the Wrigleyville/Lakeview neighborhood.

Maria’s Packaged Goods & Community Bar
Representing the south side is the original de-facto home for Marz Brewing, Maria’s. Maria’s is unique on this list as an example of a Chicago “slashie,” where both a tavern and a retail store are on the same premise. Beer Temple is also kind of one, but Maria’s a bit of a holdover from a lesser polished era. Before Marz opened their brewpub at their production facility, Maria’s was long the capital in the growing Marz operation. Maria’s continues to be a staple of the south side craft beer scene and is a great place to hit up before or after a White Sox game if you’re in town to catch some baseball.

Emporium Arcade Bar – Wicker Park
There are two Emporium’s, One in Wicker Park and another in Logan Square. The Wicker Park location is the specific one making the list. The Logan Square location is enjoyable in its own right, but home to less events, but feels much more roomy and expansive

The Wicker Park location typically has several enjoyable events per year from Darkside, a celebration of dark and barrel aged beers, to specific brewery tap take overs. It’s a bit of a packed bar many nights due to its 2 room split but as a Barcade, it’s an enjoyable spot and their live concert portion of their bar brings some entertaining acts. No food present but you’re welcome to bring your own.

The Map Room
I’m honestly a little half hearted about Map Room. It was the first craft bar in Chicago I had an affinity for. This is an OG craft beer spot in Chicago that has had many great beers available over the years including things like Vanilla Dark Lord, typically without much build up or hype. Over time, many great craft beer bars have opened in this area, including other locations on this list. Map Room feels like it has gotten somewhat stale in its offerings. That’s not to say it has fallen off with their offerings, rather they haven’t kept up with trends and new breweries in the same way another older pillar of Chicago beer like Hopleaf has. Still, Map Room continues to have a reliable list of Belgian stuff like Rodenbach and Tripel Karmeliet and I sentimentally value it for its history and charm.

Food is not available but you may bring in food from elsewhere. Also the tamale guy is known to make stops here

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First 5 Out

The Publican

The Green Lady

Binny’s Tap Room Lincoln Park

Bitter Pops

Fountainhead

Those we’ve lost

The Beer Bistro
Previously an original Top 10 member, The Beer Bistro closed in May of 2018. I’m a big fan of Beer Bistro for its normalcy. It’s not a high end dining location, it’s not a dive, it doesn’t have a fancy electronic tap list, or an overly stylized chalkboard list. It’s just a good middle of the road gastropub with American cuisine, a fairly nice taplist and the occasional high profile event. I find Beer Bistro to be a good choice for a drink after dinner, if you’ve just finished up a meal in the Randolph Street area.

Villains
Previously a top 10 member, Villains was a bit of a sleeper, with it’s South Loop location and easy pivot from many peoples offices to happy hour. Villains was a great option if you were staying in the Loop, and fairly easy to get to if you’re in River North or near McCormick Place. Villains carried many Shelton Brothers items. It’s probably not the best choice if you’re looking to drink primarily Chicago beers, though they do have some. Villains is one of the few places in Chicago that typically had Cantillon bottles available for on-site consumption, though they are typically almost as pricey as secondary market bottles go. The gastropubby food is certainly elevated and their staff is very generous with sharing limited pours if they’re having an event. I think this bar was the right idea for the wrong part of the city.

Header photo courtesy of Kevin J. Miyazaki, New York Times

The Great Bourbon County Brand Swerve

Hey guys! Are you excited for Neapolitan stouts?! Strawberry! Chocolate! Vanilla! You know, like that great beer Cycle and 3 Sons made, or the allegedly unsanctioned Bourbon County Brand Scooop also made by 3 Sons, or that More Double Rainbow that was pretty okay?

What about a cinnamon forward Horchata stout?  It could be a fun spin on the Mexican drink that’s very popular as almost a dessert drink. This beer style that has had fairly successful efforts done by Untitled Art, and Ballast Point. Just think what a fresh take on Bourbon County this could be.

Just kidding. Those beers aren’t real. Goose Island got you good.

littlesneakygoose
They played beer people like a bunch of rubes

If you haven’t already read by now, the official lineup of bottle variants of Bourbon County Brand Stout was released today.  It included 2 of their mainstays, and several other variants learned about via TTB label filings. The list skewed towards bringing back old favorites like Bramble and Vanilla Stout, but missing from the list was the previously teased variants, as well as the now annual favorite Coffee and Barleywine, replaced with well, a Coffee Barleywine.

