Brew Bowl I: The Super Bowl of Beer, Part 2

Want to know what beer to drink on Super Bowl Sunday? Our expert tasting team has you covered.

The Beer Bowl I competition continues. Photograph by Jason Tesauro.

If you missed out on part 1 of Brew Bowl I, read it here

The teams (okay, beers) that made it through to the divisional round: Minnesota, San Francisco,  Washington, DC, Atlanta, Baltimore, Denver, New England, and Houston. Here’s how the Divisional and Championship rounds played out.


Minnesota vs. San Francisco

Surly Brewing Company—Furious American India Pale Ale (16-ounce can, ABV 6.2 percent, IBU 99, OG 15)


21st Amendment Brewery—Sneak Attack Farmhouse Saison Brewed With Cardamom Pods (12-ounce can, ABV 6.2 percent, IBU 38) 

For the Divisional round, we revisited Surly, this time against a tough number-two seed in a can-versus-can matchup. 

Bui: “The yeasty saison has beautiful color like California Champagne.”

Brehony: “I’m all for the 21st Amendment. Super clean with spicy yeastiness.”

Salpukas: “If I imagine what soap tastes like, I’d say the Sneak Attack has a soapy finish. That said, I love it.”

Bui: “The color really impressed me. Touch of herbs with dry bitter hops. We should do this against 3 Stars, though. I’d prefer the 3 Stars over this saison. Great beer from start to middle, but not the finish.”

Broadbent: “Both are 6.2 percent ABV, and I much preferred the 21st Amendment. I felt it straddled the [wants of] the beer geeks and the beer drinkers. It could satisfy both needs. Surly couldn’t satisfy the beer drinker.”

Sneak Attack was multidimensional, with a front-palate bite and cardamom in the back. A small can with big flavors and lots of action, but very drinkable. 

Brew Bowl: San Francisco 45, Minnesota 31 

NFL score: San Francisco 45, Green Bay 31

Washington, DC, vs. Atlanta

3 Stars Brewing Company—Peppercorn Saison Belgian Style Farmhouse Ale (half-gallon growler, ABV 6.5 percent)


Terrapin Beer Company—Rye Pale Ale (12-ounce bottle, ABV 5.5 percent, IBU 35, OG 13.3)

Brehony: “I enjoy and seek out complex and weird beers like this Peppercorn Saison.”

Broadbent: “I usually drink beer after wine tastings because I want a refreshing drink, not because I want an interesting drink. I get that all my life with wine. If you’re asking me to judge a 15 percent alcohol wine from California, I can appreciate the quality, but I’d never buy a bottle. Same with the 3 Stars. I appreciate the quality, but I much prefer a session beer, and Terrapin is the most attractive beer today.”

One judge with children admitted: “I would drink Terrapin before I pick up the kids, and 3 Stars once I got home.” Split down the middle, we went to OT again. After tallying the points, Terrapin took it by a slim sip. 

Brew Bowl: Atlanta 38, Washington 35 (OT)

NFL score: Atlanta 30, Seattle 28

Baltimore vs. Denver

Union Craft Brewing—Blackwing Lager Schwarzbier (half-gallon growler, ABV 4.8 percent, IBU 27)


Great Divide Brewing Cmpany—Hibernation Ale English-Style Old Ale (12-ounce bottle, ABV 8.7 percent)

Bui: “This is the wrong matchup. It’s David versus Goliath. Hibernation is more of an American style barleywine than an English Old Style. It needs to age a little bit to calm that bitterness. I’d pair it with peanut brittle.”

Broadbent: “I found the Great Divide fascinating. Intense medium brown amber color, intense molasses-y treacle, complex smoky nose and palate. Fascinating, but not for me. I much preferred the Union because it’s more balanced and toasty and good with a lower alcohol level.”

Salpukas: “I prefer the lager. In the end, the alcohol on the Great Divide was too much up front to get past.”

Brehony: “I really like the Great Divide and the hoppy finish. I’d pair it with Bui’s peanut brittle, a fire, and nothing to do the next day.”

Hibernation Ale was really concentrated, but we couldn’t imagine drinking a whole bottle with that high ABV and sweet finish. 

