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We crowned an NCAA champion based on local beers and we’re sure everyone will agree

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Sweetwater! Ballast Point! Something called Crafty Bastard!

Corona Owner Constellation Brands Buys San Diego's Craft Brewer Ballast Point For 1 Billion Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

With local microbreweries proliferating across the country, it seems like no major college or university in the U.S. is more than a few miles from freshly-made local beer. And that gave me an idea. If a college basketball team’s strength was tied to the quality of its local breweries, who would win the national title?

The methodology of the beer bracket is simple: the university with the higher-rated brewery in its city — according to RateBeer.com — moves on to the next round. We’ll use the overall score (0 to 5) of the local brewer’s most-rated beer. Before you complain — and there will be PLENTY of opportunities to do so later — please note that doesn’t always mean a brewery’s best beer will be considered, just its most popular by reviews.

If a city has more than one brewery, the most popular one (according to Google), will be the default pick (sorry, nanobrewers). If a city has no brewery, we’ll go with the closest one to campus. Special consideration was given to locations with names tied to their local universities.

Without further ado, here’s how a world of beer snobs and hop geeks would set their bracket. Feel free to disagree with each and every selection and tell me why your favorite brewery deserved to be included/deserved to win or how wrong RateBeer’s beer preferences are in the comments below.

First Four

(16) Long Island-Brooklyn over (16) Radford

Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Chocolate Stout (3.99) beats The River Company’s Dumpster Dog Porter (3.24)

(16) Texas Southern over (16) North Carolina Central

Durham’s first entry of the tournament gets Fullsteam’s Cackalacky Ginger Pale Ale (3.25). It loses to Houston’s Saint Arnold’s Saint Arnold Elissa IPA (3.44)

(11) St. Bonaventure over (11) UCLA

Los Angeles’s Angel City’s IPA (3.42) just narrowly got edged out by Four Mile Brewing’s Allegheny IPA (3.43), even if it only has eight ratings.

(11) Arizona State over (11) Syracuse

Four Peaks’ Kilt Lifter Scottish-Style Ale (3.13) probably shouldn’t be here as an InBev subsidiary, but it still manages to slide by Empire Brewing Company’s most-rated beer, the not-well-received White Aphro (3.00).

First round

South region

(16) Maryland-Baltimore County over (1) Virginia

Union Craft Brewing’s Double Duckpin has a 3.7 rating over 80 reviews, allowing UMBC to pull the upset over Charlottesville’s South Street Brewery and its Satan’s Pony Amber (3.03).

(8) Creighton over (9) Kansas State

Upstream is more of a brewpub than an actual brewery. It should lose to Manhattan’s Tallgrass in a blowout, but the high-octane Grand Cru (3.77) outranks Buffalo Sweat (3.46), immediately throwing my methods into question just six matchups in.

(5) Kentucky over (12) Davidson

West Sixth Brewing’s IPA (3.59) tragically wins out over Ass Clown Brewing’s Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Stout (3.1).

(13) Buffalo over (4) Arizona

Borderlands Brewing Co.’s Noche Dulce Vanilla Porter (3.27) can’t hold up against Big Ditch’s Hayburner American IPA (3.47)

(11) Loyola-Chicago over (6) Miami (FL)

Concrete Beach Brewery’s Stiltsville Pilsner (3.16) never really stood a chance against Revolution Brewing’s Anti-Hero IPA (3.68)

(14) Wright State over (3) Tennessee

The Crafty Bastard Brewery’s Hop Candy IPA (3.47) has more going for it than just a witty name. But it couldn’t beat out Warped Wing’s Flyin’ Rye (3.52).

(10) Texas over (7) Nevada

Austin Beerworks’ Fire Eagle IPA (3.42) easily takes this one over Reno’s Depot Craft Brewery and Distillery and its Rodeo Queen Sour Ale (3.21).

(2) Cincinnati over (15) Georgia State

With only 19 reviews, Sweetwater IPA didn’t represent the brewery, instead leaving the job to the lower-rated 420 Extra Pale Ale (3.29). That allowed Rhinegeist’s Truth IPA (3.61) to sneak out the win.

West Region

(1) Xavier over (16) Texas Southern

Xavier settles for Cincinnati’s OTHER hop-forward microbrewery, and MadTree’s PsycHOPathy (3.46) just barely edges out Saint Arnold’s Saint Arnold Elissa IPA (3.44)

(9) Florida State over (8) Missouri

Logboat Brewing Co.’s Mamoot Mild (3.35) is the first mild ale we’ve seen in the bracket. It has the ignominious distinction of losing to a mango beer — Proof’s Mango Wit (3.49).

(5) Ohio State over (12) South Dakota State

Four people reviewed Wooden Legs Barnyard Cadet Smoked Porter (3.27), which makes me feel less badly that the underdog lost to Wolf Ridge’s Dire Wolf imperial stout (3.74).

(4) Gonzaga over (13) UNC-Greensboro

No-Li Born & Raised IPA (3.6) beats out either of the top beers Natty Greene’s, Gibb’s Hundred, or Joymonger have to offer, so a surprisingly deep Greenboro brewing scene’s end runs here.

