South bracketNew Orleans: Abita Turbodog
Abita gets a bye in the first round, but it's ready to dance right now.
Sweetwater's location puts it in our South Bracket, but its heart was hoping it would be seeded out West. Founded in 1997 with the hopes of bringing a West Coast-style brewery to Atlanta, Sweetwater excels when it's allowed to sweeten up the brew a bit. Its popular 420 Extra Pale Ale is no exception in combining a mouthful of fruity, citrusy Pale Ale flavor into an East Coast-appropriate 5.4% ABV package. It's the kind of pale ale Sierra Nevada built a brand on, and it's a brisk sipping beer perfect for when Atlanta temperatures break into the mid-70s. Considering that's about where the mercury will be around tourney time, 420 is a tough pale ale to pass up ... especially for folks whose lips pucker at the thought of an overly bitter IPA. Greensboro, N.C.: Foothills' Hoppymum IPA
It was incredibly difficult to pass over a cocoa-infused imperial stout with notes of espresso, molasses, toffee and dark fruit, but at 9.75% ABV Foothills' Sexual Chocolate is about as subtle as Randy Watson's vocal stylings. Instead, we ratcheted the alcohol level down a notch and went with the incredibly hoppy Hoppymum IPA at 6.2% ABV. Heavy on the Simcoe hops and boldly bitter, Hoppymum isn't for IPA drinkers seeking half measures. It's as pungent as a double IPA twice its size, but has a nice dry finish that won't leave another one out of the question.