Friday Froth: March Madness...Beer News & Reviews

James Gribbon

March Madness has once again taken hold of America's mind, and I do not give a damn. I care about the tournament for exactly as long as the Huskies are still in it and, since they're out of the dance completely this year, I've been looking elsewhere for marginally productive entertainment. People like bracket-based tournaments, it seems, because there are a ton to be found on the intertron this month. Beer brackets, news and reviews follow in this week's Froth. 

Paste magazine, which is a pretty good source for new music and movie info, has the superbly named Top Of The Hops IPA Challenge, in which their editors purport to whittle down a national selection of brews in the quest to find America's best IPA. The bracket falls utterly flat, though, having taken cues from every other "national" review in history and leaving Connecticut beers completely off the list, despite having a Northeast region to the tournament. NEB's Gandhi-Bot remains the best IPA I've had in my entire life, and should have been the '99 UConn in this particular madness, but this is what you get when people from Atlanta grasp at a college sport not named football.

Elsewhere in our great country, Chicagoist has a bracket challenge on which people can actually vote, and it's predictably midwestern-beer heavy, but I'm interested to see if voters make this a Goose Island vs. Goose Island championship. The experts are picking Matilda, should that happen. The "experts," in this case, being me. 

One of the best of these borrowed-interest clickbait contests is DRAFT magazine's beer bracket, in which anyone can submit their picks and potentially win $1,000 for charity and a Kegerator. I expect an invite, if this is one of you.

My personal favorite bracket comes via Chris Mottram over at SBNation, who has picked winners of the actual NCAA tournament based on which team had the better local beer in each matchup. 

Tangentially-related: I like Bruce Feldman's style, via Twitter: "@BFeldmanCBS: Underrated plus of the 1st big day of NCAA Tourney: No guilt about having breakfast, lunch & dinner at the same bar."

"Excuse me?" I recently said this out load, to an inanimate object, upon reading about the $9 pitchers of any Connecticut brewer's beer at Coalhouse Pizza. Beers from Charter Oak*, Half Full, Thomas Hooker, New England Brewing & etc. can be had in 64oz. servings for less than they cost at a liquor store, and you'll be supporting your local brewers. 

[*A Conn. brand, but not brewed here.] 

Coalhouse, my current favorite spot for pizza in Stamford (Come at me, bro!) is located at 85 High Ridge Rd., by Bull's Head Diner. Gerard does an excellent job of curating the 52-beer selection there, and IMPORTANT will get a keg of NEB's new Supernaut IPA around the middle of next week. 

Supernaut is made using 100% Mosaic hops: a new strain first sold following the hop harvest last October. From what I have read, Mosaics are a high alpha acid cross breed of Simcoe and Nugget hops, and are intensely aromatic, with sweet berry notes accompanying a strong citrus nose. I'll tell you what I think as soon as I manage to run a pint or seven through my finely tuned liver. 

Breckenridge Brewing beers are starting to pop up around Connecticut. The brewery has a beer locator, but it's in need of updating. I had their Agave Wheat at The Ginger Man in SoNo a while back, and found a distinct sweetness to the aroma wafting off the unfiltered and deeply cloudy tan beer. Curiously, that agave sweetness doesn't carry over into the flavor, which is bitter, clean and dry as Ebenezer Scrooge. 

Carapils and Munich malts combine with the wheats in the grain bill to give this beer what I tend to think of as a European character, while Cascade and Willamette hops pitch in to donate the bitterness and a tiny lemony aftertaste as Agave Wheat warms. It's a light one, as unfiltered beers go, and light in alcohol at 4.2%. The brewery has an interesting suggestion in the form of a recipe for Agave Ginger Chicken Marinade

Stockholm isn't the first city one thinks about when pondering potable potions, but there's Omnipollo, winning the city's beer and whiskey festival with their Nebuchadnezzar Imperial IPA. The Swedish brewers partnered with De Proef Brouwerij in Lochristi, Belgium to create Moebius, another Imperial IPA, to celebrate the win. 

I had a cloudy, orange Moebius with a thick meringue of head at the aforementioned GMan. The citrus in the aroma cuts through a very fresh, green, and eye opening hoppiness. There is a strong bitterness as soon as the first drops hit the tongue, suggesting the Swedes have gotten into a few of our American west coast IPAs. 

There is a very earthy taste to the hops, and their oils coat the mouth without lingering so long they become overpowering. I wouldn't serve this beer too cold if you can manage to get your hands on one of their small, 11.2oz. bottles, because the hops really flower with a few more degrees in them. Those hops present a counterpoint to the grain, and bring out a subtle sweetness to the malt in this beer, complimented by a very small flavor of oranges in the hops' citrus. This brew is very "big" in the way oenophiles describe their chosen beverage, and slightly dry. It is, anyway, the very best Swedish/Belgian beer I've ever had. The fact that it's also the only one is beside the point.