October — that opening month of fall, harbinger of changing foliage, meaningful football games and culminatory costume parties. And, most importantly, beer. No other month has engendered an iconic brew in its name, and, with that in mind — in the name of vital journalistic enterprise — The Flat Hat set out to conduct its first ever beer bracket. 31 brews — all but one on tap at the Green Leafe — would enter. One would emerge.
Along the way there was all the drama of March Madness. Our crack investigatory staff experienced notable exclusions (no pumpkin beers?) and controversial upsets (Legend Porter over Legend Brown), Cinderella stories (digging deep into Bud Light’s autumnal undertones) and historical powerhouses (Shocktop). In the end, one champion was crowned, while considerable beer was downed.
Fear not, this was an undertaking approached with the deepest gravitas and minimal hubris. Flat Hat senior staff members spent months sharpening their pallets in preparation for this momentous occasion (free beer!) only to have them rendered useless and dull by alcohol and ranchy cheese fries.
And, yes, there is an inherent foolishness in deeming yourself an expert on that most ubiquitous of college amusements, beer drinking, but we did our best. Admittedly, none of us are decorated brewmasters, or even college graduates. But we made up for it with sheer gumption and an unflappable integrity that prevented us from ordering pitchers of Budweiser. For at least two evenings, we would actually drink beer that tasted like something. (While this seemed frightening, so did journalism and college.) The Octoberfests were nutty, the porters robust and the ales brought that indescribable hoppy tanginess front and center.
The Green Leafe was a gracious host to this grand experiment, and for that we are eternally grateful.
Opening night paired beers from the Eastern part of the country against its Western counterpart, and the following week pitted Virginia against the world. These evenings were not without dispute. While some of us held a deep respect for the tower of power that is Southern Tier Unearthly, others dismissed it as an unnecessary exercise in packing as much alcohol as possible into a beer. Some dismissed Guinness as corporate trash amid a sea of microbrews; certain participants expounded on the rebelliousness of the 21st Amendment Back in Black. We were all too insecure to admit that cider is delicious, except Mike. The word “bouquet” was shamelessly overused, and the brave among us insisted the beer tasted of things that definitely weren’t there: Gouda, Miller Chill, even “bacon-y” flavors.
We hope this bracket comes in handy at your next Mug Night, Trivia Night or any other night. Just please, we beg, avoid the Genessee at all costs. You’ll thank us later.
The full feature can be seen *here.*