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The madness begins

Malted Madness, Round One: 64 Poured, 32 Downed

For the past several weeks, we’ve been neck deep in beer organization, planning, spreadsheets and desperate phone calls. We’ve labored, unpacking beers, tweaking final lists, praying that no bottles were dropped or lost or drunk by devious and sly beer-stealing types, and preparing an encoded 64-brew bracket.

Then, suddenly, we were plopped in comfy leather chairs in Alphabet City Beer Co., unsalted crackers unappealingly laid on the table before us, with beer pairs — two pitch-black, two cloudy with wheat and yeast, two reeking of hops and two deep in malted caramel colors — set before their respective tasters.

And so Malted Madness began, finally, in earnest. Zach Mack bravely charged into the Et Al. category, Ben Bowers tackled the apocalyptic Light Ales grouping with modesty and strong focus, David Hitchner hammered out bold decisions in the Lager category like it was second nature, and I tucked into Dark Ales with loudmouthed gusto. We were all buzzing, and we hadn’t even had a sip.

Special thanks to the fine gents at ABC Beer Co. for all their help with the tournament. If you're ever in need of brews and/or a good time, visit their store and bar in Alphabet City, Manhattan. Follow them on twitter at @ABCBeerCo.
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Turning a Dream Into a Sudsy Reality

Method to the Madness: How a 64-Beer Tournament Comes to Be

You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to put on a 64 beer, single elimination, NCAA-style tournament. One minute you’re dreaming of all that hoppy, malty, chocolatey, fruity goodness in one place and the next… well, you’re trying desperately to get all that hoppy, malty chocolately, fruity goodness — in one place.

To be clear, this tournament isn’t about bitching. It’s about gathering 64 of the best beers in America together, matching them up, tasting them blindly (removing the pretense that so often surrounds our entrenched beery beliefs), and crowning a champion. It’s GP’s swing at a new way to enjoy, explore and appreciate damn good beer. It’s about one of the biggest movements in our country. It’s about a shared passion. It’s also about personal taste, the barroom argument you’ve had with your buddies many times: which beer is better?

Special thanks to the fine gents at ABC Beer Co. for all their help with the tournament. If you're ever in need of brews and/or a good time, visit their store and bar in Alphabet City, Manhattan. Follow them on twitter at @ABCBeerCo.
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Tops Pop Next Week

Introducing | Malted Madness: The Gear Patrol National Beer Championship

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. Read on for more info.

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An hour wasn't enough

Dogfish Head Sixty-One

What’s big and floral and more hopped up than a GP editor after the Fortnight of Coffee? The continuously-hopped 60 Minute IPA from Dogfish Head, of course. And now the Delaware brewery has combined that beer with syrah grape must to make the first new foamer in its core lineup since 2007: Dogfish Head Sixty-One ($9), available this month.

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Hop Hop, Hooray

Spiegelau IPA Glass

Quick, who do you want to make you the perfect IPA glass? An excellent German glass maker (Spiegelau), a West Coast brewery that was one of the earliest and most influential in craft beer making (Sierra Nevada) and an East Coast maker whose 60 Minute IPA is considered one of the most solid (Dogfish Head)? The resulting IPA Glass ($25 for two) looks awkward but is tailored just so for your drinking pleasure.

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Hop to it

For the Love of Hops: The Practical Guide to Aroma, Bitterness and the Culture of Hops

Stan Hieronymus’s tome, For the Love of Hops: The Practical Guide to Aroma, Bitterness and the Culture of Hops ($11), looks to be the required reading for a college course. An awesome college course, with pints, flights of adult beverages and a professor that’s eternally tipsy. This isn’t light reading. And that’s why it’s fantastic.

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A future king?

Budweiser Black Crown

Budweiser Black Crown isn’t another ploy from “the King of Beers” to rally the fratty faithful with higher alcohol content (though its 6% ABV is technically higher) or pointless packaging gimmicks (It turns red when you’re hammered!). Instead, it’s the result of a year-long skunky works initiative, dubbed “Project 12” in which the company asked…

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Das Ist Different

Beck’s Sapphire

Can gimmickry was so two years ago. Today, it’s all about getting a better buzz from your brew. Beck’s Sapphire is the latest entry into the field, boasting 6 percent ABV and a sleek black glass bottle designed to blend seamlessly into the background of happening nightclubs, bars and restaurants — while also protecting the suds from light.