The 2018 Bourbon County Bottle Lineup

  • Bourbon County Brand Stout
  • Reserve Bourbon County Brand Stout (12-year-old Elijah Craig Barrel Bourbon barrels)
  • Proprietor’s Bourbon County Brand Stout (Prop with dark chocolate and cocoa nibs)
  • Bourbon County Brand Vanilla Stout (aged with Madagascar vanilla beans)
  • Bourbon County Brand Bramble Rye Stout (aged in rye barrels with raspberry and blackberry
  • Bourbon County Brand Wheatwine
  • Bourbon County Brand Midnight Orange Stout (with chocolate and orange zest)
  • Bourbon County Brand Coffee Barleywine (with Intelligentsia coffee beans)

If you haven’t had BCBS randalled through Intelligentsia Black Cat espresso beans, you’re in for a treat. I’m personally excited for that being bottled for the first time, but this post isn’t about Coffee Barleywine, and it’s definitely not about the orange labeled bottle that has the same color as that photoshopped Pumpkin BCBS label from a few years ago.

“According to a source they were diversionary tactics to throw beer nerds — and the media — off the scent of this year’s actual lineup of eight beers,” – Josh Noel

How is intentionally creating higher expectations for your brand than you plan to deliver, a good business decision? Did someone think this was a Hulk Hogan joining the nWo level swerve? In reality it came out looking like the Vince McMahon’s illegitimate son angle.

I think a lot of beer nerds enjoy surprises, like going to a bottle release and the brewer dropping a secret 1pp without an announcement or going to a beer fest with a brewery whose list of beers in the program turn out to be way more pedestrian than what they actually tap.

Goose Island has done some cool surprises before like dropping Double Barrel BCBS out of nowhere or doing the Mystery BCBS festival pours before, where they didn’t tell you what variant you were drinking. However, promoting something that sounds great that turns out to be an intentional decoy really benefits nobody.

If we learned anything from the 2015 release, if the infected BCBS didn’t keep customers away from Black Friday lines, this certainly won’t either. Just think…for a month they convinced people they were making new beers that tickers were excited for. You sure got us all, Goose.

orangebcbs
Also they made an orange beer for some reason, because citrus stouts are all the rage apparently.

Cruisin for a Geuzin II: Up a Kriek

A little over one year ago, myself and some other tasters in Chicago gathered for a bit of a bottle share experiment, called Cruisin for a Geuzin. The bottle share was inspired by a few questions. Is Lambic better than great American Wild Ales? In a blind setting, could tasters tell the difference? And of the Lambic available, did hype and reputation really equal better taste?

In a field that included Lou Pepe Gueuze, multiple years of Cantillon classic gueuze, Drie Fonteinen bottles, vintage Cable Car, Duck Duck Geuze, Jester King, New Glarus, and even an Upland, the bottle with the highest average rating was an aged $12 shelf bottle of Lindeman’s Cuvee Rene.

With the first attempt successful, we circled back around one year later to revisit the same concept, this time with Kriek Lambic and Cherry American Wild Ales. To find some level of uniformity, we decided upon the following rules for bottle eligibility

  • Beer must include cherries. No specific variety required. No other adjuncts permitted, ie: Cherry+Raspberry, Cherry+Vanilla.
  • Style should originate as geuze/lambic or American Wild Ale. Saisons also welcome
  • Flanders style, oud bruins, goses, and berliners are not permitted.
  • Each submission should be at least 750ml. Submission may be 2x 375s

Each bottle was decanted into a pitcher outside the sight of anyone rating. Each rater logged their rating with a Google Form built for the event, where tasters rated the bottle between 0-5, and could guess from the known bottles in the field, what beer they were drinking.

Captain
The Captain distributing pours. Much appreciated for all the work she put in uncorking bottles and filling glasses for 5 hours

With that out of the way, here’s the final rankings. Ratings were normalized from the blind ratings from 9 tasters. Tasting took about 5 hours from the first bottle to the finish

Normalized Rankings

 

Another one for HORAL

Paralleling last years results, an inexpensive bottle of Timmerman’s Oude Kriek Lambicus won, rather decisively. The date on the back was listed as 2013, which I’m uncertain if that’s a brewed date or a bottled date.