(11) San Diego State over (6) Houston

Ballast Point Sculpin IPA (4.02) may not belong here now that the brewery’s owned by Corona’s parent conglomerate, but Karbach, who offers its Hopadillo IPA (3.52) is a subsidiary of InBev, so at least it’s two giants battling each other.

(3) Michigan over (14) Montana

Missoula Brewing Co. doesn’t have any reviews, so Montana gets repped by nearby Tamarack and its Hat Trick Hop IPA (3.47). It loses to the extremely metal Wolverine State Wolverine Massacre Imperial Dark Lager (3.62).

(10) Providence over (7) Texas A&M

Trinity’s Rhode Island IPA (3.2) isn’t doing much to improve its state’s reputation, but it still beat out New Republic’s Whipsaw imperial IPA (3.1).

(15) Lipscomb over North Carolina (2)

Jackalope beat out Yazoo to represent Nashville with its Thunder Ann APA (3.3). It sneaks by Carolina Brewery Flagship India Pale Ale (3.2).

East region

(16) Long Island-Brooklyn over (1) Villanova

Yards gave out some free IPAs (3.49) during the Eagles’ Super Bowl parade, but still loses to Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Chocolate Stout (3.99)

(9) Alabama over (8) Virginia Tech

Rising Silo’s Thunder Snow Stout (3.36) falls to Band of Brothers’ Monk On the Radio Belgian Ale (3.38), but just barely.

(5) West Virginia over (12) Murray State

Murray, KY’s closest brewery is in Paris, Tenn., and Perrylodgic’s little-reviewed beers max out at a 2.91. Mountain State Seneca Indian Pale Ale (3.14) wins.

(4) Wichita State over (13) Marshall

The Peddler Brewpub’s Chocolate Stout (3.27) falls against Central Standard Standard Issue Saison (3.31)

(11) Saint Bonaventure over (6) Florida

Four Mile Brewing’s Allegheny IPA (3.43) notches another narrow win by beating Swamp Head’s Stump Knocker Pale Ale (3.39).

(14) Stephen F. Austin over (3) Texas Tech

Neither The Plains Brewing Co. nor Yellow House Canyon Brew Works have any reviews, so Fredonia’s Angry Axe IPA (3.04), reviewed by exactly one person, wins by default.

(10) Butler over (7) Arkansas

Apple Blossom Brewery’s Strawberry Steam (2.89) is, uh, not a beloved beer. Sun King’s Osiris Pale Ale (3.47) wins handily.

(15) Cal-State Fullerton over (2) Purdue

Bootleggers’ Brewery’s Knuckle Sandwich Imperial IPA is strong in both ABV and rating (3.84), toppling Lafayette Brewing Co.’s Black Angus Oatmeal Stout (3.36)

Midwest region

(1) Kansas over (16) Penn

Penn gets 2nd Story’s Adsultim IPA (3.56), but still falls prey to Free State’s Owd Macs Imperial Stout (4.11), which is a monster.

(9) NC State over (8) Seton Hall

Raleigh House of Clay Rye IPA (3.42) hammers South Orange’s Gaslight Brewery and its Perfect Stout (2.87), which looks a lot like false advertising.

(5) Clemson over (12) New Mexico State

Brewery 85’s Quittin’ Time Bock (3.25) adds a potent German to the mix. It beats out High Desert’ IPA (3.15) out of Las Cruces.

(13) College of Charleston over (4) Auburn

Holy City Brewing’s Pluff Mud Porter (3.34)’s tried and true brew beats out the way more adventurous Southern Bumpkin Sweet Potato Brown Ale (3.09) from Opelika’s Red Clay.

(11) Arizona State over (6) TCU

Rahr & Sons Ugly Pug (2.98) has nowhere near the appeal of the brewery’s barrel-aged Winter Warmer. It falls to Four Peaks’ Kilt Lifter Scottish-Style Ale (3.13)

(3) Michigan State over (14) Bucknell

Ellison Brewery’s Tiramisu Stout (3.59) beats out Rusty Rail’s Wolf King Warrior (3.22), which is way out in Mifflinburg. RateBeer doesn’t have much to say about the Bucknell area.

(7) Rhode Island over (10) Oklahoma

Whaler’s The Rise APA (3.5) edges out (405) Brewing’s OCBF Grapefruit Sour (3.4).

(2) Duke over (15) Iona

Ponysaurus’s Scottish Ale (3.38) rolled over Broken Bow’s Broken Heart Stout (2.94) to wrap up the first round.


Second Round

South region

(8) Creighton over (16) Maryland-Baltimore County

Upstream Grand Cru (3.77) beats Union Craft’s Double Duckpin (3.7).

(5) Kentucky over (13) Buffalo

West Sixth’s IPA (3.59) beats Big Ditch’s Hayburner American IPA (3.47).

