“March Madness isn’t just for college basketball fans,” says Bob Kelley, co-founder of the Mass. Brew Bros., a social media presence and website that covers all things craft beer in Massachusetts. “It’s also a great time of year for local craft beer drinkers, especially those who love IPAs.”
That’s because for the last two years the Mass. Brew Bros. have organized their own version of a March Madness tournament for craft beer’s most popular style, the New England IPA. Featuring a series of blind tastings, the highly anticipated event eventually crowns one brewery’s hazy, hoppy offering as the state’s top IPA. Last year’s tournament was a Cinderalla story that shocked everyone when then-home brewer Rustic Brewing (they’ve since opened a nano brewery in Springfield) made its way through the field of commercial brewers and upset vaunted Trillium in the finals. The tournament’s blind tasting format, free of brand hype and preconceived notions, is likely to result in its share of surprises this March as well.
”It was great to take away the labels and the hype and let the beer do the talking.” – Bearded & Brewed blogger Greg Desrosiers –
Thanks to key partnerships with some of the state’s best beer stores, including Craft Beer Cellar, Yankee Spirits, Total Wine & More, Julio’s Liquors, and Table & Vine, the 2019 field of entrants has expanded to include forty-plus IPAs this year and will be spread out over four regional events: the Southeast Regional Tasting will take place on Thursday, March 28 from 7:00 to 9:00 at Yankee Spirits in Norwood, the Northeast Regional Tasting will happen Friday, March 29 from 7:00 to 9:00 at Total Wine & More in Burlington, the West Regional Tasting will be held on Saturday, March 30 from 3:00 to 5:00 at Table & Vine in West Springfield, and the Central Regional Tasting goes off on Sunday, March 31 from 3:00 to 5:00 at Julio’s Liquors in Westborough.
At each regional tasting, attendees will sample 10 to 12 of the best available IPAs from some of the top breweries in that region, narrowing the field to just two finalists that advance to the championship tasting event at Craft Beer Cellar’s Society of Master of Beercierge in Belmont on Wednesday, April 3rd. In addition to the competing IPAs, a few ‘special surprise’ beers will be sampled at each event. Because this is a finely curated beer list, a very limited number of tickets are available for each session.
“Last year’s tasting really opened my eyes and showed how much of an impact branding and hype can have on our perception of a beer.”
– Raising The Barstool Instagrammer Zack Rothman –