The Orlando Beer Guide and Roanoke Beer Guide are celebrating March Madness by presenting our Sweet 16 of craft brewing. We have chosen a craft beer representative for each team remaining in the Sweet 16. As the self-appointed selection committee, we considered the proximity to campus, strength of beer line up, and beer ratings. Thus, we may skip over the closest brewery to campus if they had weak beer ratings. One difference in our selection process from the NCAA is that we almost always pick a mid-major of craft beer over big beer. And in case you’re wondering, why the Sweet 16 and not all 68 teams that started the tournament? Well, let us just say picking multiple breweries from certain locations that haven’t caught up to the popularity of craft beer is a near impossible task. Looking at you Oklahoma.
The OBG and RBG are pitted head-to-head as we divided up the teams in each of the
Sweet 16 parings. Our goal is to see how many we each have left standing in the Final Four and when the eventual champion is crowned. While we did our best to select the craft representatives for each team, we know some bubbles were burst leaving beer fans feeling that their favorite brewery was snubbed. Will a tried and true brewery come through in the end or will the Cinderella of craft beer rise to occasion? Do you agree with our selections?
Match Up 1: 4 UCLA (RBG) vs. 1 Florida (OBG)
Eagle Rock Brewery (Los Angeles) - One might think that there would be more breweries closer to the campus of UCLA given the number of craft beer serving establishments and size of the city. But, we had to go almost 20 miles to find Eagle Rock Brewery. We can get on board with their mantra, "beer for the people”, and aptly named Solidarity, a black mild ale, as the Bruins will have
to be a cohesive unit to bring home the championship trophy. Hopefully, UCLA's championship dreams don't go sour like the 2012 LA Beer Week offering from Eagle Rock, a Berliner Rye brewed with prickly pear. Though that sounds delicious.
Swamp Head Brewery (Gainesville) - There are a handful of Florida breweries that have been
garnering up almost as much positive praise as Florida's number one seeded Gator basketball team. One of these is Gainesville's Swamp Head Brewery which offers a year round lineup that’s highlighted by Stumpknocker Pale Ale, Midnight Oil Oatmeal Coffee Stout, and Big Nose IPA.
They also offer some "Real" Florida themed seasonals like the Smoke Signal Smoked Porter and the Swamp Head Darkwater Floridan Dark Ale if you’re looking for some of the best of Sunshine State liquid culture.
Match Up 2: 10 Stanford (OBG) vs. 11 Dayton (RBG)
Russian River Brewing (Santa Rosa) - We know that Russian River is one of the “big boys” of craft beer but its beers are just too good to not be Stanford’s representative. According to Ratebeer, Russian River currently brews 5 of the top 20 beers that are available in California. Both Plinys (The Elder and The Younger) sit at the top of that list. We've heard of both beer geeks and
newbies alike going to great lengths to secure themselves a taste of Pliny. Not that it’s a good thing but at last October's Great American Beer Festival in Denver the Russian River line was the longest at the entire festival.
Toxic Brew Company (Dayton) - Toxic Brew Company was an easy pick for the Sweet 16
given that the Dayton Flyers and Scoochie Smith (best name in the tournament) have proven to be poisonous to in-state rival Ohio State and Syracuse. Toxic Brew brings a balanced line up of players to the beer flight staring Belgian style beers supported by equally important role players like Porn or Pawn Ale, named for the game the locals played in trying to guess whether pedestrians were headed to one of the adjacent businesses mentioned in the name of the beer.
Match Up 3: 1 Virginia (RBG) vs. 4 Michigan State (OBG)
South Street Brewery (Charlottesville) - Champion Brewing Company was tempting but maybe a little presumptuous for a team that is perhaps a dark horse for a #1 seed. Hence, we are going with South Street Brewery and their flagship beer, Satan’s Pony Amber Ale. Hopefully for the Hoos, this steed is ready to ride all the way to the Final Four. In keeping with our hooved theme, South Street also edged out Three Notch’d Brewing Company and their Oats McGoats Oatmeal
Darkhorse Brewing (Marshall) - We chose Darkhorse to represent Michigan State even though the name doesn’t come close to describing the Spartans chances of going all the way this spring. The brewery describes its beers as “some of the best fuckin’ beers made in the great state of Michigan. Period”! It’s a bold statement but heavy hitters like Double Crooked Tree IPA and Plead the 5th imperial stout make it hard to disagree! Darkhorse also provides its mug club members with some really beautiful handmade mugs that Coach Izzo himself would surely be proud to sip from!
Match Up 4: 3 Iowa State (OBG) vs. 7 Connecticut (RBG)
Toppling Goliath Brewing Company (Decorah) - Toppling Goliath is a small brewery in Decorah
that makes some “Big” beers that have been attracting national attention. Some of us lucky Floridians got to enjoy a few offerings from Toppling Goliath a few weeks back the 2014
Hunahpu release party at Cigar City in Tampa. TG has a lot point scorers in its lineup but Kentucky Brunch is its most valuable player. This barrel aged imperial stout is in the same league with Cigar City's Hunahpu and Three Floyd's Dark Lord. The upstart Iowa State team will need to topple a few Goliaths to win it all.
