If you’re the type of person who loves this time of year, it’s probably not because of the weather. It’s because of the NCAA basketball tournament. Here at First Draft Headquarters, we thought it would be fun to craft an online craft beer competition (click here to vote!). There were 32 breweries to start, which was whittled to our Sweet 16, the Great 8, and of course, our Final Four.
Throughout March, the final two polls will be administered, and the winner crowned.
Who will that be? Here’s our Fearless Forecast:
These two veterans of the Valley brewing scene have been crafting award-winning brews for so long, they might be the North Carolina and Duke of Valley brewers. Brown’s Brewing pretty much launched the current Hudson Valley craft boom — not to mention the resurgence of Troy’s downtown — in 1993, and owners Garry and Kelly Brown have mentored many brewers since then (and opened a North Hoosick location, too). They are still considered one of the elite breweries in the Northeast, prized especially for the Oatmeal Stout (World Beer Cup Gold Medal) and the Pale Ale (Gold Medal from the Culinary Institute of America).
Tommy Keegan joined the scene 10 years after the Browns, and since then Keegan Ales has been named Best Brewery in The Hudson Valley (2009), Best Brewery in New York State (2009), and Best Craft-Brewed Beer in New York State (2009) at the TAP New York Craft Beer and Food Festival. Its signature brew, Mother’s Milk, was named one of the top 10 stouts in North America by the New York Times. The Hurricane Kitty, a hoppy IPA, was inspired by and named for Keegan’s grandmother, whose driving record was apparently as aggressive as this brew.
The winner: Keegan Ales.
A Valley favorite since it opened in 2012, Newburgh Brewing is known for dozens of different styles of beer — but beloved for one in particular, its signature Cream Ale. Newburgh has perfected this upstate New York specialty, both in flavor (it earned a 2015 Great American Beer Festival Silver Medal) and imagery (CNBC gave it a Most Loved Label award, for Betsy the purple cow). Its taproom was named the 2017 Best Brewer Tap Room in New York by ratebeer.com.
Sloop can match Newburgh award-for-award, however. It was named one of the 10 favorite nanobreweries in the nation by no less than Bon Appétit, and won a gold medal at the 2016 World Beer Cup for best American-Style Sour Ale. Its new location, inside an old Dutch post-and-beam barn at Vosburgh Orchards, allowed them to increase production with a new 30-barrel system and deliver a tasting room worthy of its concoctions.
The winner: Newburgh Brewing Company.
There are no losers in this Final 4, and each has fans who will defend to the death their pub’s predominance. But we at First Draft HQ predict that the 2018 Craft Madness champion will be: Keegan Ales.
Unless, of course, the readers prove us wrong.