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Whatever the weather’s like outside, one thing’s for sure: March means it’s bracket season. Since it’s also beer season — it’s always beer season — we put the two together for a very important contest.

Welcome to Beer Madness 2017.

Billy Penn is proud to partner with Philly Loves Beer (the nonprofit organization that runs Philly Beer Week) on its third annual NCAA-style bracket competition to help answer a burning question: What’s the best brewery in America right now?

As the country’s beer scene continues to explode — there were over 7,000 US brewery permits active as of the end of 2016 — coming up with that answer is tougher and tougher. Just narrowing down the opening field of a bracket to 32 contenders was a hefty feat, something that took a panel of PLB board members, local bar owners, beer reps and beer writers several hours to work out.

Here’s what we came up with: Since Philly is the best beer-drinking city in the US, we decided to look at the question from a Philadelphia-centric perspective. We split the field into four regions, each encompassing a concentrically wider geographic area:

  • Philadelphia
  • Philadelphia Suburbs
  • The Northeast United States
  • The Rest of the United States
Click to enlarge

Within each region, we seeded the eight breweries by years in business. The place in operation for the longest is the No. 1 seed and the newest contender gets to fight its way in at No. 8. There just wasn’t another way to be fair or objective about the seeding — plus it makes for some interesting matchups, especially in this first round.

For example, in the Philly region, we’ve got craft brewing pioneer Dock Street up against newcomer Second District, which happens to be run by another craft beer early adopter (Curt Decker of Nodding Head). Does Tampa’s Coppertail Brewing, which has Philly ex-pat Casey Hughes running the brewhouse, stand a chance against world-famous Sierra Nevada? How about Delco’s new 2SP versus Easton stalwart Weyerbacher?

The field is wide open, and it’s all up to you to decide who advances. Cast your votes in the round below and check back next week to find out who made it into the Sweet 16.

Danya Henninger is director of Billy Penn at WHYY, where she oversees the team, all editorial decisions, and all revenue generation — including the...