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


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


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

The Big Ferowcious Beer Run

I had some time to burn before I started a position at a new company so I decided to take a bit of a solo beer road trip. I started planning about a week in advance, with an aim to be able to hit some of my favorite breweries from the Mid Atlantic and Northeast on their release days. Here’s a recap of The Big Ferowcious Beer Run

Saturday 9/23/17 – Zwanze Day – Jolly Pumpkin, Dexter, MI


After only doing Zwanze Day previously in Chicago, I wanted to get out and do a new location. Jolly Pumpkin is relatively new as a hosting location. This turned out to be a great decision. Cantillon pours of everything available only had a long line for the first 45 minutes or so, and every selection including the Zwanze beer were available for more than an hour. Beers like St. Lam and Viggy lasted almost 3 hours.

There were many guest breweries, so much so that this felt more like a conventional beer fest. As it turned out, multiple breweries I planned to visit in the upcoming week were here like Other Half, and The Veil. The cost was appreciably higher than other Zwanze events in more costlier markets, but I did feel I got my money’s worth.

Monday 9/25/17 – Columbus, OH

I departed from my parents Michigan home for a quick 2.5 hour drive south to Columbus. This was my first time, which unfortunately was hampered by many closures of prominent beer spots in Columbus. This stop was planned though for 2 reasons: 1 to see my friend Jim who I always enjoy crushing bottles with up in the Northern Lower part of Michigan. Always great to see good friends you knew, before you both got into craft beer. Secondly I was able to pick up an allotment from the previous day from Hoof Hearted. They released a peach milkshake IPA called Who’d Like to Hold My Clipboard (Peach.) Given this was only a Monday, we did some bottle sharing of some Seventh Son items, and a few Chicago items I brought, but had a short evening.

Tuesday 9/26/17 – The Veil, The Answer – Richmond, VA

The build up of cans, crowlers, bottles and cases continued in Richmond. The Veil does their weekly can release on Tuesdays and The Answer does their controversial Joose crowlers the same day. Following a 7.5 hour drive from Columbus through West Virginia and Virginia, I arrived at Richmond stop #1: The Veil.

This menu marquee was made for photography

The Veil released DIPAs If You’re Drinking This It’s Too Late, and Human Adult collaborations with Drake, and Trillium respectively. They also released a marzen called Deathless and a fruited gose called Never Together. I arrived around 5:30 and the line was about an hour.  I tried a couple of their impressive Triple IPAs on tap that all somehow walk the line of not being too malty, perfectly. The space feels very modern with a lot of gray and unusual taxidermy.

Immediately after, I rolled over to The Answer for my first time. I loaded up on Joose crowlers and sat down at the bar to try some of their stellar IPAs and Andall stouts. The Answer is very large as a brewpub. Unfortunately I arrived too late to try the food I’d heard so much about. I bought a nice stemmed glass and prepared to leave. As I walked to my car outside, I walked by An Bui, owner, face, and namesake of The Answer. He asked me if I’d like some more glasses to take with me. After a quick trip inside, he returned with 6 pieces of various glassware from mini tasters, to an Andall tilt, to multiple video game glasses, that had been recently released. A very generous surprise no doubt. We spent the next while chatting about beer experiences and sobering up via a large bag of Costco Steak Strips

An Bui, myself, and a tasty, bottomless bag of steak strips

Wednesday 9/27/17 – Tired Hands – Ardmore, PA

A 5 hour ride from Richmond, through DC, and Baltimore brought me to suburban Philadelphia to Tired Hands. I first loaded up on the can release of the day which was a DIPA called Why Laugh When You Can Cry, and the new classic Alien Church. Tired Hands has 3 establishments in a small area. This includes their production space that also has a full service brewpub restaurant. They also have a full retail store with tons of merch and bottles, and their smaller original brewpub space with a more limited menu. There are entirely different beers between their different sites.

“Eagles Fan”

Thursday 9/28/17 – Tree House – Charlton, MA

After waking up in Philadelphia and checking out Independence Hall, I got back on the road for a 4.5 hour drive to make my way to Massachusetts. Strategically I tried to make sure to drive through the late morning and early afternoon, to not get hung up in trying to pass through the New York metro area. This was my first time at the new Tree House location. I was fortunate enough to try the previous location and the differences were vast. Tree House feels like a monument to the idea of what they hoped their brewery could be. It really is impressive with how the owners chose to carry out their vision in this secluded hillside brewery. It’s rural, but the grounds are manicured and the wood work everywhere looks incredible.