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Fill 'er up

Portland Growler Co.

It can be emitted by your stomach, your dog or your angry in-law, but the best form of the low rumble is the growler, beer drinkers’ response to the doggy bag. Portland Growler Co. knows their way around these 32- and 64-ounce jugs o’ joy better than just about anybody. The (you guessed it) Portland company proudly designs a range of growlers, which are then slip cast, trimmed and made to order by Mudshark Studios (also of Portland, of course).

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Beer is Coming

Ommegang Game of Thrones Iron Throne Blonde Ale

Chalk up another gimmick that we’re head over heels lusty after. In the beautiful marriage of fantasy, boobs, political intrigue and swordplay that is Game of Thrones, there’s a new player in town: brew. Ommegang’s Iron Throne Blonde Ale ($9), due out before the show’s season three debut on March 31st, is the first in…

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12 gifts for the booze lover

12 Guys of Christmas: The Mixologist

The Mixologist’s gotten you into plenty of blissful adventures, most of which ended without real long term damage to your record or your marriage. He’s a passionate guy, and he knows his craft: beer, that is. Malts, mash, wheat, barley, rye, and oh yes, sweet sweet delicious hops — he sucks them all down, grinning…

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A sippin' beer

Samuel Adams 10th Anniversary Utopias

We’ve given you the Paul Harvey on the dethroning of the American King of Beers — now we bring you the heir apparent. This year’s Samuel Adams’s Utopias ($190), a special 10th Anniversary edition of their bi-annual offering, pushes the limits of beer brewing on three fronts: price, potency and flavor. A 29% ABV libation…

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De-throning the Kings of Beers

Bitter Brew

Mom, baseball, and apple pie might just be the only things more American than Budweiser beer. Except Bud’s not — American, that is. Though the logo of the number-one-selling beer in the U.S. remains burned into our national psyche, Anheuser-Busch is now a wholly owned subsidiary, bought out in a 2008 hostile takeover by the…

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Gourd your loins

Tasting Notes: Hangar 24 Gourdgeous Pumpkin Porter

It’s time to give up sipping the double IPAs of summer, but not quite time for a winter warmer. If you have a strange itch for a liquid sort of pie, there’s an explanation: it’s pumpkin beer season. Tragically, this classic fall seasonal is damn easy to mess up — we’re tired of one dimensional,…

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Briefings: Meeting Family, Caveman Beef, Pint Math, Butchers and WWII Photos

Short and sweet. No, we’re not talking about your first girlfriend or how you like your shopping trips. Our pinnacle of pertness is far, far more important (just like every Briefings). Our theme: more content, less time spent. Reading, that is. History. Dating. Beef. More beef. Sudsy math. Our finds keep it quick, because goddammit,…

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Briefings: Getting Away, Crazy in India, Beer Politics, D.C. Shooter and Nick Offerman on Meat & Life

We like to think of this week’s briefings as a sandwich. An interview with Nick Offerman about meat (and canoeing, and woodworking, and acting) is the meat. An NFL officiating expert demonstrating how to pick life over work is the philosophical meat. Westerners going crazy in India is the intriguing, creepy meat. A shooter’s remorse…

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Oktoberfest on demand

Professional Microbrewery

We’ve found home brewers to be a zealous lot, with arguments about proportions of barley/hops/secret ingredients, the virtues of top versus bottom fermenting, and the pursuit of a beer that rocks ABV and IBU values. With a small investment ($45K), you can put your brewing efforts on Viagra and move directly to the top of…

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Briefings: Pasta, Vampires, Beer Machines, Mosquitos, and Euro 2012

Our attention this week was on things practical rather than academic: eating carbs, drinking beer, watching sports, and protecting ourselves from vampires with Victorian-era slaying kits. Remember: practical. It’s a big and complicated world. We’re at tips [at] gearpatrol.com if you think there’s something we should know about.

