“I enjoy basketball. I enjoy coaching basketball. It's the out-of-season stuff I didn't handle well.” – Dean Smith, former University of North Carolina men’s basketball coach.
Nine months have passed since the end of the last college basketball season. Like Dean Smith, the Atlantic Coast Conference must be glad the offseason has come to an end.
In June, Louisville was sanctioned by the NCAA for hiring hookers to entertain potential recruits, among other things. College sports’ governing body spared North Carolina from penalties, but not public scorn, for an academic scandal. In the fall, the FBI announced the findings of an investigation linking assistant coaches to money from sneaker companies used to pay off potential recruits. This scandal pulled Miami into the spotlight and was an unwelcomed encore of trouble for Louisville, which would fire head coach Rick Pitino in October.
Amid all of that, the Atlantic Coast Conference remains the premier basketball league in Division I. The Big Ten and Southeastern Conferences can jockey for position, but no other conference has been more dominant. The ACC has produced four national title winners since 2010, including Louisville’s now-vacated 2013 title. It placed nine teams in the 2017 tournament, including eventual national champion North Carolina.
Most believe Duke will win the 2018 NCAA Tournament, and why not? The Blue Devils have one of the best players in the country, Ted Cruz look alike Grayson Allen, and Marvin Bagley III, the game's top freshman.
But ACC basketball is more than just an elite private college in Durham, N.C. and the state school down the road in Chapel Hill. Teams like Miami, Virginia, and Virginia Tech will chase Duke and the Tar Heels for the league title and bids to the NCAA Tournament. The latter should not be much of a challenge. According to ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi’s last prediction of 2017, 10 of the conference’s 15 schools will make the 68-team bracket.
ACC basketball fans travel well and breweries are plentiful in the 15 cities hosting member schools. With the exception of one city, you are just a short Lyft or Uber ride away from great beer.
A 15-minute walk separates Proof Brewing from the Seminoles’ home court.”
Boston College (Chestnut Hill, Mass.)
Lamplighter Brewing Company
Tourists will flock to Samuel Adams’ Boston Brewery and hopheads will insist on visiting Trillium Brewing Company, but take the road less traveled to Lamplighter Brewing Company. Brettanomyces infect two of Lamplighter’s four fermenters, guaranteeing a steady supply of sour beers. Major Tom is its entry into the New England IPA game, a Galaxy-hopped juice bomb full of passion fruit, mango and stone fruits. Besides, you can always hit up Trillium for cans on the way out of town.
Clemson University (Clemson, S.C.)
There is no good explanation why the nearest brewery to Clemson is 18 miles away in Anderson. Carolina Bauernhaus is a farmhouse brewery specializing in wild and sour ales, and award winners at that. Its Source Series Opuntia – a rye saison soured with a lactobacillus strain from opuntia fruit and aged for six months in Cabernet barrels on opuntia – won gold in the experimental beer category at the 2017 Great American Beer Festival.
Duke University (Durham, N.C.)
Dull the noise from the Cameron Crazies at Fullsteam Brewery on the other side of the Durham Freeway from campus. Opened in 2010, owner Sean Willson and brewmaster Brian Mandeville focus on ingredients sourced in the Carolinas. Its year-round Farm Edge series features ingredients grown and foraged nearby. Every description on its website includes the farms where hops, yeast, barley and other components were grown.
Florida State University (Tallahassee, Fla.)
Proof Brewing Company
A 15-minute walk separates Proof Brewing from the Seminoles’ home court. Proof was the city’s first craft brewery, opening in 2012 on a strip of land that separates Florida State and Florida A&M Universities. The spacious tasting room houses its production brewery, where it cans its most popular beers: Mango Wit and Eightfive-0 IPA.
Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, Ga.)
Sweetwater Brewing Company
Our preference is Monday Night Brewing, but wonky hours at its West Midtown spot two miles from campus take it out of the running. Instead, head north on I-85 from McCamish Pavilion and visit Atlanta stalwart Sweetwater Brewing Company. The alehouse is known nationally for its IPA and 420 Extra Pale Ale, but we are partial to its session beer Hop Hash IPA.
University of Louisville (Louisville, Ky.)
