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CougCenter Craft Beer Tournament: The first round continues

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There are two pretty compelling matchups taking place in this post, and you can probably try all of the participants!

Jacqueline Romano/Getty Images

Welcome back to CougCenter's craft beer tournament. Round One saw a stunning but unsurprising (I know, that doesn't really make sense) upset, as Busch Light used an overwhelming amount of late votes to take down top-seeded Pliny the Elder. The upset is stunning because Pliny the Elder is renowned as one of the best craft beers ever made. The upset is not surprising because many of you have an inexplicable, yet unending affection for Busch Light.

I'll go ahead and chalk up this result to the fact that Pliny the Elder isn't readily available, so many of you haven't been able to try it. At least I pray that's the reason for the upset. In the other matchup, top-seeded Black Butte Porter cruised to an easy victory over Rainier. Not alot of analysis, other than the fact that I'm happy to see that sanity prevailed in one of the contests.

There will be no such excuses as to lack of availability with the four beers competing in this post, as three of them can almost certainly be found at your local Total Wine, or wherever you choose to shop for craft beer. The fourth, Airways Oatmeal PSA, appears to be a summer seasonal with distribution only in Western Washington, but hopefully many of you have been able to sample it. After reading the initial comments, I really want to try it. The entire bracket is here. Without further ado...

[4] Airways Oatmeal PSA vs. [5] Iron Horse Quilter's Irish Death (-2)

Beer bracket airways irish death

Oatmeal PSA Vitals:

  • Style: American Pale Ale
  • Beer Advocate Rating: 84
  • Star Average: 3.75
  • ABV: 5.0

Irish Death Vitals:

  • Style: American Strong Ale
  • Beer Advocate Rating: 86
  • Star Average: 3.84
  • ABV: 7.8

PJ's take: Airways Oatmeal PSA could be in a position similar to Pliny the Elder (RIP). Its lack of widespread proliferation outside the Seattle area, along with the fact that it is a seasonal gives it a disadvantage. I am greatly intrigued by this beer, so much so that I looked at the Airways website, and they actually sell beer! Not this one, though. On the other side, I tried Irish Death in SeaTac on a layover recently, and man is it good.

Craig's take: I haven't had Oatmeal PSA, but I like what I hear from the descriptions. The oatmeal should provide less of a malt impact than a darker barley, and I've heard the term "grapefruit" to describe the hop character, meaning it is probably using some modern hop varietals such as Mosaic. Contemporary, hop-forward American Pale Ales have great potential and I tend to prefer them over their English predecessors, so I'm intrigued.

As for Irish Death, it tricks people into thinking it is a stout with the name, but there is very little stouty about it outside of the color. I personally think it's solid, but there are better strong ales out there (See below).

[4] Green Flash West Coast IPA (-2) vs. [5] Lagunitas Brown Shugga

beer bracket shugga

West Coast IPA Vitals:

  • Style: American Double Imperial IPA
  • Beer Advocate Rating: 94
  • Star Average: 4.22
  • ABV: 8.1

Brown Shugga Vitals:

  • Style: American Strong Ale
  • Beer Advocate Rating: 90
  • Star Average: 4.03
  • ABV: 9.99

PJ's take: Both of these beers should be readily available for your consumption. Checking in at a whopping 9.99% ABV, Brown Shugga is one of Lagunitas' best beers. I had one the other day and it was quite tasty. As I'm sure you've figured out by now, my opinions about beer pretty much parallel the binary system. I either like it or I don't. I like Brown Shugga.

On the other side is West Coast IPA. I found this at my local Publix grocery store. No, I didn't buy or steal any crab legs. Here is an excerpt from one of the bottles: "We ventured into the unknown and struck gold, discovering a menagerie of hopes. Simcoe for tropical and grapefruit zest, Columbus for hop pungency, Cascade for floral aroma, Centennial for pine notes and Citra for citrus zest..." I guess four different kinds of hops just weren't enough. Keep it simple, fellas. If you ask me, and you didn't, Brown Shugga is miles better.

Craig's Take: This is really a battle of style preference. Overall, I'd say Brown Shugga is a more unique example of its style, and those is favor of malty beers with a little kick are sure to enjoy it. But many these days are strict hopheads, and West Coast IPA has a lot of intriguing hop varietals, especially Citra and Simcoe. This is actually the second version of the beer, and if you haven't had it in the past year I will say it is an improvement over its predecessor.

The fate of these four beers is now in your hands. Once again, the voting will be open for five days. Drink up and vote!