College basketball’s March Madness has hit high gear, and so have the more liquid versions at Manito Tap House and The Lantern Tap House.
Manito’s second annual March IPA Madness again pits 16 Washington-brewed examples of the style against each other, with the winner receiving a permanent tap handle for the coming year.
Last year, the Sweet (er, Hoppy) Sixteen was trimmed to an Elite Eight based on Facebook and Twitter polls. Then the champion was chosen by customers through blind tastings of all eight at once.
This time, while social media voting helped establish the field, the competition consists of four blind taster flights each week for four weeks. The winners face off in a Final Four round the first week of April.
Week One saw a near-upset of that round’s top seed – Georgetown’s Bodhizafa, which won the ultra-competitive IPA category at last fall’s Great American Beer Festival – by this year’s new and improved version of River City’s Riverkeeper IPA, which finished only two votes behind.
“That was awesome to see,” said Manito owner Patrick McPherson. “They (River City) did a good job.”
Another No. 1 seed, Bale Breaker’s Topcutter, had an easier time in last week’s second round, with 43 percent of the vote compared to 32 percent for runner-up Icicle Bootjack.
This week’s third round continues through Sunday. You won’t know which beers are in contention until you’ve tasted and voted on them.
On the other hand, The Lantern’s Month of Madness Craft Beer Bracket is a series of open, head-to-head contests among 16 contenders in four stylistic regions: Dark, IPA, Light/Pale and Amber/Red. You vote by buying pints of your favorites (at a special price of $4, or $3 during happy hour).
“It’s been fun to put out there and we’ve had a good reception to it,” said Lantern owner Mike Dolmage. “We tried to pick some beers that people had general knowledge of so they could support their favorites.”
In this week’s Elite Eight matchups, Grand Teton’s Bitch Creek Brown topped Black Raven’s Scotch Ale in the Dark Region on Tuesday, while Deschutes Fresh Squeezed won over Fort George Vortex in the IPA Region on Wednesday. Friday’s contest is between Boundary Bay Amber and Boneyard’s Diablo Rojo in the Amber/Red Region, with Breakside Pilsner going against Georgetown’s Johnny Utah in the Light/Pale region Saturday.
The Final Four showdowns among the regional winners will take place next Tuesday and Wednesday.
“It’s just some verification to see where our customers’ tastes are going,” Dolmage said.
This year’s Riverkeeper IPA gets a big aroma boost from double the amount of dry-hopping, heavy on Mandarina Bavaria – a newer variety with pronounced citrus and floral notes – and Cascade, with lesser amounts of more pungent Citra and Simcoe.
It’s also easier-drinking, thanks to lower mash temperatures that promote more complete fermentation and produce a drier beer, though the alcohol content remains at 6.5 percent (70 International Bitterness Units).
A portion of sales year-round benefits the Spokane Riverkeeper water protection program, and the beer is again the focus of a monthlong Riverwalk promotion. On Saturday, representatives from the Riverkeeper program will be on hand to discuss their work at participating downtown-area bars and restaurants: The Blackbird, Borracho, Central Food, David’s Pizza, Fast Eddies, Nectar Wine and Beer, Ripples, Spencer’s, Steelhead and Veraci Pizza.
Through March, stop at five of them for a pint of Riverkeeper IPA and/or a meal and qualify for a souvenir glass; hit all 10 to be entered in a drawing for a Spokane River rafting trip.
No-Li’s new spring seasonal March Forth Citrus IPA (7.2 percent alcohol by volume, 26 International Bitterness Units), brewed with orange peel and hopped with Amarillo and Comet, is available on draft and in bottles at the pub now and will start shipping to stores next week.
Iron Goat’s latest additions are a classic English-style British Bulldog pale ale (6 percent alcohol by volume, 38 International Bitterness Units), moderately malty and lightly hopped with floral Goldings, and a dark, unfiltered Dunkelweizen wheat beer (4.7, 11).
Perry Street has tapped the second in its yearlong series of hazy, fruity New England-style IPAs (7, 64), brewed with Maris Otter malt, Golden Naked Oats and Palouse white wheat and hopped with Galaxy, Simcoe and Citra powder. Also look for a dry Irish Extra Stout (5.9, 30) with robust chocolate and roast notes.
Little Spokane is serving a big but smooth-drinking Mi Reina Saison (7.9, 24) brewed with pilsner malt, oats, wheat and French yeast for notes of citrus and tropical fruits, pepper, clove and a slight tartness.
Young Buck’s OMFGIPA (6.5, 65) is double dry-hopped with Columbus, Cascade and Chinook.
Big Barn’s Lone Pine Pilsner (4.4, 35) features spicy Hallertauer hops.
Post Falls Brewing is pouring both a fruity imperial Supa-Flii PA (8.5, 65) hopped with Simcoe, El Dorado, Columbus and Amarillo, and a smoky-sweet Burley Hermit Porter (6.4, 36) that’s available with coconut in the taproom.
Save the date
The Steel Barrel hosts a five-course beer dinner featuring pFriem on Wednesday, with food from Zona Blanca chef Chad White; tickets are $80.
The Lantern has a release party Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m. for Sparky Red, a hoppy collaboration brew with River City that benefits Spark Central, a nonprofit education center in the West Central neighborhood.
Laughing Dog opens the taproom at its new brewery location in Ponderay, Idaho, on April 1 with new beers, live music and prizes.
Idaho Craft Beer Month kicks off April 1 with Pints Up Idaho; get souvenir pint glasses with purchases at participating locations including Daft Badger, Laughing Dog, MickDuff’s, Post Falls Brewing, Wallace Brewing and the three Capone’s pubs (Coeur d’Alene/Hayden/Post Falls).
Send beer news, comments and questions to senior correspondent Rick Bonino at email@example.com.
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