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Danya Henninger

Beer Madness Elite 8: Best friends do battle

Also, proof that every vote counts — one contest was decided by a tenth of a percentage point!

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Danya Henninger
danya

Sometimes the electorate is split right down the middle. Sometimes teams trade baskets until the very last second and then a single free throw decides the whole thing.

In the Sweet 16 of Beer Madness with Philly Loves Beer, Great Lakes got a harsh reminder that every vote — every hustle to the hoop — counts. Cleveland’s CLBC lost out to Deschutes by the slimmest of margins: The final tally was 50.1 to 49.9 percent, with more than a thousand votes cast.

Most of the races this round were much more lopsided.

After making a good showing at the start, Sly Fox fell to Victory in a landslide, 78 to 22 percent. Troegs took out Weyerbacher in similar fashion (71 to 29) and Dogfish Head slammed Brooklyn Brewery to the pavement, winning that charged battle with 81 percent of the vote. (Since most of the voters were from the Philly region, perhaps they didn’t agree with brewmaster Garrett Oliver’s statement that his beer is local to here.)

Several actual locals put up a good fight. Evil Genius pulled in 38 percent, not quite enough to topple Yards, and Dock Street ended up with 44 percent in its contest against fellow brewpub Iron Hill. (Did you see Dock Street is opening a new tasting room with canning line soon?)

Which brings us to the Elite Eight — and some pretty interesting competitions.

Philly beer drinkers should be ready for a full court press on both sides of the Northeast US matchup, because the local reps for both of the contenders are the most established around. They also happen to be best friends. Yep, we’ve got Allagash — repped by Suzy Woods, aka the Beer Lass, aka one of the earliest and loudest promoters of the Philly beer scene — up against Dogfish Head, whose rep Wendy Domurat is known across the region for her wit, beer knowledge and tenacity (and being a Billy Penn Who’s Next honoree). Who’s taking this one, ladies?

The Rest of US pairing is also fascinating. Not because there’s too much question of a winner — Sierra Nevada could potentially take this whole bracket — but because its competitor has followed in a very similar path. Sierra was founded on the West Coast (California) in 1980; Deschutes was founded on the West Coast (Bend, Oregon) in 1988. Each has grown huge in the interim: Sierra is third-largest craft brewery in the US by sales volume and Deschutes is the eighth largest. And each has expanded with a new production facility on the East Coast — although Deschutes is again the follower, since Sierra’s Mills River, NC brewery is already open and Deschutes’ Roanoake, VA brewhouse has a target launch date of 2021.

Back in Pennsylvania, two longtime favorites are set to clash as Downingtown’s Victory meets Hershey’s Troegs. And can Iron Hill stand its ground against Philly stalwart Yards?

It’s all up to you. Vote now to see who makes it to the Final Four in our search for the best brewery in America.

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