Hear that sound? It’s not a buzzer, but a Lake Superior foghorn.
The clock has run out on the 2019 Ultimate Minnesota Beer Bracket, and for the second consecutive year, Two Harbors’ Castle Danger has taken the trophy, cementing its status as Minnesota’s favorite brewery. The Twin Cities do a lot of things right, but one thing in which they can’t compete with the North Shore is beer. No metro brewery has ever won the tournament, and this year, Castle Danger and Duluth competitor Bent Paddle ensured the North Country would prevail once again.
The pride of Two Harbors entered the tournament as the favorite and crushed every brewery in its path: Lift Bridge, Indeed, Summit, and finally, Bent Paddle by more than a thousand votes. Call it a slam dunk. Call it a pint glass half full. We’re just calling it: Castle Danger, you’re the champion.
Let’s look back at tournament highlights, and Castle Danger’s road (Hwy. 61?) to victory.
The reigning winner from 2018, Castle Danger set the tone for 2019 when it earned the No. 1 seed, ousting Surly from that position the previous two years. Castle Danger then proceeded to walk to the championship, knocking out of its way 16 seed Lift Bridge, 8 seed Indeed and 5 seed Summit before Bent Paddle. Though the 14-percentage-point margin against 2-seed Bent Paddle in the finals was Castle Danger’s smallest margin of victory in this tournament, it was certainly enough to nab it the trophy. With its second consecutive championship and third appearance in the finals in three years, Castle Danger has proved to be the most popular brewery in Minnesota (according to our math, anyway) thanks to its relatively small but hyper-engaged social media following. So what’s next for the North Shore heavyweight? An attempt at a three-peat, naturally. See you in 2020!
Making its first appearance in the finals, Bent Paddle had an impressive tournament — until it met Castle Danger. The No. 2 seed recorded 2019’s largest margin of victory (42 points) vs. 15 seed Steel Toe in the Sudsy 16. It easily dispatched 7 seed Fair State and 3 seed Surly. Keep your eye on Bent Paddle in future brackets. Prognosticators expect a rematch between the two Lake Superior frenemies.
Oh, Surly. Somehow, one of the state’s largest breweries has become the underdog. Time and time again, the Minneapolis behemoth lands at the top of the field, only to go down early. This time, the No. 3 seed was taken down by Bent Paddle in the Foamy Four by a 10-point margin. The Twin Cities as a whole is still looking for its first Beer Bracket victory (before Castle Danger’s two wins, New Ulm’s Schell’s was 2017’s Top Brew). Can perennial favorite Surly make the metro proud next year?
The close calls:
Tournament newcomer 13 seed Modist didn’t go down without a fight, keeping on Schells’ heels in the Sudsy Sixteen. Dangerous Man played hard, demolishing newbie Lupulin in the first round by a 26-point margin and coming within 629 votes of Surly in the Ale-ite Eight.
The 2019 tournament was surprising for its lack of surprises. Unlike previous years, there were no major upsets. The only upset, in fact, was 5 seed Summit over 4 seed Schell’s by an 18-point margin in the Ale-ite Eight. Was the tournament predictable? Sure. But who doesn’t like to watch two competitors at the top of their games go at it? And the best part is the matchup can be replicated at home. Just pour yourself a Castle Cream Ale in one glass, a Bent Hop IPA in the other, and say “Cheers.”
Matt DeLong contributed to this story.