The Top 5 was dominated by Lambic including Cantillon Kriek, two bottles of Drie Fonteinen, which scored oddly similar, despite being drank nearly 4 hours apart, the only Scharbeekse cherry variety from Hanssens, and a lone De Garde bottle.

Medal Stand
The Top 3 Up A Kriek bottles. Originally Intense Red was #2 before we normalized the data, which then flipped with #3 Cantillon Kriek

Facts and Observations

  • Pour size was about 2oz per person, which left a good amount of beer for resampling, and cuvees after the results we announced
  • Total corks that hit the ceiling: 0
  • The bottle with the highest secondary value in the field, Kriek du Fermier finished in the top half of the field, behind 5 beers that have been readily found on shelves, at least in Chicago.
  • De Garde’s Kriek Premiere faired quite a bit better than The Kriek
  • Of the tasters, the highest correctly guessed bottles were 5 total by one person
  • Upland Cherry didn’t do as bad as forum commenters would probably have predicted. In fact, one taster even guessed the Upland bottle was a Cantillon Kriek
  • One taster correctly identified Belgian or American origin on 22 of 23 bottles, the incorrect guess? Mistaking Upland for a Loon.
  • Bottle Count:  Belgian- 13, American- 10 (if you include New Belgium’s 50/50 collaboration with Oud Beersel as American)
  • Yes, we did create a kings cup of 23 kriek beers. It was absolutely great.
Kriek
Apparently our wordplay was already used for an average beer years ago. This one was not in the field

2018 Dark Lord Variant Predictions

Here we are, back again for another spring foray into Munster, Indiana. I personally took last year off from Dark Lord Day to attend Mikkeller Beer Celebration, so after the one year hiatus, I’m returning, just as the weather appears to again return to traditional terrible spring midwest weather. This years list is the largest quantity of variants topping 2016’s ten variants, with 11 this year.

Last year during my absence I decided to take a look at the variant list as it was released and made predictions about the variants I thought would likely work, which would not and which would be most popular from a secondary market stand point. I’m by no means an authority on great beers. I’m just a ticker that has drank some good Dark Lords, and lot more bad Barrel-Aged Dark Lords. You didn’t come for the opening diatribe. You’re here for the unsubstantiated beer opinions.

darklordday1
Port, a beat up de Muerte, fortified wine, and BVDL. It’s like we get to relive 2014 all over again!

 

2018 Barrel Aged Dark Lord Variant Ranking Predictions

  1. Marshmallow Handjee — Bourbon barrel aged Dark Lord with vanilla beans
  2. ChemTrailMix — Dark Lord aged in rye barrels with cinnamon + pink peppercorns
  3. Hung Drawn N Quartered — Rye barrel-aged Dark Lord
  4. Cavaliero of Varnov  Oloroso sherry aged Dark Lord
  5. Spaceforce! — Dark Lord aged in Pineau Des Charentes barrels with vanilla, cocoa nibs + coffee
  6. French Vanilla Militia — Dark Lord aged in Sauternes barrels with vanilla, cocoa nibs + coffee
  7. Greatest Teachable Moments — American brandy barrel with verbena, ginger + orange peel
  8. Brotilla  Carcavelos aged Dark Lord
  9. Lounge Against the Macromachine — Tequila barrel with Mekong cinnamon, cocoa nibs, guajillo peppers + tangerine peel
  10. Brozerker — Ruby port aged Dark Lord
  11. Turtledogg – Scotch barrel-aged Dark Lord

mods done
Just like the original winged skull of Three Floyds, and Barrel Aged variants, less is more. Clutter is whatever this is.

Variant Breakdown Analysis
Reminder, these are predictions, not tasting notes. Tick them yourself and let me know how wrong I was @Ferowcious

Marshmallow Handjee — Bourbon barrel aged Dark Lord with vanilla beans
This is the undisputed king of Dark Lord variants since 2011. It’s consistency is relatively unmatched for having so many iterations come out of the Three Floyds Barrel Warehouse which has it’s share of infected stouts. This is really the king until it is unseated. I know FVM 2016 made a good run but this is still the gold standard.