Brew Bowl: Baltimore 31, Denver 13

NFL score: Baltimore 38, Denver 35 (2 OT)

Houston vs. New England

Saint Arnold Brewing Company—Icon Belgian-Style Pale Ale (12-ounce bottle, ABV 6 percent)


Jack’s Abby Brewing—Hoponius Union India Style Pale Lager (25-ounce bottle, ABV 6.7 percent, IBU 65, OG 15.5)

Bui: “A tough one for me. I like Hoponious over the Saint Arnold. It’s so smooth. Great balance. Surprised me that a beer from New England is this good. Normally this style comes from California. It’s fermented cold, no wonder it’s so clean.”

Broadbent: “No contest. Jack’s Abby has intense, concentrated, wheaty character, but with too high alcohol. Saint Arnold has a pretty nose, good length and balance.”

Brehony: “Great matchup. Icon is right on for the style and delicious. I usually don’t like IPAs, but this a great IPA. Right on for the style, and it’s delicious. They’re neck and neck. Ultimately I give the edge to Saint Arnold because I hate hop puns and the Hoponius name is terrible.” 

We liked both a lot and at first we were really torn, but it came down to which one we’d go back to for seconds. 

Brew Bowl: Houston 17, New England 10

NFL score: New England 41, Houston 28


San Francisco vs. Atlanta

21st Amendment—Sneak Attack Farmhouse Saison (12-ounce can, ABV 6.2 percent, IBU 38) 


Terrapin—Rye Pale Ale (12-ounce bottle, ABV 5.5 percent, IBU 35, OG 13.3)

A closer look at the matchup:

From 21st Amendment’s website: “You might not expect a Saison in winter. But the enemy didn’t expect Washington to cross the icy Delaware, either. Expectations be damned, we say. We’re sneaking up on winter with a boatload of bravado and this Belgian-style farmhouse ale. Dry hopped with whole organic cardamom pods, our Saison has an assertive spiciness. In your face, winter.”  

Bittering Hops: Magnum 

Malts: Pale Malt, Crystal Malt, Belgian Light Candi Sugar

The Rye Pale Ale features four different hops: Magnum, Fuggle, East Kent Golding, Amarillo (dry hop), and five malts: 2-Row Pale, Munich, Malted Rye, Victory Malt, Honey Malt.

We enjoyed the saison’s yeasty character and front-palate attack, but the pale ale’s signature rye kick and smooth finish kept bringing us back.

Brew Bowl: Atlanta 28, San Francisco 24

NFL score: San Francisco 28, Atlanta 24


Houston vs. Baltimore

Saint Arnold—Icon Belgian-Style Pale Ale (12-ounce bottle, ABV 6 percent) 


Union—Blackwing Lager Schwarzbier (half-gallon growler, ABV 4.8 percent, IBU 27)

A closer look at the matchup:

Union Craft Brewing Blackwing Lager:

Malt: Pilsner, Munich Carared, Carafa, Caramunich Type 2

Hops: Perle

Yeast: German Lager

Brewer Sam Wright on Saint Arnold Brewing Company Icon Belgian-Style Pale Ale: “I was going for an approachable Belgian beer that people could drink more than one of. I wanted to use a simple malt bill with British crystal malts to provide a nice sweetness that doesn’t get muddled with the yeast character and the hops. To add an American element, Chinook hops were used for bittering, which adds a piney flavor. Saaz hops were added for aroma that blends well with the yeast. I selected a yeast that adds Belgian yeast character without going overboard with phenols. I wanted to make a beer that used ingredients from disparate brewing traditions that worked well together.”

Salpukas: “Spot on. Icon is so authentic that it could be easily mistaken for Belgian beer.” 

Broadbent: “I enjoy Blackwing tremendously, but the Icon is warm and supple with a very pretty nose and great drinkability.”

Despite the Union’s dark color and notes of roasted coffee and chocolate, the body and mouthfeel are refreshingly light. Still, the Icon’s nose, balance, complexity, length, and overall drinkability put it ahead by the diameter of a coaster.

Brew Bowl: Houston 27, Baltimore 17

NFL score: Baltimore 28, New England 13

Coming Friday: Houston and Atlanta vie for the title of Brew Bowl I champion.