NCAA tournament games rev back up tonight with the start of the Sweet Sixteen, but we now have some pretty solid proof that literally thousands of you are at least equally as pumped up about another super intense, super important form of March Madness.
Yep, that would be the Ultimate Beer Bracket, our cut-throat, tournament-style clash that’s barreling toward a singular goal: to crown Minnesota’s strongest, fiercest and most delicious brewery as the state’s undisputed champion.
Well, at least until this time next year.
We started with a 16-brewery field created by reader votes – more than 1,500 of them – for 128 different local brew houses. The range was impressive. The competition was stiff. But only those with the top 16 vote totals made the unmerciful cut.
Now that the voting for our first round of matchups – the, ahem, Sudsy Sixteen – is in, it’s apparent that you beer lovers have outdone yourselves once again.
In our eight head-to-head showdowns, we received more than 14,000 votes. THIS IS NOT A TYPO – SERIOUSLY, YOU GUYS VOTED 14,000 TIMES. DID YOU REMEMBER TO EAT LUNCH? IS ANYONE ACTUALLY WORKING?
Now, here are the Sudsy Sixteen results, along with a few thoughts. Winners are denoted in dark orange.
* For the most part, chalk moved on. (Note for non-basketball fans: that means the high seeds.) In fact, Schell's over Steel Toe was the only upset in the first round, and being a simple 9-seed over 8-seed, it didn’t inspire many thrown pencils.
* The most frequent submission: All eight winners. There were 860 of them. What is this, a club? A brainwashing cult? A single individual who camped in front of his computer with eight six packs and voted every three minutes? Or were they just so obviously the best choices?
* The second most common entry was, well, just a vote for one brewery — Copper Trail — while ignoring the other matchups. Yeah, we see what's happening here, Copper Trail, and we're not sure whether to be annoyed or impressed.
* HOWEVER, passionate as Copper Trail drinkers are, they couldn’t touch Surly’s heat, which as one Twitter beer drinker pointed out yesterday, appeared to be in a UConn women’s hoops team-like position heading into this thing. If you don’t know what we’re talking about, well, you should probably glance at the sports page more often than once a decade.
* Nice showing by Lift Bridge, keeping the game close and almost giving us a Cinderella to fall in love with. That was almost entertaining. Almost.
* Hey hey Bent Paddle, we see you over here. The Duluth-based brewery had a strong showing in the initial field voting and now look – BP actually garnered more votes than our resident powerhouse, Surly. This is starting to look like the makings of a pretty intriguing encounter. The duo could meet in the championship bout.
Now, on to the next round – the Ale-ite Eight. The people have spoken, the matchups are set and voting for this latest dog-eat-dog round begins tonight.
Here’s what you do:
* Take a look at the new matchups in our updated bracket, which you can download here. Carefully consult the bracket you’ve printed out and pinned up in your cubicle, hidden behind a calendar in case your boss walks by. Did you miss some matchups? Those are the breaks. They don’t call it March Madness for nothing. But try to limit yourself to one thrown pencil. Remind yourself that you, common beer drinker, can affect the next round. Plan your votes accordingly.
* Come back to our Ultimate Beer Bracket hub tonight and you’ll find our latest voting form. Go through each matchup, pick your faves and submit. Yell ‘Booyah!’ and throw another pencil, this time in victory.
* Don’t email me. That’s not how voting is happening anymore. Seriously, if you email me your answers again, I’m going to forward them to Bed Bath & Beyond and Patagonia and you’ll have that spam flooding your inbox for life. This will be a thrice daily reminder to you to learn how to follow instructions.
* Voting begins tonight at 7 p.m. and ends tomorrow (Friday, March 24) at 11:59 p.m.
* Drink lots of beer and pace over the weekend while we tally up your Ale-ite Eight votes and get yourself in game shape for Monday, when Foamy Four voting begins.