Introducing The Brew Bracket Home Beer Tournament

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. 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 at the Tomlinson Tap Room, and just as my friends and I experienced it, the home version translated exactly the same way on this night. Later in the evening, Mike and Ryan pushed the button that officially launched their Kickstarter campaign for Brew Bracket.

The Brew Bracket format is like this. Eight beers of a particular beer style face off against each other tournament-style, though only the host knows what those beers are. Guests blindly taste the beer and secretly cast their ballot about which particular beer they prefer. The winners move on and this continues until a winner is declared.

The anticipation builds even one step further when the host goes through the bracket and reveals each beer. The moans and groans of surprise will tell you just how much we trust, or don’t trust, our taste buds.

The Brew Bracket kit includes everything you will need to host the 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. You simply provide the beer and friends.

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 response 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 this. 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 (you and I both know them) how similar and bland they all are to each other in taste. Nothing really contrasts “big beer” vs. craft beer better than to have them sampled in the same evening. Think of it this way: how would you know Naugahyde (pleather) 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.

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 buddies just exactly what they have been missing. Consider this your way of letting friends know just how much you care about them. If you are concerned about two “favorites” facing each other in the first round, the host can “seed” the beers in any manner they wish. And that’s the beauty of it: there are no real rules. Drink and vote. How cleverly simple!

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, and second, was (people) finding their own best beer, their own personal preference.” And sometimes, he said, “their ‘best beer’ falls off the radar.”

Mike continued that the two things that made him happier than anything was, 1) seeing people ecstatic because “they changed their perspective of some of their favorites”, and 2) that some people “turned off a level of denial in their mind”, by appreciating a beer style they previously thought they disliked.

Pre-existing beliefs 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 damn beer in the world but 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 to the beer we drink. So go ahead, do the new 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 join in the fun by donating to the Brew Bracket kickstarter, with several options for how to bring your new favorite drinking game home!

Rick Burkhardt is the Indy Beer Sleuth. You can get in contact with him here, and follow him on Twitter here.