Alter Ego, Green and Haze were all available with better limits than I was used to seeing. Even though it was very slow on a Thursday and they did open the on-site taps, I had to get to Boston for my first Fenway experience.

While this is a beer blog at its core, I’m nearly as much of a baseball fan as I am a beer nerd. Going into this trip I had been to 18 stadiums. A cold, windy late September night made for #19. Highly recommended if you haven’t been to Fenway or Boston previously.

Friday 9/29/17 – Trillium, Tree House – Canton, MA

Waking up in suburban Boston, I hit a few bottle shops before my first Trillium experience. It was a very chill Friday afternoon with lots of tasty double dry hopped items available. Trillium is so much different from all the other current popular producers. While they do case limits of their beers like many others, they had so many different options that the idea of getting limits for several items becomes untenable, well for most customers anyway

I wasn’t the only one doing a beer run for the crew apparently.

I’ll also say Trillium’s merch sales area definitely needs some work. All glassware is stored behind the bar of their retail/growler sales so you can’t touch it or pick it up for a closer look. Their sales people will show it to you individually piece by piece, but it feels like you’re clogging up the line. That’s my only strike on their establishment.

I loaded up with some DDH Fort Point, Scaled Up, DDH Melcher Street, DDH Summer Street, and Raspberry Soak.

Next up was a quick trip back to Tree House. They had all 3 can selections as the day before, but also added bottles of Double Shot Costa Rica Santa Rosa. This Tree House experience was vastly different from the previous day. The line was an hour long wrapping around their top parking lot around 3 sides. I was fortunate enough to get everything available while enjoying the setting sun and then jumped back in my car to make my way to Brooklyn for the Saturday morning Other Half release.

Tree House Brewing in the setting sun

Saturday 9/30/17 – Other Half – Brooklyn, MA

After staying in one of the most sketchy lodging choices I’ve ever made, I went to Other Half bright and early for the 3 beer Saturday morning release. I was able to make it to Other Half back in May for the first time during a long weekend in NYC, but I didn’t arrive early for the release that time. Here, I arrived 2 hours early and found a fascinating Beer Can swap meet taking place in the line around Other Half. I hadn’t ever read anything about this previously so it was certainly new to me. beerrun7.jpg

These swappers mostly had cans of recent releases from other breweries in the Mid Atlantic/North East. This included breweries like Equilibrium, Alchemist, Bissell Brothers, and the previous weeks Other Half cans, as well as other more far flung breweries like Monkish. Luckily I had a Jeep full of comparable items so I made some on the spot trades for previous weeks Other Half.

TL;DR: Hops

At Other Half they released Highballers on Death Mountain, Dare I Say..A Double IPA, and Double Dry Hopped Double Citra Daydream. I spent a few hours sucking down haze before returning to my hotel and heading for baseball stadium #20, Yankee Stadium.

Yankee Stadium is everything you’d think it’d be. Palatial, expensive, and modern, Yankee Stadium for a team on the upswing was a decent place to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Following that, I ducked into Fools Gold for some pours before heading back to Brooklyn.

Sunday 10/1/17 – Finback – Brooklyn, NY

Finback Brewing

I wasn’t ready to begin driving West, so I dropped in to Finback. It’s a terrific space. Above average beers that still have a ways to go. Picked up some Human cans in a mostly short visit. This concluded the beer acquisition portion of the trip, as I now had about 14 hours of driving to get back to Chicago.

The Haul

The Big Ferowcious Beer Haul

All said, I drove nearly 2800 miles, somehow surpassing my estimate by about 700 miles. In total, in purchases made for friends and myself, we collectively spent well over $2000 amassing over 350 cans, crowlers, growlers and bottles. It was a wild week with very little downtime which I do regret that facet of. The trip was so goal oriented and laser focused on releases that I didn’t get to spend more time exploring cities I’d never seen before, specifically Richmond, and Boston. Getting to tick 2 new baseball stadiums helped make it more worthwhile though.

The trip netted weeks of great hops and a great bottle share for those that helped to fund the trip. Shout-out to those of you who kicked in to make this trip sting a bit less on the bank account. Hope you enjoyed the fruits of the trip!


Wet Your Beak: Chicago Top 10 Craft Beer Bars

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.


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


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.


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 Beer Bistro
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.


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



First 5 Out

Twisted Spoke


The Green Lady

Binny’s Tap Room Lincoln Park

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