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Everything you need to live it up

Roundup: Memorial Day Weekend

Looking to make your extended weekend celebration extra memorable? Well, our editors have culled through our latest posts to help provide some last minute inspiration for your Memorial Day weekend, whether the festivities are at your place, or elsewhere. You can thank us by throwing another burger on the grill. Two slices of cheese, please….

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The original craft brewer

Tasting Notes: Leinenkugel’s Big Eddy Imperial IPA

Beer lovers, we live in fortunate times. The craft brewing revolution is in full swing in America, from Seattle to South Beach. But while most craft beer makers are “micro” in every sense of the word, there’s one with a long history and the capacity to make its beer available coast to coast: Leinenkugel’s. Sure,…

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Starting relief pitcher

Ice Core Beer Pitcher

With spring in the air, the NHL already in playoff mode and the NBA’s second season about to start, there are a number of reasons to have the boys over for a beer. The Ice Core Beer Pitcher ($13) is a simple accessory that ensures your suds will stay ice cold, out on the patio…

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Jailbreak your beer

Dogfish Head Randall Jr. Personal Beer Infuser

Even with the current renaissance of commercial craft brewing, many of us still feel the need to tinker or create our own. Sure this stout is fantastic, but what if I added some espresso beans? Leave it to a Gear Patrol staff and reader favorite, Dogfish Head, to devise an easy and low-cost solution. The…

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Because 12 ounces isn’t enough

Tasting Notes: Samuel Adams Single Batch Series

Samuel Adams is best known for its Boston Lager, but with a slew of other great beers – the Boston Ale and Black Lager come to mind – the brand has transitioned from craft brew darling to international powerhouse. That said, they keep the craft and innovation alive with releases like the Single Batch Series….

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A true drinking game

8-Bit Pale Ale

In hindsight, it completely makes sense that craft brewers like video games. In fact, what guy doesn’t like beer and video games (you productive types don’t count). To that end, Kansas’ Tallgrass Brewing Company, known for packaging their entire selection of beer in 1 PINT aluminum cans, has released 8-Bit Pale Ale. Based on customer…

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No ID required

Sierra Nevada Natural Lip Balm

The next time you’re in need of lip protection, stop stealing the cherry gloss from your better half’s purse, and grab some Sierra Nevada Natural lip balm ($1). It’s made from cascade hop oils and other all-natural ingredients, for a hint a Sierra Nevada flavor, minus the 5.6% ABV buzz. Keep a stick in your…

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Hop to it

Upslope Brewing Company Foreign Style Stout

After just two years in business, Upslope Brewing Company is releasing the Foreign Style Stout, their first limited release specialty ale. Located and expanding in the North Boulder area, this budding brewery was founded by three outdoor adventure lovers who enjoy chilled, fizzling hops in between camping, rafting, and mountain biking trips. With only 200…

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Your Homebrewing Handbook

The Illustrated Guide to Brewing Beer

While we appreciate the growing craft beer movement and the art of a perfectly poured pint, we can’t ignore our do-it-yourself instincts. But before we turn the guest room into a rogue brewery, we’ll take some advice from avid home brewer, Matthew Schaefer. His new book, The Illustrated Guide to Brewing Beer ($15), is the…

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Chills beer in just five minutes

LG Super-Capacity French-Door Refrigerator

Technology is constantly striving to indulge our inner sloth. Manually setting reminders on your phone was deemed too arduous, so now you can speak them. Pulling out keys, inserting them into the ignition, and twisting was just pointlessly strenuous, so now we just push a button. Going to rent a movie at Blockbuster defined drudgery,…

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Light Beer, Guinness-Style

Tasting Notes: Guinness Black Lager

The first thing you should know about Guinness’s latest creation is that it’s targeting a broader market of drinkers who may not be fans of their meal-in-a-pint stouts. Though it’s called a Black Lager, beer geeks will point out that it’s technically a very specific German brew called Schwarzbier or “black beer”. Developed long before…

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A Study on Suds

The Oxford Companion to Beer

Clearly, we’re fond of books that teach us more about the things we love. The subject matter alone of The Oxford Companion to Beer ($38) is enough to tempt most men to flip through its pages, but when you factor in that it’s been edited by Brooklyn Brewery brewmaster Garrett Oliver, it becomes a must…