Name your favorite domestic beer. Not so easy, eh?

With Malted Madness, Gear Patrol takes on that challenge: blind tasting the best craft brews across America. We’re not talking about your “go-to” choice, the quick pick you can find at any supermarket or Jiffy Mart across America, although there are several of the quality we mean that are nationally available. No, this is about the beer with a starring role in your dreams, a taste that conjures the trumpets of heaven with each sip and invokes tears of joy as it traipses across your palate. Naming a favorite is subjective, like picking America’s “Sexiest Woman”, and an over-simplification of the media. Gear Patrol jumps into the fray, regardless, in an attempt to do just that: pick the best craft beer in the United States out of a field of 64 in a grand single-elimination tournament. Join us for Malted Madness, the perfect companion to the culmination of college basketball.

malted-madness-teaser-icon64 Beers. 6 Rounds. 1 Winner. It’s the Gear Patrol National Craft Beer Championship. Follow the Story This Way »

A Very Personal Taste

Not to say that our favorite is going to be yours, but you’re likely to see many of your top ten on our list. Beers, like women, offer different qualities that appeal to our subjective tastes, and the better ones have layers of complexity that continue to reveal themselves with each experience. Again, like a good woman, the best challenge us, make us stretch. Brunettes, blondes, dark, light, slightly sweet, immensely bitter: beers or women, each of us have our personal favorites and preferences. While that doesn’t mean a smoking hot blonde can’t distract a gentleman who prefers darker flavors, those preferences significantly influence what tantalizes our taste buds. So, taking considerable potable license, we risk cries of betrayal and infidelity as we spread our love around and sample liquid gold/amber/chocolate from around the 50 states.

Method to Our (March) Madness


So which beers took the #1 seeds in their respective categories, based on the average of BeerAdvocate’s “popular” rating and RateBeer’s “style” rating?


Lagers: Great Lakes Eliot Ness (96 avg score)


Light Ales: Russian River Pliny the Elder (100 avg score)


Dark Ales: Founder’s Breakfast Stout (99.5 avg score)


Et Al: Lost Abbey Deliverance (97.5 avg score)

With 64 contenders, which we selected based on our staff’s own personal favorites (without repeating any single brewery), we’ve divided our list into four categories: Lagers, Light Ales, Dark Ales, and Et al (wheat, fruit, scotch ales, barleywines). Now, before the outrage builds inside your gut, we recognize this is a gross over-simplification of the diverse multiplicity of malted beverage. This was, however, our imperfect solution to reconciling our wants (64 beers, head to head, epically alcoholic) with reality (there’s a whole lot of beer styles, and a single-elim bracket tournament is strict on structure). And seedings? Well, we combined scores from two reputable beer reviewing sites, BeerAdvocate and RateBeer, using the average to make the abstract concrete. These rankings, 1-16, guided the matchups that now fill our bracket. And where will we be hosting this massive battle of the brews? Alphabet City Beer Co., one of NYC’s finest bars and craft beer stores.

Now, we’re ready to take on the rise of “sky’s the limit” hoppy-ness: several of the selected west coast ales have IBUs that threaten to exceed our collective IQ. We’ll stagger under the weight of high-ABV barleywines and Russian imperial stouts with medical professionals (WebMD) and designated drivers on hand. And we’ll put our Man cards on the table with a number of fruit beers that are gaining in popularity. We hope you’ll jump into the fray with some hands-on participation. As we move the ball down the court, we want to hear from you, our loyal fans and beer aficionados. What brews did we egregiously overlook (giving us license for seasonal beers and limited-production runs like Pliny the Younger)? What bad calls and technical fouls were made in the judging of your favorites? Feel free to pipe up with your thoughts, recommendations, tasting notes and regional shout-outs as you follow Gear Patrol’s Malted Madness. And get ready for a deliciously fierce competition.