The results in Round 1 of the Beer Madness Crisp & Clean Division made one thing certain: Canadians are passionate about local, craft beer.
In this division, focusing on lagers and pilsners, top seeds, Molson Canadian and Labatt Blue were both upset as Yukon Gold, from Whitehorse’s Yukon Brewing took out Blue handily and Czech Mate Pilsner, from Saskatchewan’s Paddock Wood powered past Canadian in the most voted upon match-up the tournament has seen so far.
With over 80% of beer sales in Canada going to larger breweries like Labatt and Molson, I would have predicted either Canadian or Blue advancing to the semi-finals, AKA “The Foamy Four.” But it seems while many Canadians are drinking these brews—they’re not counting them as favourites.
The landscape of Canadian beer has shifted rapidly in the last 20 years, with the rise of more and more local, craft breweries churning out radically different beers than any of us are used to—and it appears, we like it. A lot.
Beer Madness is a people’s-choice-style elimination that’s running online on all the Sun newspaper websites, and on canoe.ca—and in just two days, over 23,000 votes were cast to decide the winners in the first two divisions: Crisp & Clean and Fruity & Spicy.
Round 1 of the remaining divisions—Hops and Malt—closed yesterday at midnight. And this morning two-days of voting opens for Round 2 of Crisp & Clean and Spicy & Fruity, before swinging back to Hops and Malt. Vote for your favourites here!
Here’s a recap of all the beer-on-beer action from the first two days of the contest:
Crisp & Clean
#1 Molson Canadian VS. #8 Paddock Wood Czech Mate Pilsner
In a major upset, our last seed, a pilsner from Saskatoon, handily beat one of Canada’s most famous (and widely imbibed) beers, Molson Canadian. Czech Mate brought in the 2517 votes—the second highest number in the tournament so far, putting it in prime position to take out Mill Street Organic in Round 2.
#4 Mill Street Organic VS. #5 Hop City Barking Squirrel
This was the closest match-up of the first round so far. Mill Street Organic squeaked by its adversary, Barking Squirrel by just 102 votes. But will that be enough for the 4th seeded Mill Street to avoid becoming the next pawn in Czech Mate’s game of sudsy domination?
#3 Steam Whistle VS. #6 Sleeman Honey Brown
This green-bottle, craft pilsner not only enjoys national distribution but a deep and loyal fanbase, giving it the most votes so far in the tourney, 2573—more than enough to power by Honey Brown, once a star micro, that’s losing ground in the midst of the new wave of craft brewing in Canada.
#2 Labatt Blue VS. #7 Yukon Gold
Blue might have done better in this tourney if it had a bigger social media presence (The @LabattBlue twitter handle only has 553 followers). But there’s no denying Yukon Gold’s muscle—it garnered 2,370 votes—setting the Northern Invaders up for perhaps the most interesting quarter-finals match-up of the tournament: a battle royale against Steam Whistle.
Fruity & Spicy
#1 Unibroue Blanche de Chambly VS #8 Brasserie Dunham’s Saison du Pinacle
Brasserie Dunham’s celebrated Saison du Pinacle made a valiant effort, losing to Unibroue by 700 votes. It’s impressive considering this tiny farmhouse brew has only just started distributing to Ontario and B.C. and is in just one beer bar in Halifax, while Chambly, now owned by Sapporo, has coast-to-coast reach.
#4 Howe Sound King Heffy VS. #5 Steamworks Pumpkin Ale
A battle between B.C. brewing icons resulted in another close contest in what should be the most competitive match-up in all the regions. The imperial hefeweizen from Kelowna knocked out the big Vancity favourite, Steamworks which brews one of the most respected pumpkin beers in the nation, by just over 400 votes.
#3 Pump House Blueberry Cream Ale VS. #6 Cannery Blackberry Porter
Unlike the 3-6 blow-out in the Crisp division, Fruits and Spices fans were treated to the second closest showdown the tournament has seen so far. The East Coast prevailed in the battle of the berries, with Moncton’s Pump House narrowly defeating Penticton B.C.’s blackberry brew by just 120 votes.
#2 Le Trou du Diable Saison du Tracteur VS. #7 Tree Mellow Moon
Saison du Tracteur is well positioned to advance to the Beer Madness Foamy Four taking 2056 votes, the highest in the Fruity & Spicy Division. It ended up simply overwhelming its tasty, but newbie opponent, the pineapple hefeweizen from Kelowna’s Tree Brewing, which took in the least votes in Round 1.
It’s been an amazing debut for the tournament, hats off to Sun Media and canoe.ca life for running the tournament with me, to all the breweries for embracing the concept, and of course, you, the beer drinkers of Canada, for clicking on your favourites. Tweet me @CrystalLuxmore with your thoughts about the tournament or with pictures of you drinking “tournament quality” brews.
Check back here tomorrow for a rundown of all eight battles in the Hops and Malt side of the bracket.