March Madness just is getting under way, and already California is down to one contender. Hold on, this version of March Madness isn't about hoops, but hops. In a bit of inspired fun and interactive journalism, Washington Post beer columnist Greg Kitsock is overseeing Beer Madness, a bracketed tournament that started out with 32 competing beers, including three from California. After the first round, only one California brew remains in contention, Stone Pale Ale by Stone Brewing Co. of Escondido. The other two Californians, Trader Joe's Bohemian Lager and Anchor Liberty Ale, were eliminated early on, the Anchor by Stone.
The beers are organized in four brackets - dark, ales, lagers and "specialty and fruit." Kitsock has assembled a panel of judges to help him taste the beers to decide which move on and which get eliminated. Readers can weigh in with their own votes. Interestingly, in the head-to-head matchup of Anchor Liberty Ale and Stone Pale Ale, readers voted for the Anchor by a margin of 60.1 percent to 39.9 percent. Also in the popular voting, Trader Joe's Bohemian Lager lost to Raven Special Lager by a narrow margin of 51 percent to 49 percent. Raven is brewed by Baltimore-Washington Beer Works of Baltimore.
If the field looks heavily seeded with Eastern brands, well, the selection no doubt reflects the beers available in and about Washington, D.C. The Sweet 16 are to be whittled down to the Elite Eight this weekend. Go, Stoners.