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The Best Beers for the Final Four’s Hoops

Kansas v VillanovaKansas v Villanova
LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 26: Josh Hart #3 of the Villanova Wildcats dunks the ball in the first half against the Kansas Jayhawks during the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at KFC YUM! Center on March 26, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)Kevin C. Cox — Getty Images

Sports fans can be a superstitious lot. For some, wearing a lucky jersey makes your team more likely to win. For others, it’s a rally cap. And during the NCAA Final Four, some people insist on only drinking beers brewed in the same city as their school.

That can be a problem for people who were lucky enough to score tickets to the games. The NCAA doesn’t like beer associated with the tournament. Its alcohol policy recommends member institutions to “prohibit on-site alcohol advertising during all preseason, regular season, conference and postseason intercollegiate events”. And Houston’s NRG Stadium (which normally has a robust beer selection) will comply with that. A spokesperson for the facility says no beer will be sold at the tournament.

Even fans at home face a bit of a hurdle in finding the right beer to support their team. Not all of this year’s contenders for the national championship come from beer-centric cities, meaning fans will sometimes have to look regionally. The good news is there are still lots of good choices for each school. (And, if your bracket was busted long ago and you’re not rooting for any of the teams, here’s another excuse: Today is National Beer Day!)

For fans of the Villanova Wildcats

Yuengling Traditional Lager – Whether you love this lager from the country’s oldest brewer or feel it’s a little weak is immaterial. In eastern Pennsylvania, this is the go-to choice for a wide swath of people. Some beer snobs may turn their nose up at Yuengling, since it straddles the line of macro and micro brewery, but this is a nice everyday beer that you can enjoy throughout the game without worrying about a rough next morning. (ABV: 4.5%)

Victory Brewing Co.’s Anniversary 20 Experimental India Pale Ale – Made with “experimental hops”, this limited edition (but still available) anniversary offering hop forward with a mild bitterness. It’s a very light tasting IPA with very high carbonation that offers hints of cantaloupe and perhaps a bit of mango. (ABV: 5.5%)

Troegs Perpetual IPA – Acclaimed not only throughout Pennsylvania, but by beer lovers around the country, Perpetual IPA is said to offer a clean, hoppy taste that’s refreshing and light, with big citrus notes and a slightly malty finish. Just be careful the alcohol levels don’t sneak up on you. (ABV: 7.5%)

For fans of the Oklahoma Sooners

Prairie Artisan Ales’ Bomb! – Certainly one you want to nurse throughout the game – and not pound. Bomb! is a gigantic imperial stout that blends chocolate, coffee, chili peppers and a small hint of vanilla. This is more for the game analyst than the passionate fan – and it’s not something you’d typically enjoy with a slice of pizza. (Want something lighter from Prairie? Try the 4.5% Birra Farmhouse Ale.) (ABV: 13%)

Coop F5 IPA – Described by fans as an earthy, hoppy IPA, this year-round offering is heavy on the citrus with a hint of pine. It’s bitter, but a straightforward IPA that’s on point. (ABV: 6.8%)

Marshall Brewing Company Revival Red Ale – Technically a Tulsa beer, this ale is regularly mentioned by people who live in the region as a standard. It’s surprisingly hoppy at the front, followed by a nice, malty sweetness, then a bitter bite at the end. Enthusiasts call it well-balanced and a solid choice.

For fans of the North Carolina Tar Heels

NoDa Hop Drop ‘N Roll – The winner of the 2014 World Beer Cup Gold Medal, this is one you want to put on your beer bucket list. Filled with a citrus-y, hopsy flavor that explodes on your tongue and a nice piney finish, this is a big offering that can hold its own against more well-known IPAs. (ABV: 7.2%)

Wicked Weed Freak of Nature – Nearly four pounds of dry hops go into every barrel of this Double IPA, something that could scare off non-hopheads. The rest of us will savor the delicious citrus punch that Freak of Nature contains, loaded with tangerine, grapefruit and lemon. There’s a hint of sweetness in the middle, but it has a very dry finish. It’s one of a handful of East Coast IPAs that has a West Coast feel. (ABV: 8%)

Natty Greene’s Southern Pale Ale – You’ll get a lot more citrus than pine in this ale, but the hops are the real star of the show. It’s earthy and shows some hints of sweetness before the bitterness takes over. All in all, it’s a very well-balanced offering that goes well with a burger or other meaty dish. (ABV: 5.2%)

For fans of the Syracuse Orange

Two Goats Brewing Goatgasm – Two Goats is a relatively unknown brewery outside of upstate New York located along Seneca Lake, but it’s one to put on your list. Goat-gasm is a creamy IPA that is wonderfully balanced and loaded with hops, but not overly bitter. Available on draft only. (ABV: unk)

Ithaca Beer Co. Flower Power – Made about an hour-and-a-half south of Syracuse in Ithaca, Flower Power is one of the most popular IPAs in the upstate NY area. There’s a definite hop explosion going on here, with an almost staggering amount of tropical fruit. But there’s a sweet, almost honey-like, hint that cuts the sharpness nicely. The finish could use a little work, but it’s a solid choice. (ABV: 7.5%)

Brewery Ommegang Glimmerglass – Yeasty and spicy, this saison/farmhouse ale is a wonderful choice for those who want something light. Carbonated to a point that brings champagne to mind, it’s a velvety beer with whispers of fruit and a hint of pepper, but as with most saisons, it’s the yeast that’s the star. (ABV: 5.4%)