How to Host a March Madness Beer Tasting Party

March Madness is the time of year to slip on that old college sweatshirt, invite some friends over to watch the big game, and cheer on your alma mater or favorite team. (That is, if they’ve made it to the big dance!) How about inviting friends to a beer-tasting party during the game? It’s a fun way for college basketball fans to learn about beer varieties and add a unique twist to game-watching. Follow these six simple tips to host a March Madness party with a beer-tasting tournament.

March Madness party with beer bracket
March Madness party with beer-tasting bracket challenge (Photo credit: Bryan Richards)

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1. Pit beers against each other.

Your March Madness viewing party will focus on a beer bracket, similar to the college basketball tournament. You pit two beers against each other in a blind taste test. Then, participants vote on which beer they like the best. The beer with the most votes moves on to the next level.

If you’re doing a Sweet Sixteen theme, that means eight beers will advance to round two. Then the process starts over again, chiseling the beers down to the Final Four and, finally, the Championship Game. Commercial breaks are a great time to discuss the brews.

March Madness season is a perfect time of the year to host a beer-tasting party. But you could use the tournament brackets anytime you want to sample and compare new beers with friends.

Variety of beers
Variety of beers, without identifying labels (Photo credit: Feverpitch,

2. Keep taste tests blind.

The key is to keep the beers anonymous throughout the game. Blind tasting forces players to vote for what they genuinely like, not what they think they like.

Encourage participants to take tasting notes and maybe even try their guess at the type of beer or brand. At the end of the tournament, reveal the different beers.

NCAA tournament on TV
Time to watch the NCAA tournament on TV (Photo credit: esteban.52220,

3. Assign an emcee.

Someone will need to play emcee to pour and serve the beers. (As host, this will probably be you.)

Obviously, the emcee will know the beers so they won’t be able to participate. The reward is drinking all the losing beers along the way.

Pretzels help cleanse beer-tasting palates
Pretzels help cleanse beer-tasting palates (Photo credit: bhofack2,

4. Get the essentials for your beer bracket party.

A March Madness theme bracket for beer-tasting is quite easy to set up. Below is all you need.

March Madness Beer Bracket Party Necessities

  • 16 different types of beers – I know there are 40 teams in the real tournament, but trust me on this one. You won’t have anybody left standing if you do a full 40 beers. You don’t have to buy six packs of each beer. Find a bottle shop or grocery store that sells individual bottles and pick up two bottles of each participating beer.
  • A bracket for the emcee to track the rounds.
  • Sampler cups.
  • Papers for note taking.
  • Pens/pencils for note-taking (duh).
  • Pitcher of Water – To rinse sampler cups and help cleanse palates.
  • Pretzels – For palate cleansing.

I bought a pre-made beer-tasting tournament kit from Brew Bracket, but they’re no longer being produced. If you’re so inclined, you can look for a used one on eBay. Or, just make some brackets and use your own cups. Honestly, it’s pretty simple.

A kicked-up tailgate burger bar plate
March Madness burger plate (Photo credit: Bryan Richards)

5. Keep food simple.

Since the focus of your party is on basketball and beer, don’t worry about providing a gourmet spread. Something simple like burgers is a great way to go. These cookout condiment recipes will be a slam dunk at your March Madness party!

March Madness party snacks
Simple party snacks (Photo credit: Bryan Richards)

Serving a big meal isn’t necessary. Of course, having snacks on hand for your party guests is always nice, though. And it helps to keep beer drinkers from getting too tipsy. If you don’t want to cook, keep things simple by providing a charcuterie board. Or, ask friends to bring food to share like bean dip with chips and other finger foods.

Craft beers for sale
Craft beers for sale (Photo credit: woodkern,

6. Serve the right craft beers.

I’ll try not to beer nerd out on you too much here. The beer you select for the tournament can be random or follow a theme. For example, I’ve hosted a tournament where only hoppy beers participated (IPAs, IPLs, pale ales).

I also hosted one in the summer and chose summery beers like wheats, lagers, and session ales. Maybe pick beers from the various states or towns represented in the tournament. Or, ask each guest to bring their favorite beer (you’ll want to pre-screen for duplicates).

I think the most fun is picking random styles of beer. It’s the best way to educate yourself on all the different varieties, and it gives craft beer nerds a chance to challenge their beer conceptions.

Whatever you do, don’t stress out about the beer. A March Madness beer-tasting tournament is meant to be fun and help broaden guests’ horizons to the delicious world of craft beer!

How to host a March Madness beer tasting tournament party
My wife and I cheering on our alma mater, Miami University (Photo Credit: Bryan Richards)

Now, you’re all set to invite your friends over for a March Madness party to cheer on your team and learn about good beer.

More Tips for Beer Fans

Parents who appreciate craft beers should read my tips for visiting a brewery with kids.

Check out these backyard BBQ party ideas for a gathering that impresses your guests without stress.

Plan a guy’s weekend to Milwaukee for beer tasting, man foods, and more.

Beer lovers will enjoy these things to do in Cologne, Germany.

How to Host a March Madness Beer-Tasting Party

Save These March Madness Party Tips

For future reference, keep these tips for hosting a March Madness-themed beer-tasting party. Just pin the image above or below to Pinterest. Follow us on Pinterest while you’re at it!

How to Host a March Madness Beer Tasting Tournament

What do you think about hosting a March Madness party with a beer-tasting bracket? Let us know your thoughts and questions in the comments below!

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