The whole thing started a few years ago, when Flyer associate editor Toby Sells blindfolded himself to pick the match-ups for the Flyer's first Beer Bracket Challenge. It was all kind of a goof that first year, replete with a "trophy" made from an old ice bucket that editor Bruce VanWyngarden found in his garage. Now, the Beer Bracket Challenge has morphed into a lineup of 24 local beers from five breweries going toe-to-toe against each other for votes from Flyer readers. It is a friendly competition, but it is a competition — and these Memphis beer gurus want to win.
For the more casual craft beer fan, the Beer Bracket Challenge, assisted by some delicious pizza at Aldo's Pizza Downtown, where this year's seeding ceremony took place, is one of the best ways to take the aimlessness out of your tour of the booming Memphis craft beer scene. Sure it's fun to simply toss a ball idly into the air on a lazy day, but sinking it through the hoop when there is a mob trying to stop you is just more fun.
There are four divisions in the challenge. The "Tapped Out" division was seeded with two big winners from last year, Meddlesome's 201 Hoplar and one of my long time go-tos, Wiseacre's Ananda — two IPA heavyweights in a town that loves its IPAs. In the first round of voting, 201 Hoplar beat out Midnight Magic, a German Black Ale from Memphis OB (Original Brewer) Ghost River. Ananda lost out to another Meddlesome entrant, Dirty Dova. This was a little surprising, but as beers go, Dirty Dova, a crisp and refreshing double IPA, is a winner. In fact, it may go down a little too easy; its 8.5 percent ABV makes it a brew on a mission. Get a Lyft home.
In the "Perfect Pour" division, Wiseacre's Tiny Bomb lager beat out another top seed from last year, High Cotton's Thai Pale Ale, making it to the third round, where it was voted out, losing to Memphis Made's Fireside, a malty roasted Red Ale.
In the "Drafted" division, Meddlesome continued its winning streak, as its Broad Hammer American Brown Ale edged out Memphis Made's Cat Nap IPA. Broad Hammer then went on to beat out Crosstown's Siren Blonde Ale in the next round and, then, finally, steal a win over Wiseacre's Regular Pale Ale to make the Final Four.
Over in the "Frosty Mug" division, Wiseacre's coffee stout (and nearly guaranteed hangover cure) Gotta Get Up to Get Down, beat out Plaid Attack Scotch Ale, another perennial favorite from Memphis Made. Gotta Get Up was beaten in the next round by this year's Cinderella story, Meddlesome's Brass Bellows, a great blonde ale. For the record, Brass Bellows had some fearsome competition from long-time favorite Ghost River Gold, followed by a close contest with High Cotton's Mexican Lager, a sort of cosmic ideal of Corona.
The Beer Bracket Final Four for 2019: 201 Hoplar, Broad Hammer, Brass Bellows, and Fireside. The big winner in the tourney has been Meddlesome Brewing. If not exactly the new kid in class, they are certainly not the old guard either. Their tap room, out near the end of Shelby Farms, might be a bit out of the loop, but their beers are hard to ignore.
Final Four voting ended at press time. We know that Meddlesome will take home our Beer Bracket Challenge Cup. But to find out which beer won, you'll have to check next week's Flyer.