Willamette Week, a local Portland-based paper, today crowns its "President of Beers" in an undeniably unscientific (but fun) competition between beers from all 50 states. If you haven't caught the online coverage, I summed up the last year of WW beer coverage and the election here. Last night, various critics, WW staffers, and local beer pros--myself included, as a I was a judge of the contest--gathered at Willamette Week's offices to meet the winners elected as the new Presidents of Beer.
Before the inauguration began, editor and evil mastermind Martin Cizmar lit the ceremonial burning of the Samuel Adams box, said the sacred prayer to Jim Koch, and introduced the winners--homebrewers Tom and Nancy Roan of North Dakota.
|The new Presidents of Beer: Tom & Nancy Roan|
Say what?! Yes, the winners of the President of Beers are not professional brewers, but members of Fargo, North Dakota homebrewing club Prairie Homebrewers. The great state of North Dakota has ZERO professional breweries, so WW's Brian Yaeger reached out to the homebrew club to represent the state. Process that for a minute--the winners of a competition that judges each state's flagship beer against the others are from a state with no breweries and themselves amateurs with no intent to go pro...
Now, I am not disparaging Tom and Nancy Roan. Their beer--a barleywine--was fine, quite good actually and exactly what an American-style barleywine should be: big, bold, malty, hoppy, and boozy. But how does such a beer win over brewers like Deschutes, Sierra Nevada, and Sam Adams? I am going to throw the rules of the contest under the bus here. When judging just the most popular beers of each state, the most bold beer you were going to get was a pale ale, and even those were few and far between. When tasting through 50 different beers blind, they start to become hard to tell apart, and when a bold sucker punch of a beer like this homebrew comes through, you tend to take notice. The barleywine may actually have been the best beer we tried, but it's not much of a real competition unless we were judging it against barleywines from other states. Still, it says something that a state with no breweries comes out on top. North Dakotans need to get busy.