Hung Drawn N Quartered — Rye barrel-aged Dark Lord
This is the first time a Rye barrel has made an appearance in the Dark Lord variant history. There’s no regular Bourbon Dark Lord this year which is unfortunate, as it is a reliably great variant. Rye treatments have shined with a lot of great stouts and I expect that to continue here. No adjuncts present to blow this party up, which should make this a variant to stand out for its purity, even if it doesn’t have a lot of flash.

Spaceforce! — Dark Lord aged in Pineau Des Charentes barrels with vanilla, cocoa nibs + coffee
Pineau des Charentes barrels made appearances in 2016 on 2 different variants, Legio Gemina, and Temeculan 3000 (often regarded as the worst Dark Lord variant of all time.) I’m staunchly against fortified wine barrel Dark Lord variants, just due to history. Dark Lord is such a brutal sickeningly sweet stout on it’s own, it doesn’t need an overly sweet barrel. This variant has quite a tempting roster of adjuncts that would rightfully raise some eyebrows. I think this variant will struggle to satisfy the way even French Vanilla Militia 2017 did with the great adjuncts and the challenging sweet moscatel barrel.

ChemTrailMix — Dark Lord aged in rye barrels with cinnamon + pink peppercorns
Last year I suggested “ChemTrailMix would seem to me to be the biggest risk/reward bottle.” The rewards were legitimate as ChemTrailMix still remains the 2nd most popular variant from 2017. It looks like this variant was met only with a tweak from Bourbon barrels to Rye. Probably positive moving from the sweeter Bourbon to the more spicy Rye. ChemTrailMix should continue to be a can’t miss as the legend of this variant grows.

French Vanilla Militia — Dark Lord aged in Sauternes barrels with vanilla, cocoa nibs + coffee
French Vanilla Militia 2016 was a revelation that challenged the BVDL throne. FVM 2017 was the beer that reminded us why Moscatel Dark Lord only need to be made once. Three Floyds is going back to the sweet wine well on FVM again. Historically Trump and Pump, which was also a Sauternes barrel is only slightly below average. Look for a small improvement over FVM 2017, but the greatness of FVM 2016 just gets further in the rear-view.

Lounge Against the Macromachine — Tequila barrel with Mekong cinnamon, cocoa nibs, guajillo peppers + tangerine peel
No Dark Lord de Muerte this year? Really unfortunate as that variant has improved greatly in the last 2 years over early iterations. Instead this year they threw guajillos into a Tequila barrel, found some other pastry fan boy adjuncts and unleashed this upon the world. After suffering through Westbrook Tequila Mexican Cake, I don’t have high expectations here. Tequila is just a tough barrel variant to get done well. I think I’ve had probably 2-3x as many good tequila barrel aged wilds/sours as I have any other style. Occasionally there are great ones like Firestone Walker PNC, but those seem to be the exceptions, not the rule.

Greatest Teachable Moments — American brandy barrel with verbena, ginger + orange peel
On one hand, this sounds like a refreshing light attempt at brightening up the sticky sweetness of Dark Lord. On the other hand, this feels like the Earl of Biggleswade’s niece, with ginger and verbena flowers substituted for cocoa nibs and cardamom. Outstanding name, but what will we learn?

Cavaliero of Varnov  Oloroso sherry aged Dark Lord
This is the first sherry barrel Dark Lord variant. I think the dry qualities of the Oloroso could be very conducive to making a great variant. I’d like to think this will be better than Moscatel Dark Lord and probably Portugese Brandy Dark Lord as well.

Brozerker — Ruby port aged Dark Lord
2013 introduced the world to Port Dark Lord. The peeps have not been clamoring for more. To date, 2013 fresh Port Dark Lord is the sweetest variant I’ve had. Dark Lord just doesn’t lend itself to doing sweet wine barrels very well. We didn’t need this variant again. We also didn’t need Speed 2: Cruise Control, and yet, the universe gives.

Brotilla  Carcavelos aged Dark Lord
Another Portugal regional fortified wine barrel. I’d love to pretend I didn’t have to Wikipedia this style, but I have too many vices already to get locked up in the minutiae of learning minor Portuguese wine regions. Carcavelos wines are described as dry, topaz colored wines with nutty aromas and flavors. Rest assured this is still a sweet wine, just allegedly not as much so as Port.

