How to Host a March Madness Beer Tasting Tournament

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March Madness is that time of year when you get to slip on that old college sweatshirt, invite some friends over to watch the big game, and cheer on your alma mater. If your team has made it to the big dance, that is. You already have the food down – wings, chips and dip, maybe a cookout. But what about beer? There's no way you could possibly serve a domestic like Bud Light. You have to go with craft beer. With all of the choices, deciding seems impossible, especially if you don’t think your craft beer knowledge is up to snuff. How about hosting a March Madness beer tasting tournament during the game? It’s a fun way to learn about beer varieties and add a unique twist to your game watching party.

How to Host a March Madness Beer Tasting Tournament

(Photo credit: pyzata,

March Madness Beer Tasting Tournament Logistics

The tournament works like a March Madness bracket. You pit two beers against each other in a blind taste test. Participants vote on which beer they like the best. The beer with the most votes moves onto the next round. If you’re doing a Sweet-Sixteen theme, that means you’ll have eight beers advance to round two. You then start the process over again, chiseling the beers down to the Final Four and finally the Championship Game.

Are you ready to host a March Madness style craft beer tournament?

Are you ready to host a March Madness style craft beer tournament? (Photo credit: Bryan Richards)

The key is to keep the beers anonymous throughout the game. The blind aspect forces players to vote for what they truly like, not what they think they like. At the end of the tournament, you can reveal the various beers. Encourage participants to take notes and maybe even try their guess at the type of beer or brand.

Someone will need to play emcee to pour and serve the beers. Obviously, they’ll know the beers so they won’t be able to participate. Their reward is drinking all the losing beers along the way.

Our tailgate burger bar makes for great food at your March Madness beer tasting tournament

Our Tailgate Burger Bar makes for great March Madness food (Photo credit: Bryan Richards)

March Madness Beer Tasting Tournament Tools

A March Madness beer tasting tournament is actually quite easy to set up. Here’s what you need:

  • 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).
  • Water – To rinse sampler cups and to help cleanse palates.
  • Pretzels – To help cleanse palates.

If you’re not the arts and crafts type, or you just want to make life easier, I suggest buying a pre-made version from Brew Bracket.

Buy a pre-made March Madness beer tasting tournament kit from Brew Bracket

Buy a pre-made March Madness beer tasting tournament kit from Brew Bracket (Photo credit: Bryan Richards)

The Beer for Your Tournament

I’ll try not to beer nerd out on you too much here…the beer you select for the tournament can be random or it can 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. It’s the best way to educate yourself on all the various varieties and for craft beer nerds 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 are hoping Miami makes the tournament this year! (Photo Credit: Bryan Richards)

Now you're all set to invite your friends over for a March Madness beer tasting tournament to both cheer on your team and learn about beer. Go buy your Brew Bracket pre-made March Madness Beer Tasting Kit now!

What do you think about hosting a March Madness beer tasting tournament during the NCAA tournament? Let us know your thoughts and questions in the comments below!

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About Bryan Richards, The Hungry Travel Daddy

Bryan M. Richards began his blog,, to document his culinary adventures with his wife around the world (and around the kitchen). During the first eight years of their marriage, they followed their taste buds across five continents, 20 countries, and 71 cities and drank plenty of beer along the way. Then Deacon was born, and they’re learning how to incorporate their son into their culinary adventures. Currently, Bryan balances his role as stay-at-home dad to his young son with his novel writing and freelance gigs covering craft beer, food, and travel. He lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. Follow his adventures on Facebook and Instagram as @BRichWrites.

  1. Sapana V says

    This Beer Tournament is really a fun idea. I haven’t hosted something like this.

  2. Oh my gosh this looks like so much fun! I have to show my husband this!

  3. Amanda Love says

    I prefer beer over anything strong. I am not a heavy drinker but it’s nice to watch events like this! I think it’s a lot of fun!

    • Bryan Richards, The Hungry Travel Daddy says

      Thanks for your comment! Don’t just watch though, participate. It’s a great way to learn and challenge your conceptions of beer.

  4. My friends would absolutely love a party like this. Fantastic idea!

  5. Sheena Tatum says

    Wow, I love this idea! I would love to find a way to make it kid-friendly and involve everyone’s children. Such a neat way to come together though.

  6. Kita Bryant says

    I’ve honestly never thought of doing something like this. This is a really creative idea and sounds like a ton of fun.

  7. Ann Bacciaglia says

    A beer tasting would be so much fun. I wil have to think about planning one now that the weather is getting warmer.

    • Bryan Richards, The Hungry Travel Daddy says

      You don’t need warm weather to drink beer. Maybe plan an event with porters, stouts, browns, and American strong ales.

  8. Seattle Travel Blogger says

    This is a really cool thing to do. I am bookmarking this for my reference; I have a big family who would love to do this in a get together sometime.

  9. Toni | Boulder Locavore says

    This is such a great idea! I know my husband will love this! Thanks for this brilliant idea! 😀

    • Bryan Richards, The Hungry Travel Daddy says

      Please share the post with your husband. I’ve done this plenty of times with just the guys. It’s tons of fun.

  10. Shannon Gurnee says

    My hubby and I love beer and this definitely sounds up our alley! I would totally be all for doing this with our family and friends!

  11. This sounds like my hubby’s kind of party! He is such a fan of craft beers, I bet he’d be able to guess most of them.

    • Bryan Richards, The Hungry Travel Daddy says

      The two of your should plan a similar event for sure then. Thanks for your comment!

  12. Tonia Sanders says

    This is a great way to interact with guest that may not be die hard MM fans. I love the idea.

    • Bryan Richards, The Hungry Travel Daddy says

      Like me… I prefer the beer bracket to the basketball bracket. Now football on the other hand…

  13. We don’t drink but I know some people who do. I will share this idea with them.

  14. Marcie W. says

    A beer tasting tournament is an awesome idea! Since I am typically a wheat beer gal, I like the thought of broadening my horizons.

    • Bryan Richards, The Hungry Travel Daddy says

      Or maybe plan a tournament with only wheat beers? You can pick up a variety of German, Belgian, and American wheat ales. You’ll totally learn how varied the style can be.

  15. This is an awesome idea for a get together! When it comes to beer I am never adventureous so I would like trying new kinds.

  16. Liz Mays says

    Ah this is such a cool concept! I like these ideas! I’m sure our friends would enjoy something like this too.

  17. Pam Wattenbarger says

    This is a fun idea! I know a lot of my friends are really into March Madness, and this seems like something they would do.

    • Bryan Richards, The Hungry Travel Daddy says

      Thanks for reading! Of course, it also works outside of March Madness, too.

  18. Stacie @ Divine Lifestyle says

    Well, this is just about perfect for my husband. He loves all sports and he loves good beer. I think I’ll surprise him with this.

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