Evening MBA Spotlight: Mike Sale Is Passionate About Brew Bracket


There are so many great Kelley Evening MBA alums. Today, I want to share the story of Mike Sale and his avocation, Brew Bracket. Early on when I met Mike, he started passionately talking to me about his Brew Bracket. The basic idea is to take a style of beer, say Wheat, Amber, Belgian or IPA, and run a bracket tournament with head-to-head taste-offs. You typically start with 16 beers paired up against each other. The fun starts when you walk in and get two different colored glasses. Everything is color coded so the brands stay anonymous until the end. Then you go around the room, taste two beers, and pick your favorite. Vote. Move to the next pair. Repeat. Over multiple rounds, beers are eliminated until there is one winner.

What I like about these events:

  1. It’s a great way to learn about beers. Since they mostly feature local beers (think Indy, Bloomington, Kokomo, Seymour), it’s a great way to find out about the beers closest to you. It’s amazing how many great local beers there are. But if you are like me, you don’t want to risk a whole beer stuck with something you don’t like. Lots of options also means lots of variety. Not all variety is good, in my experience. So, it’s a pretty low risk way to get introduced to a bunch of new (to you) beers.
  2. It’s fun. A lot of people go; often people you know. Each event has about 200 people in attendance. We attended AMBERgeddon and found ourselves surrounded by Kelley MBA alums. These events have a festival atmosphere with food trucks and lots of socializing. Brew Bracket also does some contests with the events to keep attendees engaged.
  3. They give back to the community. Each event has a featured charity that receives a portion of the proceeds.

What’s also been great to watch is how Mike has developed this offering and how he leveraged the Kelley MBA along the way. In each class if there was a way to use class ideas to further refine his plan, he used Brew Bracket as his project. He would even come up after class to ask questions about how he was applying class content to Brew Bracket. He stays connected to his MBA classmates. You know if you go to a Brew Bracket event, that you’ll probably know at least someone. It seems like there are always alums. He’s always experimenting — new formats, new beer styles, new locations. He’s also open to new ideas. His avocation is gaining momentum from these investments and his Kelley connections.

This spring, I was working on a new way to help showcase how a company builds a strong brand. I wanted to use Sun King Brewing as my example. I wanted to get across the idea that brands help differentiate products, especially when quality is so subjective. So, Mike changed up his Brew Bracket format and created a custom one to educate the class about how to taste beer, with four options for each of Sun King’s house styles — “The Lighter Side” (Wheat, Blonde, Hybrid), “A Touch of Carmel” (Amber/Brown) and “Hop Garden” (Pale, IPA). And, he generously donated his time to help execute the learning activity. It worked out very well.

So, do yourself a favor and check out Brew Bracket. Their next event might feature your favorite beer style. If you want to make sure not to miss it, go ahead and sign up for their newsletter. You never know who you might see at one of the Brew Bracket events.