Willimantic Brewing Company (Willimantic) - While it doesn’t appear that there is a craft
brewery in Storrs, CT, one doesn’t have to travel far to find tasty libations. Willimantic includes postal themed beers in their line up with some that are equally appropriate to describe the action on the hardwood. Opponents facing UConn’s stout defense might find their shots marked Return to Sender (Amber Ale). And if the game gets physical in the paint, they might leave with Double
Black EYE (IPA) for their efforts. Naysayers might say UConn doesn’t stand a chance but Husky fans are asking YNaught (Wheat).
Match Up 5: 1 Arizona (OBG) vs. 4 San Diego State (RBG)
Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company (Gilbert) - Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company believes that beer is much more than “the yellow fizzy stuff dad used to drink while wearing his dirty flannel shirts.” A solid lineup of starters accompanied by unique creations like American Presidential smoked jalapeño stout aged on cocoa nibs and Pappy Van Winkle barrel aged barleywine make Arizona Wilderness our choice for the University of Arizona.
Pizza Port Brewing Company (Four locations in San Diego area) - This is a case where the
selection committee went with a potential Cinderella instead of craft giant, Stone, or other better known and distributed breweries like Mission, Coronado Brewing, AleSmith and Lost Abbey. If the team can play above the rim just like Pizza Port boasts big Hops on Rye Barleywine and Junk ’n da Trunkle Dunk-le (dunkelweiss) in their game, they should make a deep run in the tournament. But if they are not careful, they could end up doing a Faceplant (Belgian tripel) destroying any
hopes for a championship.
Match Up 6: 6 Baylor (OBG) vs. 2 Wisconsin (RBG)
Jester King Brewery (Austin) - No offense to the good people of Waco, but we went about 100 miles south of the home of the Bears to Austin to find our representative for Baylor. According to our friends at Austin Beer Guide, Austin is a robust city that is bursting at the seams with beer. Jester King is an authentic farmhouse brewery that is located in the Texas hill country just outside Austin. They have a lot of beers that score a lot of points but the Blackmetal farmhouse imperial stout and Noble King hoppy farmhouse ale are the leading scorers for the Jester.
Karben4 (Madison) - While fans of Bucky have plenty of craft options, Karben4 emphasizes “English-style malt bombs” among their offerings. As the team seeks to drop a few bombs of their own from 3-point range, beer lovers in Madison will be downing a few pint-sized bombs at Karben4. Rounding out the team, Karben4 brings into the mix an Irish Red, Lady Luck. And with Lady Luck on their side, Bucky & Co. hope that this is the year they will be holding a Block Party (Amber Ale) celebration on the streets of the capital city of Wisconsin.
Match Up 7: 8 Kentucky (RBG) vs. 4 Louisville (OBG)
Country Boy Brewing (Lexington) - Kentucky proud might be one way to describe Country Boy Brewing. Just as Ashley Judd is UK basketball, the trio that runs Country Boy is to craft beer. Country Boy is within walking distance to Rupp Arena and offers a wide range of beers including a Gose. And while they have fun with the name of the brewery and beers, the ratings suggest they are not a gimmick but a serious contender. Their line up includes Cougar Bait (American
Blonde), Brown Chicken, and Shotgun Wedding (Dark Brown Ale). First, they will have to square off against in-state rival, Louisville.
Against the Grain Brewery (Louisville) - Against the Grain proudly sits at the southeast corner of Louisville Slugger field in Louisville about a 15 minute walk from KFC Yum Center. They produce an innovative portfolio of ales and lagers as well as a line of house made sodas that are second to none in Louisville. Long known for its bourbon and basketball the Bluegrass State is quickly becoming recognized for its barrel aged ales, too. A number of Against the Grain’s beers are barrel aged including the 70K which weighs in at 13.1 % ABV and is listed as being double roasty, double chocolaty, double creamy, and double delicious. Guess that’s a quadruple-double!
Match Up 8: 11 Tennessee (OBG) vs. 2 Michigan (RBG)
Yazoo Brewing Company (Nashville) - We looked to Nashville and Yazoo Brewing Company
for some of the finest craft brews in the state of Tennessee. Top performers for Yazoo include their Hop Project IPA, which uses a different blend of hops for each batch never using the same blend twice. For “Big” beer enthusiasts, the Yazoo Sue was Tennessee's first legal high gravity ale that was introduced a few years back. Yazoo lists Sue as a smoky malt bomb of a
beer influenced by barley malts that are smoked with cherry wood.
Wolverine State Brewing (Ann Arbor) - Arbor Brewing, Grizzly Peak, and Jolly Pumpkin Café
may be slightly closer to campus, the name Wolverine and their lager leaning offerings were a slam dunk for the selection committee. While most craft brewers tend toward ales, Wolverine offers cooler fermented favorites like an imperial dark lager aged in bourbon barrels, which is named Massacre. If opponents starting with Tennessee don’t watch out, they just might get massacred facing a formidable line up beers or the basketball team.
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