You Be The Judge… At Home: Introducing The Brew Bracket Home Beer Tournament

Brew Bracket Craft Beer Tasting Game

Who among us doesn’t love a good drinking game?

Hanging out with friends and having a good time playing Beer Pong, Quarters, Candy Land…ok, maybe that last one was just me. But I’ve got one for you now that is going to top any beer-related “game” you’ve ever played.

Creators of the wildly popular Brew Bracket beer tournament events in Indianapolis, buddies Mike Sale and Ryan Coyle have produced a home version that I think will become even more popular. And unlike other drinking games where you splash back tasteless beer like you’re putting out a mouth fire, during a Brew Bracket event you actually taste…examine…and vote on craft beer. How democratic.

I was honored to attend the Brew Bracket inaugural presentation at Ryan’s house recently, along with several of Indy’s beer representatives and media. Mike and Ryan presented the home version to us just as they did when I attended their “Experimental IPA” tournament last year, and just as my friends and I experienced it that night, the home version translated exactly the same way. Later in the evening, Mike and Ryan pushed the button that officially launched their Kickstarter campaign for Brew Bracket.

Brew Bracket Host Pours Craft Beer to Set Up Game

The host selects, pours, and even seeds the craft beer hopefuls.

The Brew Bracket format is like this. Eight different beers of any style of your choosing face off against each other in tournament-style, though only the host knows what those beers are. Guests blindly taste the beer and secretly cast their ballot for which beer they prefer. The winners move on and this continues until a winner is declared. The anticipation builds as the host goes through the bracket and reveals each beer. The moans and groans of surprise will tell you just how much the players trust, or don’t trust, each others’ taste buds.

Everything That Comes With the Brew Bracket Craft Beer Tasting Game

Just add craft beer.

The Brew Bracket kit includes everything you need to host your own in-home tournament. Pitchers (2), color designated tasting cups (16), individual brackets and tasting cards, voting cards, pencils and a host guide. An express kit without pitchers and glasses is also offered, so you can finally put your accumulation of tasting glasses to use, along with reusable colored stickers. Beer and friends, not included.

Mike and Ryan had no idea at the time, but I think they were actually making a real-life “Shark Tank” presentation – sort of a demo, if you will – to the several hundred guests at each of their ten events. The overwhelming responses they received told them they were on to something really special.

If you can stomach what I’m about to say and it doesn’t violate your taste buds too much, allow me to suggest something. Do yourself a (dis)service and display a tasting of American light pilsners. No, seriously. What better way to show someone who drinks only Bud Light (we all know them) how similar and bland they are in comparison to each other. Nothing can draw a contrast between Big Beer and craft beer better to the skeptical or complacent than to make a display of their glaring differences in front of an audience of friends. Think of it this way: how would you know Naugahyde was so bad unless there was actual leather to compare it to?

Now, I’m not suggesting you spend the whole night on this tasting but do what the kids call “pre-gaming”. Or call it hydrating. Set up maybe five beers: Miller Lite and the like and pour some blind samples for friends. Have fun dissecting the flavorful aspects of each sample – if you can – and see if you can pick out the individual beers. I did this once and it was very exposing.

Players Tasting Craft Beer in Brew Bracket Game

Leave your preconceived notions at the door. Craft beer justice is blind in this game.

Now move onto the real beer competition, Michael Buffer introductions and all, and have a blast with friends by playing the Brew Bracket home tournament. You can even further appreciate craft beer in whatever beer style you choose while showing your friends or family exactly what they have been missing. Consider this your way of letting them know just how much you care about them. And if you are concerned about two favorites facing each other in the first round, the host can seed the beers so that they’re more likely to meet in the finals. That’s the beauty of it: there are no real rules. Drink and vote. How cleverly simple!

Players Toasting to Great Craft Beer and Having Fun with the Brew Bracket Home Game

Of course, the best part is getting to drink good damn beer with friends.

Mike Sale told me that Brew Bracket “primarily is about people having a lot of fun, tasting beer, talking about beer in this side-by side format.” Also, it’s about folks “finding their own best beer, their own personal preference.” He said that two things that make him very pleased when observing people playing the game: 1) seeing people ecstatic because “they changed their perspective on some of their favorites”, and 2) some people “turned off a level of denial in their mind” and appreciated a beer style that previously they thought they disliked.

Presupposition and the power of suggestion are a funny thing. We know what we like, right? Of course we do, dammit! You might think that Zombie Dust is the best good damn beer in the world, but in this game, don’t be surprised if you prove yourself wrong.

Perhaps we’re afraid to admit to ourselves that we’ve become a bit close-minded and we’ve let preconceived notions taint our opinions: everything from the cars we drive, to the shoes we wear and, maybe, right down to the beer we drink. So, go ahead and host a Brew Bracket party-in-a-box beer tournament. Liberate yourself, and enter a new world of self-enlightenment. And have a whole heckuva lot of fun!


You can bring the fun home by donating to the Brew Bracket kickstarter!



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Hailing from Dayton, Ohio, I have spent most of my adult life in Indianapolis, In., where my wife and I have raised two great kids. As a police detective for many years, I have written about a lot things but none of the events were fun or enjoyable. I wanted to change that and write about something that was: craft beer and its community. I also love all sports so feel free to chat with me about either topic. Cheers! Rick

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