Against The Grain Brewery
The Cardinals play at the off-campus KFC Yum! Center, a 10-minute walk from Louisville’s best known brewery. Against The Grain, known for its colorful beer names and cans, has a brewpub and kitchen just down the street. Twenty beers are on tap at any time, as are a variety of meats fresh from the smoker.
University of Miami (Coral Gables, Fla.)
Titanic Restaurant and Brewery
With big boys M.I.A. Beer Company and J. Wakefield Brewing more than a half-hour away, take a walk to Titanic Restaurant and Brewery. It’s 10 minutes from door to door along Ponce de Leon Boulevard. Titanic is Miami’s oldest brewery and known for its English- and German-style ales.
University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill, N.C.)
Robert Poitras attended the University of North Carolina, so he naturally opened Carolina Brewery adjacent to campus. He also studied abroad in college, and those influences are evident in his English-style IPA, oatmeal porter, and the Sky Blue Golden Ale, a Kölsch. The latter is available in cans throughout the Carolinas and Tennessee.
North Carolina State University (Raleigh, N.C.)
Lonerider Brewing Company
A 15-minute drive around William B. Umstead State Park takes you from PNC Arena to Lonerider Brewing Company, where Josie and Betty run the join. Sweet Josie is an aromatic, rich brown ale that took gold at the GABF in 2010, while Shotgun Betty is GABF bronze-award winning hefeweizen (2016).
University of Notre Dame (South Bend, Ind.)
Evil Czech Brewery and Public House
Three miles of Edison Street connect campus with nearby Mishawaka, Ind. and Evil Czech Brewery, owned by husband-and-wife team George and Tammy Pesek. The couple opened the brewery in 2014, slowly adding a tap room, distillery, and restaurant. We suggest the Bigsby White Stout, a blonde milk stout brewed with local coffee and cacao nibs.
University of Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
East End Brewing Company
East End Brewing Company has two locations within a 15-minute drive of the Oakland Zoo. The brewery and tap room near Bakery Square is just over three miles away, while the riverside tap room is a shade under. If barleywines are your thing, East End is your place. It’s bottle-conditioned Gratitude earns a 4.27 rating on Beer Advocate. A barrel-aged version, released in time for March Madness, scores a 4.19.
Graham is sourcing hops from Tech’s farm, adding a little extra Hokie to their beers.”
Syracuse University (Syracuse, N.Y.)
Willow Rock Brewing Company
Syracuse’s best beer is poured in a nondescript industrial building south of campus. Willow Rock Brewing Company, less than 10 minutes from Carrier Dome parking lots, celebrates Syracuse in its beers like Jim, a smooth, sweet brown ale named for Hall of Famer and SU alumnus Jim Brown, and Orange 44, a 4.4% alcohol by volume ale with four types of malts and four types of hops named for the school’s famed uniform number. The brewery has odd hours, but opens early and closes late on game days.
University of Virginia (Charlottesville, Va.)
Three Notch’d Brewing Company
Three Notch’d Brewing Company is named for the colonial-era trail Jack Jouett rode in 1781 to warn Thomas Jefferson of his impending arrest by the British. Its Charlottesville tasting room, not to be confused with its sister brewpub and restaurant across town, is just a 25-minute walk or six-minute drive from the arena. Jouett’s ride is commemorated in the 40 Mile IPA, a juicy IPA brewed with six different hops.
Virginia Polytechnic Institute (Blacksburg, Va.)
Right Mind Brewing Company
Evan Graham cut his teeth at Morgantown Brewing Company and Parkway Brewing in Salem, Va. The Virginia Tech graduate launched Right Mind Brewing inside of Lefty’s Main Street Grille, a restaurant less than two miles from campus. Graham is sourcing hops from Tech’s farm, adding a little extra Hokie to beers like Scroggins Yard, a wet-hopped pale ale.
Wake Forest University (Winston-Salem, N.C.)
Foothills Brewing releases Sexual Chocolate, an imperial stout with flavors of molasses, chocolate, and toffee, in early February, just as conference play warms up. Husband and wife Jamie and Sarah Bartholomaus have taken Foothills from a local brewery to a regional brand that makes 40,000 barrels annually. The brewpub is an easy 2.5-mile drive from campus to downtown.