Turtledogg – Scotch barrel-aged Dark Lord
Is Scotch whisky your thing? Maybe this will be for you. This beer went through an interesting resale path last year with the Ardbeg barrels. There didn’t seem to be a lot of bottles that moved, but the ones that moved early had a huge secondary price tag, then seemingly everyone that wanted one, had one and that was the last we heard from Dia Oscuro. We don’t know what source these Scotch barrels are from. Will they be brutally peaty Islay or will it be more subdued and approachable to beta whiskey palates? Great approachable Scotch barrel stouts are not common. I wouldn’t start betting on it to work here.

 

Enjoy Dark Lord Day. Remember, you can’t drink enough water, but if you have the choice, the BA Water is best.water

 

Goose Island Clybourn Brewhouse Wax Color Guide

Time after time I’ve seen people combing through their cellars struggling to figure out what Goose Island Brewpub bottle they have.

Goose Island’s original Brewpub previously started 750ml bottle releases in 2013. The bottle art has changed but one thing has not, the name of the beer is never on the bottle. The only way to differentiate beer from beer is the wax colors.

Below is a list of previous Goose Island Brewhouse (formerly known as Goose Island Clybourn) bottle releases sorted by name, description and wax color of the bottles. This list only does not include Proprietary or Vainglorious, but does include Night Fights

Last Updated: 4/5/18

Beer Name Description Wax Color Example
BA Big Lazy Joe Imperial brown ale with coffee aged in bourbon barrels Red  Big Lazy Joe
BA Impervious Imperial stout with coffee Olive Khaki  BA Impervious
Big Train Imperial Rye Porter aged for 10 months in Buffalo Trace and Woodford Reserve barrels Dark Cream Big Train
Brettanomite Sour wheat that was aged 13 months in oak barrels Yellow Brettanomite
Cherry Run Wheatwine aged in Woodford Reserve Bourbon Barrels and finished with Tart Cherries Pink Pearl Cherry Run
Cthulhu Imperial Oatmeal Stout aged in an 18 year Elijah Craig Barrel Periwinkle Blue Cthulhu Blue
Cthulhu Imperial Oatmeal Stout aged in an 18 year Elijah Craig Barrel Copper Cthulhu Copper
Dark Crusader Imperial stout aged in Woodford Reserve barrels Lavender Purple Dark Crusader
Double Date Belgian Quad aged for 10 months in 12 year Elijah Craig barrels. Black Double Date
Flanders Red Flemish red ale aged in wine barrels
Brick Red Flanders Red
Grimm Vicar Belgian Dark Abbey Ale aged 2/3 in red wine barrels and 1/3 in bourbon barrels. Black Sparkled Grimm Vicar
Ground Control Barrel aged strong ale Matte Silver/Gray Ground Control
Night Fights Raspberry Impervious Lilac, light purple Night Fights.jpg
Nutulhu Hazelnut Oatmeal Stout Bright White Nutulhu
Silver Jubilee Double Pale Ale Forest Green Silver Jubilee
Yellow Umbrella Description Yellow Yellow Umbrella

Photos courtesy of Untappd

Additional Notes

  • There was 2 releases of Cthulhu, but they are the same beer from the same aging period. Copper is the first release, and the Periwinkle Blue is the second.
  • Yellow Umbrella and Brettanomite are both Yellow wax. If the bottle has a 25th anniversary logo on it, it’s Brettanomite, if it doesn’t, then its Yellow Umbrella
  • BA Impervious, Big Train, and Ground Control are all kind of a vague brown/gray/green color. They can easily run together so check them closely if you’re unsure. A lot of photos make those wax colors look different depending on how well lit they are.

2018 March Madness Bottle Share Tournament Preview

The 2018 Tournament Bracket is live, with the event less than a day away.

Who are your picks? Who is the Cinderella to watch for? Does a stout or dark beer take the title for the 4th year in a row? This years field includes entrants from 4 countries. A selection of the pastry-est stouts going today, world class lambic, incredible coffee beers, and an event that’s always filled with surprises.

