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Ale on Oak offers a craft beer blind-tasting to coincide with the NCAA basketball championship



  After St. Patrick's Day and St. Joseph's Day celebrations concluded and the shocks of various New Orleans Saints trades wear off, what is left to amuse ourselves until festival season begins? There's March Madness, the college basketball championships that whittle down a field of 68 teams to the Final Four by the end of the month.

  The Riverbend beer hall Ale (8124 Oak St., 504-324-6558; is applying that same competitive format to beer, turning the bar's 30-tap lineup into a craft beer blind-tasting showdown that will culminate on April 6 along with the NCAA men's national basketball championship.

  Ale general manager Patrick Winters says there will be 29 match-ups in March — roughly one per day. In each matchup, two beers go head to head, with customers trying two four-ounce beers in a blind tasting for $1.

  "It's been a really great way for the customers to interact with the bartenders as well as the beer," Winters says. "Tasting the beer without bias means that you actually focus on the beer and what exactly you're drinking."

  Ale is offering matchups based on weekly themes. Earlier this month lighter beers such as pilsners, saisons and wheat ales faced off. Newly released Brooklyn Brewery Greenmarket Wheat beat Ale longtime favorite North Coast Scrimshaw pilsner in the biggest upset of that week, Winters reports.

  Other upcoming themes are hoppy beers and porters/stouts. The winners and losers are recorded in brackets on a chalkboard behind the taps. On April 6, when the champion is crowned, Ale will run beer specials on the winner.

  "It gives people the chance to try something new and have their voice be heard," Winters says.

  Even those not into basketball can enjoy bracket season through tasting craft beer at Ale. At $1 a matchup, there are no losers.

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