The Battle

Battle of the Beers

2002: And then there were four

Here's what some readers had to say about competition in the Final Four:

On Alaskan Smoked Porter vs. Rogue Shakespeare Stout

"Just LOVE that Shakespeare Stout from Rogue! Here's a Northwest tip: Take a pint of Shakespeare Stout and drop in a scoop of some Tillamook French Vanilla Ice Cream and enjoy the best Beer Float you'll ever have! Tasty! This alone should make Rogue the winner!!
- Chuck in Portland"

"Well, this weekend I was able to taste 3/4 of the finalists. I revisited Rogue Shakespeare Stout (on tap) and Alaskan Smoked Porter (bottle), then tried Ommegang (bottle) for the very first time. I wasn't able to find Eliot Ness. However, of the three I tasted this is a very hard choice. Depending on my mood, any one of these could win my vote for champion of this tournament. However, given my current mood I'm leaning toward Ommegang. This is a bold statement for me since I usually favor stouts and porters over Abbeys. But Ommegang had BIG, complex flavor and was just a pleasure to drink. It's one of the best brews I've had in a while.

"I would have to pick Shakespeare as the No. 2 brew, followed by Alaskan, and then Elliot Ness. What will really happen? Alaskan Smoked Porter is going to put another notch in its belt and run away with the prize. It seems inevitable. I hope I am proved wrong, but I think Alaskan is too used to winning."
- Jake Morrill

"I just notice a blurb about how far people will go to get (Alaskan) beer. Well I thought I'd wade in, I drove from Albuquerque New Mexico to Northern Idaho to buy Alaskan Beer! However they didn't have any Smoked Porter, so I came back with only Amber. How can I get some Smoked Porter? Deprived in the Dessert!"
- Mike Maurer

"Choose one? (whimper)"
- Pam Rudd

"This is a no brainer. Comparing these beers is like comparing different kinds of art or literature. Alaskan Smoked Porter is good, but it's one of those beers you are supposed to enjoy, like John Milton. Ultimately, you want accessibility, substance, familiarity, and simply being the best in the craft. Rogue's Stout is aptly named. The best stout in the country should be named after the best playwright in the English language: Shakespeare offers taste, style, substance, drama & passion!"
- Scott Hercher

On Ommegang vs. Eliot Ness

"There is no way to compare the exquisite and complex flavors of an Omegang when it hits room temperature, winter, spring, summer, or fall. There are rare few beers that can stand up to an original Belgian Brew made near Cooperstown New York. It's a home run for those of us in the Empire State!"
- Dan Johnson

"Wow! This is like matching Mohammed Ali vs. Sugar Ray Leonard. Ali (Ommegang) would have the size and power, while Leonard (Eliot Ness) would have the speed and finesse. I absolutely love both of these beers, but will give the edge to Eliot Ness - out of respect for the difficult task of making a Vienna lager. Give me either beer and I would be very happy!" - Tim Tomlinson

"Ommegang is a great beer - a true Belgian abbey style artisan brew - but I have to caste my vote for Great Lake's Eliot Ness. Why? While I enjoy both beers immensely, I have to vote as if I was asked which I would enjoy more in a 'day to day, sit down and watch the game with friends' type of atmosphere and Eliot Ness fits that description nicely. It is a finely crafted Vienna style lager that has enough flavor distinctions as to be interesting, but also satisfying in it's overall clean drinkability. Some might say that it is harder to brew a Vienna lager with it's malty, clean taste than a fruity and complex Belgian abbey - but I won't enter into that argument here. Now for celebrating the arrival of the New Year, wedding anniversary or another special event - Ommegang would be the choice. It's complex mingling of flavors, overall Belgian abbey distinctiveness and higher alcohol content make it a beer, at least in my opinion, reserved for celebrating. This may seem counter to the spirit of the contest, but when presented with such flavor diversity and exceptional beers in the final rounds I find myself having to vote for all around every day drinking enjoyment. Both are winners in my book, just in different areas."
- Mark Rowland

On the final match

"Great to see 2 outstanding beers make it to the big dance. I chose the smoked porter only because I prefer porter over marzens. If the Edmund Fitzgerald had been selected as Great Lakes entry, I probably would have leaned that way only because I have yet to have the pleasure of Alaska beers fresh for comparison. Definitely a win-win proposition today. I only wish I had the same choice available at my local beer store in in the shadows of Budweiser City."
- Russ Cochran

"While I think Alaskan Smoked Porter is the better of the two Finalists, it's hard for me to vote without reflecting on the Final Four and getting a bit misty. The Final Four represent all that is good and right with American (Micro) Brewing today. A wonderful Belgian Ale. A malty Vienna Lager. A complex Dry Stout. And a truly American Smoked Porter. Along the way, various comments have been made about pitting a stout against an IPA or a smoked porter against a mass-brewed light lager. While those comments seemed important earlier on, there is no doubt now that four great beers have risen to the top. Can New Glarus Red replace Ommegang, and potentially dethrone Great Lakes Elliot Ness on a path to defeating Alaskan Smoked Porter for an overall win next year? I guess we will have to wait for that one. But for me, I think I will take the advice of a fellow hop-head and buy all four and drink it out with some friends."
- Jay Patel

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Great places
to try these beers

Monk's Cafe
263 S. 16th St.
Philadelphia, PA

Falling Rock
1919 Blake
Denver, CO.

547 Haight St.
San Francisco, CA.

Cafe Saint-Ex
1847 14th st NW
Washington, DC