PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- Unlike the National Collegiate Athletic Association, we don't look the other way and whistle when beer shows up during March Madness: We drink it an ask where it came from.
Two years ago, we introduced The Beer Dance, our craft beer March Madness bracket, just as a friendly reminder that beer plays a big role in the NCAA Men's Division 1 Basketball Tournament, whether the NCAA wants to admit it or not. The NCAA's broadcast partners at CBS and Time Warner's Turner Sports have no problem letting Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller-MolsonCoors joint venture MillerCoors into the big dance. The networks have taken more than $50 million in combined ad money from the brewers each year since 2011, according to Kantar Media.
The NCAA claims that it bans alcohol sales during all its championships except football's postseason and bowls -- which it doesn't run -- and limits alcohol ads to malt beverages, beer and wine products with a sessionable 6% alcohol by volume or less. But not only will beer be readily available during this year's Final Four at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, but A-B InBev is setting up a Bud Light Hotel in nearby Dallas. Beer ads made up about 6% of all advertising during last year's Final Four and beer isn't leaving the NCAA Tournament's general vicinity any time soon.
In fact, as the nation's brewery count climbs past 3,000 toward the highest total in U.S. history, fans in just about every NCAA host city have more beer options than ever. With the NCAA's bracket broken up into convenient little regional stops, the tournament provides a great opportunity for college basketball fans to not only burn some frequent-flier miles, but to sample some of the nation's best craft beers while doing so.