Details of the event including format and rules and previous winners can be found in the links

Download the PDF here: 2018-MMBST-Bracket-FINAL

The full bracket is below, but the PDF above is easier for zooming into regions

MMBST Bracket Final

Every year we change the theme for region names. In the past it has been favorite Facebook beer groups, friends who have participated but not been able to join, and beer cliches. This year our theme we’ve chosen is Beer Fests we personally have been to and like. Note, there is no specific connection to beers in each region with the Region Name. It’s merely done to throw in some color rather than calling them East/West/Midwest/South. With that out of the way, here’s a short breakdown of the regions.

Great Taste Region

Great Taste of the Midwest

The #1 overall seed Prop 14 looks to have a good potential run through to the Elite 8. The bottom of the region is clustered with impressive coconut beers and 2 great stouts out of St. Louis breweries. This region features only 2 wilds and is the most stout heavy. Two Fremont beers are represented in this region, including Coconut B-Bomb, descendant of 2015 winner Coffee Cinnamon B-Bomb. Look for Prop to get toppled by the fresher coconut energy of Coconut B-Bomb to take the region.

Wakefest Region

Wakefest

The Wakefest region is lead by Shared Mexican Coffee Shop Vibes and Willet Bourbon Mexican Cake. This region includes 3 wilds.  There’s a pair of Rum barrel beers with Rum Black Tuesday and J Wakefield Darkbier. Though one of my own personal bottle submission is in this region, I strongly think Omnipollo BA Extra Maple Lorelei will be the star of this region.

FOBAB Region

FOBAB

This region is headed up by the highest ranked wild in the event, 2015 Fou Foune, and an old classic, Chocolate Rain ’14. This region has the biggest cluster of wilds with 6, and has the only IPA in the field with the freshly canned You’re Derek Jeter from The Veil. This region has the only 2 lambic bottles in the field. This is also probably the most diverse region as every beer is very much different in style or adjuncts. I’m a little biased, but I think Fou Foune takes the bracket. If Hommage can break out of its first round 3-way matchup, it might pose the biggest threat to take the FOBAB region from the #1 seed.

Mikkeller Beer Region

Mikkeller Beer Celebration

One of the hottest beers of February from Modern Times leads the way with #1 Modem Tones followed by Central Waters XX. This region includes 3 wilds including 3 of the best American Wild Ale producers in the country, Side Project, Holy Mountain, and De Garde. This region feels like the most wide open of any of the regions. This feels like region where a Hailstorm Maple BA Vlad could sneak through and go on a deep run. The relatively unknown Cycle Brinner with its maple and coffee might be able to over power the less adjunct laden Medianoche, and XX. With that being said, Vanilla has done exceptionally well in previous years including last years Champion, Grimm Sumi Ink, so I’ll take the chalk Modem Tones to come out of this region.

Biggest Potential Upsets

  • BA Cocoa Shake has a relatively small amount of reviews and is kind of an unknown. If I had to pick a #9 seed, BA Cocoa Shake beating Modem Tones Vanilla would be the one
  • In the 2-7 matchups, the biggest potential upset I see is You’re Derek Jeter beating Chocolate Rain. Through the years, we’ve found that new beers previously not had by the group have generally outperformed against beers that people have had previously. While a hoppy beer has never won a March Madness Bottle Share Tournament match, the combination of The Veil’s You’re Derek Jeter being released 4 days before the event and being ridiculously fresh, and a triple IPA at 10% could stand up to the enormous 18% and well known and traveled Chocolate Rain.
  • From the 3-6 matches I like the potential of the coconut lead Benthic surprising the Coffee rarity Perennial BA Sump. Though I’m picking Omnipollo BA Extra Maple Lorelei to win it all, I would not be shocked if the sneaky underrated J Wakefield/Bottle Logic Rum Matusalem Dark Bier pulled off the upset
  • Looking at the 4-5-8 three way matchups, these are always challenging and historically don’t have a lot of upsets from the low seed.  If I had to pick a #8 to move on past the challenging three ways, I’d go with Hill Farmstead Works of Love: Tired Hands, if its nuance and balance can stand the test of 3F and the DFPF/Miami Madness Cuvee de Wakefield, it might make it to another lambic match against Cantillon Fou Foune.

Want to follow along with the action? Posts on social media will have the hashtag #MMBST