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CougCenter Craft Beer Tournament: Only the 'elite' remain

It's time to decide our first two entrants into the Final Four.

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Hello, Coug and craft beer fans, and welcome back to CougCenter's craft beer tournament. The Elite Eight is set, and it's time to determine our first two entrants into the Final Four. How did we arrive at our eight competitors? In the first matchup, Deschutes Red Chair NWPA curb-stomped an overmatched Diamond Knot Industrial IPA, and Ballast Point Victory at Sea got out to an early lead and never surrendered it to Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale. With that, we move forward.

These two matchups couldn't be different. In the first, we have Busch Light coming off a monumental upset, and now facing Lagunitas Brown Shugga. While Busch Light gained some votes due to sentimentality in the last round, the most likely reason it defeated Pliny the Elder is due to Pliny's lack of availability. That isn't the case here, as Brown Shugga is widely available at nearly any beer store.

Our other contest pits two Northwest juggernauts, as Deschutes Black Butte Porter takes on Iron Horse Irish Death. I expect this to be a tight one, and possibly a fight to the...death? I'll be here all week, please try the veal. Ok, enough of my blathering, let's get down to business.

You can view the bracket here:

[1] Deschutes Black Butte Porter (-4) vs. [5] Iron Horse Irish Death


Black Butte Porter Vitals:

  • Style: Ameican Porter
  • Beer Advocate Rating: 93
  • Star Average: 4.18
  • ABV: 5.2

Irish Death Vitals:

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

PJ's Take: Black Butte Porter has been around a long time, and for many of you, was likely a gateway beer away from mass-produced belly wash and toward the wonderful world of microbrews. As with just about everything that rolls out of the Oregon brewery, Black Butte never disappoints.

Irish Death isn't as venerable, but it's an outstanding beer. It's located in Ellensburg, which I only used to know as that place we stopped on the way to Seattle for gas when I was a kid. Well, I don't think I'm too far off when I say that Iron Horse is probably the best thing that Ellensburg has going for it, now that Jon Kitna left town. Through this tournament, we also learned that one of Iron Horse's owners is a die-hard Coug. If you can't figure out which beer to vote for, that could be a good tiebreaker.

Craig's Take: Like PJ said, Black Butte is as well-established a craft beer as there is in the PNW, but Irish Death is not far behind these days. It's often on draft at places that only have a handful of craft beers because it is pretty dang popular at this point.

I prefer Black Butte Porter of the two, I actually find it to be more robust, despite it's lower ABV. Irish Death does have an appealing quality in it smoothness, although it can be a touch sweet for me at times.

So this comes down to one question for the discerning beer drinker: Why are you drinking this beer? Do you want something that is going to have a little bite, but you can session without getting sloshed? Or do you want something that will work efficiently at a high ABV, while still maintaining easy drinkability? Both sides have their merits.

[5] Lagunitas Brown Shugga (-5) vs. [8] Busch Light


Brown Shugga Vitals:

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

Busch Light Vitals:

  • Style: Light Lager
  • Beer Advocate Rating: 46
  • Star Average: 1.81
  • ABV: 4.1

PJ's Take: Alright folks, here's your shot. I know that many of you couldn't understand why Busch Light was a contender in a craft beer tournament, since it is anything but a craft beer. Well, you now have a chance to make sure it is defeated before doing even more damage to the bracket.

I'm just coming around to Lagunitas products, and I feel like I've been doing myself a terrible disservice since it took me so long. Following Mother's Day brunch, I was able to consume a Brown Shugga, Little Sumpin Sumpin and a Lagunitas Sucks (among others) throughout the afternoon. While the others are quite good, Brown Shugga is far and away the best. I don't know much, but I do know that it is miles better than its bracket competition.

Craig's Take: I sat in a bar in San Francisco a couple weeks ago drinking a Pliny the Elder. It's something I normally do when visiting the Bay Area, but that time held a special meaning. After each delicious sip, I felt pangs of guilt in my stomach. By putting this legendary craft brew up against the beverage nicknamed "Pullman Water", we at CougCenter had set it, as well as ourselves, up for embarrassment.

And now Busch Light is up against another craft beer that is a complex battle between hops and malt, with Brown Shugga giving the malt more of the say than Pliny. Busch Light tastes like a piece of white bread that was then left in a glass of water for three days.

One more thing: If Busch Light wins, Baxter is going to be really disappointed. Don't disappoint Baxter. Vote Brown Shugga.

It is now up to you. I'll be honest, I'm really looking forward to the outcomes of these two contests, for vastly different reasons. Happy voting.