The Washington Post has put together a fun little March Madness bracket with beers standing in for the 64 teams. While I have some quibbles with the voting (the judges panel often differs wildly from the overwhelming people’s choice), I think it’s a great way to drum up interest in craft beers since everyone loves bracketology.
My biggest qualm about the endeavor, however, is that the beers have no relevance to the teams actually playing in the NCAA tourney. To remedy that, I decided to match up a brew with each team in the Sweet Sixteen. How did I determine the entrants?
- I decided to “level the playing field” by only selecting IPAs if possible. It’s been 80 degrees all week here in ‘Bama which means it’s time to swap out my sweaters for T-shirts and my stouts for IPAs. I figured it would be a little pointless (well, this whole thing is pointless, so let’s say MORE pointless) to match up Imperial Stouts with Scotch Ales with Pale Wheats with Double IPAs, etc. So I just selected IPAs to keep things simple.
- I tried to pick an IPA from a brewery as close as possible to where the schools hail from. Obviously in some cases this was extremely difficult. UK plays in Lexington which isn’t exactly a beer mecca…and don’t even get me started on Florida State. I’ll give a brief explanation of each beer I selected, but if anyone from those areas has better suggestions, I’m all ears.
- I’m going to let the actual games dictate the winners rather than letting our readers vote on these. Not that a vote would be particularly useful since I suspect very few of you had more than one or two of the beers on this list (they’re mostly from small, local breweries).
That last point may seem a little ridiculous to you. How can you decide which beer is superior based on something like a basketball game? What possible relevance does that have?
Let me tell you a little story…back in our heyday, many of the Aleheads belonged to a certain fraternity at a certain college in New England. Fraternity life revolves around alcohol and insults, so as you might imagine, there is sometimes a bit of friction between two (or more) brothers. To curtail injuries and hospital visits, we all but banned fighting in our dilapidated little dwelling. But drunkards must resolve conflict somehow! What was our solution? Enter the ‘Dome.
The ‘Dome is short for the Thunderdome…a term stolen from the dystopic Mel Gibson vehicle, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. Whenever two (or more) brothers got into an argument heated enough that it seemed like violence might enter the picture, the rest of the brotherhood began the chant from Mad Max: “Two men enter! One man leaves!”
Now, in the movie, the two men in question were suspended by bungee cords inside a geodesic dome. The combatants then attacked each other with a variety of weapons including comically large sledgehammers and chainsaws which were provided by the audience hanging all over the dome. Our fraternity was not exactly flush with capital, so the dome and armaments were out of the question. In place of the dome…a trash can! And in place of weaponry…beer!
The actual mechanics will either leave you disgusted or incredulous at our stupidity (most likely both). Essentially, the parties in question would each consume a cup of beer every 45 seconds. At a certain point, one of the participants would no longer have adequate storage space for said beers and would have what is called in the competitive eating world a “reversal of fortune”. This individual would “lose” the ‘Dome and thus the argument. The combatant with the stronger stomach “won” the ‘Dome and the day.
The beauty of this approach is that it did not matter what the argument was about. We once had two individuals debating over how tall Arnold Schwarzenegger was. They took it to the ‘Dome and the winner of the event “won” the argument even though neither of them were actually correct about his height. It didn’t matter. The ‘Dome never lies.
What does this have to do with my ridiculous bracket? Simple. It doesn’t matter if the winner of each match-up is actually a better beer. For example, UConn is facing SDSU in the first game tonight. While it is likely that the Sculpin IPA representing SDSU is superior to UConn’s Willimantic Husky IPA, if UConn wins the game, that beer is better. End of story. Just like the ‘Dome, the actual debate is meaningless. The victor is decided on the court. It’s beautiful!
So who is competing in this absurd bracket. Let’s take a look!
1. Ohio State: Columbus Brewing Company IPA – Pretty straightforward. Perhaps the Commander can suggest a better option, but this seemed the most reasonable to me.
4. UK: Lexington Brewing Kentucky Ale – As far as I can tell, Lexington only has one local brewery, the Lexington Brewing and Distilling Co. They only make three beers, (the Ale, Light, and Bourbon Barrel Ale). I selected the Ale as the closest approximation to an IPA.
11. Marquette: Lakefront Brewery IPA – Milwaukee actually has less breweries than you might imagine considering its brewing heritage. However, Lakefront Brewery is just a couple miles from campus and has a well-regarded IPA. So there you go.
2: UNC: Fullsteam Brewery Rocket Science IPA – Chapel Hill itself doesn’t have a brewery I know of, but nearby Durham has a couple. Aleheads fave Fullsteam gets the nod here with their Rocket Science IPA.
1. Kansas: Freestate Brewery Lovejoy IPA – As Herr Hordeum will tell you, Kansas isn’t Portland, Oregon when it comes to beer. But he has spoken highly of Freestate in the past (particularly in regards to their Cheddar Ale Soup) so I’m assigning the Jayhawks the Lovejoy IPA.
12. Richmond: Olde Richmond Batch No. 11 IPA – Richmond has precious few breweries and I’ve got two teams to account for between U of R and VCU. I’m giving the Olde Richmond Beer Company’s IPA to the Spiders. Admittedly, Olde Richmond’s beers are actually brewed by St. George Brewing in nearby Hampton, VA, but it’s got Richmond in the title and it’s an IPA. So there.
11. VCU: Legend Brewing Golden IPA – As for VCU, the tiny Legend Brewing is just across the river from campus, so they get the Legend Golden IPA.
10: Florida State: Seven Bridges Toll Tender IPA – Definitely the toughest call…Tallahassee seems to have no local breweries and the closest I could find was Swamp Head in Gainesville which obviously has to go to Florida. So I went all the way out to Jacksonville to the Seven Bridges Grille & Brewery for their Toll Tender IPA. Any better suggestions, Alehead Nation?
1. Duke: Triangle Brewing IPA – The “other” Durham brewery (other than Fullsteam, I mean), Triangle brews just a few miles from Duke. So the Blue Devils get the Triangle IPA (perhaps they’ll switch to a Triangle offense just to make it even more appropriate…c’mon Coach K!).
5. Arizona: Thunder Canyon Brewery IPA – Another town not exactly awash in breweries so another easy choice. Tuscon’s own Thunder Canyon Brewery makes an IPA that will represent the Wildcats.
3. UConn: Willimantic Husky IPA – Storrs has no breweries, but Willimantic is right around the corner. Plus, Husky IPA. A no-brainer.
2. SDSU: Ballast Point Sculpin IPA – So many breweries to choose from in San Diego, but Ballast Point has arguably the finest IPA in the region in the Sculpin. So why the hell not?
8. Butler: Sun King Osiris Pale Ale – Aleheads darling Three Floyds is in nearby Munster, but Indy has a nice little brewery of their own in Sun King. They don’t make an IPA that I could find, but the hop-forward Osiris should work just fine.
4. Wisconsin: Great Dane Brew Pub Potters Run IPA – I kind of thought Madison would have more breweries, but no matter. The Great Dane Brew Pub is just 2 miles from the Badgers home turf so they get to represent U of W.
3. BYU: Squatters Pub IPA – You might think Salt Lake City was bereft of ale factories, but they’ve got a few. The Squatters Pub is less than a mile from BYU, actually.
2. Florida: Swamp Head Big Nose IPA – A buddy of mine came back from a beer festival in Pensacola and raved about Swamp Head. Since they’re in Gainesville, they seem to be the easy choice to represent the Gators.
And there you have it. Two teams will enter. One team will leave. And whichever team wins will bring their representative beer closer to the ultimate prize. Who will win?! Who will lose?! It’s March Madness, Baybee!!!