(11) Loyola-Chicago over (14) Wright State

Revolution Brewing’s Anti-Hero IPA (3.68) beats Warped Wing’s Flyin’ Rye (3.52).

(2) Cincinnati over (10) Texas

Rhinegeist’s Truth IPA (3.61) beats Austin Beerworks’ Fire Eagle IPA (3.42)

West region

(9) Florida State over (1) Xavier

Proof’s Mango Wit (3.49) beats MadTree’s PsycHOPathy (3.46).

(5) Ohio State over (4) Gonzaga

Wolf Ridge’s Dire Wolf imperial stout (3.74) beats No-Li Born & Raised IPA (3.6).

(11) San Diego State over (3) Michigan

Ballast Point Sculpin IPA (4.02) beats Wolverine State’s Wolverine Massacre Imperial Dark Lager (3.62).

(15) Lipscomb over (10) Providence

Jackalope’s Thunder Ann APA (3.3) beats Trinity’s Rhode Island IPA (3.2).

East region

(16) LIU-Brooklyn over (9) Alabama

Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Chocolate Stout (3.99) rolls on against Rising Silo’s Thunder Snow Stout (3.36).

(4) Wichita State over (5) West Virginia

Central Standard Standard Issue Saison (3.31) handles Mountain State Seneca Indian Pale Ale (3.14).

(11) Saint Bonaventure over (14) Stephen F. Austin

Four Mile Brewing’s Allegheny IPA (3.43) beats Fredonia’s Angry Axe IPA (3.04).

(15) Cal State-Fullerton over (10) Butler

Bootleggers’ Brewery’s Knuckle Sandwich Imperial IPA (3.84) pulls the upset over Sun King’s Osiris Pale Ale (3.47).

Midwest region

(1) Kansas over (9) NC State

Free State’s Owd Macs Imperial Stout (4.11) wrecks Raleigh House of Clay Rye IPA (3.42).

(13) College of Charleston over (5) Clemson

Holy City Brewing’s Pluff Mud Porter (3.34) beats Brewery 85’s Quittin’ Time Bock (3.25).

(3) Michigan State over (11) Arizona State

Ellison Brewery’s Tiramisu Stout (3.59) is too sweet for Four Peaks’ Kilt Lifter Scottish-Style Ale (3.13).

(7) Rhode Island over (2) Duke

Whaler’s The Rise APA (3.5) sneaks past Ponysaurus’s Scottish Ale (3.38).


Sweet Sixteen

(8) Creighton over (5) Kentucky

Upstream Grand Cru (3.77) beats West Sixth’s IPA (3.59).

(11) Loyola-Chicago over (2) Cincinnati

Revolution Brewing’s Anti-Hero IPA (3.68) edges Rhinegeist’s Truth IPA (3.61).

(5) Ohio State over (9) Florida State

Wolf Ridge’s Dire Wolf imperial stout (3.74) rids the bracket of fruit beer by defeating Proof’s Mango Wit (3.49).

(11) San Diego State over (15) Lipscomb

Ballast Point Sculpin IPA (4.02) routs Jackalope’s Thunder Ann APA (3.3).

(16) LIU-Brooklyn over (4) Wichita State

Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Chocolate Stout (3.99) moves on against Central Standard Standard Issue Saison (3.31) .

(15) Cal State Fullerton over (11) Saint Bonaventure

Bootleggers’ Brewery’s Knuckle Sandwich imperial IPA (3.84) beats Four Mile Brewing’s Allegheny IPA (3.43).

(1) Kansas over (13) College of Charleston

Free State’s Owd Macs Imperial Stout (4.11) easily takes care of Holy City Brewing’s Pluff Mud Porter (3.34).

(3) Michigan State over (7) Rhode Island

Ellison Brewery’s Tiramisu Stout (3.59) ends Whaler’s The Rise APA’s run (3.5).

Elite Eight

(8) Creighton over (11) Loyola-Chicago

Upstream Grand Cru (3.77) beats Revolution Brewing’s Anti-Hero IPA (3.68).

(11) San Diego State over (5) Ohio State

Ballast Point Sculpin IPA (4.02) eliminates Wolf Ridge’s Dire Wolf imperial stout (3.74).

(16) LIU-Brooklyn over (15) Cal State Fullerton

Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Chocolate Stout (3.99) crashes into the Final Four by beating Bootleggers’ Brewery’s Knuckle Sandwich imperial IPA (3.84).

(1) Kansas over (3) Michigan State

Free State’s Owd Macs Imperial Stout (4.11) moves on against Ellison Brewery’s Tiramisu Stout (3.59).

Final Four

(11) San Diego State over (8) Creighton

Ballast Point Sculpin IPA (4.02) beats Upstream Grand Cru (3.77)

(1) Kansas over (16) LIU-Brooklyn

Free State’s Owd Macs Imperial Stout (4.11) ruins Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Chocolate Stout (3.99) Cinderella run.

Title Game

(1) Kansas over (11) San Diego State

Just .09 separated Owd Macs Imperial Stout and Sculpin IPA, giving Free State — and the University of Kansas — the 2018 title.