Everyone ranks things. But we want to get to the things that really matter. No, not on-field results -- those are far too subjective, and also too depressing for Syracuse fans at times. No, we want to use our unquestionable* authority to rank the OFF-the-field issues that truly matter in the ACC. This will probably happen every week.
*Dispute this at your own risk.
This week's pressing topic:
Evaluating Each School's Local Breweries
You may remember when Aaron and I "drank our way" through the NCAA Tournament back in March, using each school's hyper-local craft brewery (and those respective brewery's best beers) as the evaluation point. It's only fair that now, with football, we use the same criteria and keep things as local as possible. Of course each of the ACC's 14 locations has access to other breweries, and you can and should enjoy those two on your next roadtrip. But if you just want a tasting room experience that requires minimal travel to/from the stadium, this is your list. Ranked one through 14, your top hyper-local beer scenes:
1. Boston College
"These breweries aren't in Chestnut Hill/Newton!" you scream when you see this. And you'd be correct. But you're not going to be staying in either of those places when you visit BC, and Boston is not THAT far off at all. Trust me, it's better this way. The Eagles get to enjoy all that Beantown's happenin' beer scene has to offer, and at the top of that list are the offerings from Trillium Brewing Co. The Double Dry Hopped Congress Street IPA is recommended when you head over, but there are plenty of other delicious (largely pale) ales to enjoy as well. Already been to Trillium? Then you should venture out to Cambridge Brewing Co. (yes, in Cambridge).
In the case of Syracuse, you can really stay right within the city to enjoy its best offerings -- even if that means leaving the cozy confines of the Hill and venturing downtown a bit. While the Syracuse Pale Ale is a go-to for local and visiting fans alike -- and why not? -- maybe go for something a little more daring the next time you stop by the brewpub. Middle Ages Brewing Co. also makes several more aggressive beers, including Dragonslayer, a Russian Imperial Stout that hangs out at 9.5 percent ABV. If you've tried out all of their varieties, Empire Brewing Co. can also take care of you just fine.
3. Wake Forest
"Private schools brew better?" - you, at this point. Wake Forest resides in Winston-Salem, home of (arguably) North Carolina's best brewery, Foothills. With two brewpubs in the W-S area, you really have your pick of options, but your best bet might be the one that's also most available: Jade IPA. Of course, they run the full spectrum and styles, and the Sexual Chocolate release has become an event rivaling much larger operation's special rollouts, but their go-to, Jade, is yours as well. Not interested for some dumb reason, and you can just go check out Small Batch Beer Co, instead.
Just outside the gorgeous Duke University campus is Durham's growing downtown area and in general, a bunch of great beer. And while you're trying to figure out which of those many beers to check out, perhaps you should go check out Fullsteam Brewing and the excellent Barrel-Aged Working Man's Lunch. While I'm a big IPA/pale ale fan, and Fullsteam produces those too, their best offerings are on the darker side of things -- a nice change of pace for those tired of "douchebags" like myself raving about hoppy bitterness. When you're done there, bounce on over to Triangle Brewing Co. too.
5. Georgia Tech
You already know SweetWater if you live on the East Coast, but that's not a bad thing. Beyond the obvious IPA 420 Fest DIPA, there's Hop Hash and a multitude of other brews for you to explore, largely in the IPA/APA family. If you're looking for something new instead, another option (of many available to you) is Orpheus Brewing, which explores different styles and puts a good deal of focus on saisons and sours. Or do both? Yeah, that's the correct decision here, for sure.
6. NC State
Raleigh proper has a great beer scene. And the larger Raleigh-Durham area is growing with regard to business AND beer, in particular. So when visiting State, you have access to all of that, yet we still focus on Raleigh alone here. One hyper-local option is Lonerider Brewing Co. and their entertaining "outlaw" motif. Lonerider has carved out a solid presence making several different styles very well, but one favorite in particular is Pistols at Dawn, a stout. In your travels around Raleigh, perhaps swing by Trophy Brewing too, for more beer... and pizza too.
If this list was based on bourbon, Louisville would be tops. And the same could be said if this list were also based on just one beer, too. Against the Grain, attached to the Louisville Bats' minor league park, brews the excellent Bo & Luke, a hefty, 13-percent ABV Russian Imperial Stout that you should probably go ahead and split with a friend. The bourbon notes are all over it, and it drinks like a beer with half the alcohol. Heading elsewhere after consuming that delicious masterpiece, Cumberland Brews is also worth your while. Bonus selection, because it's Louisville and you probably want bourbon too: Haymarket is an excellent bourbon dive bar. Have at it.
8. North Carolina
Another spot that could easily get lumped into the larger Triangle-area beer scene, but we'll let Chapel Hill stand on its own here. Carolina Brewery is right in the heart of the bustling campus area on Franklin St., making it an incredibly easy trip while on-campus for a game (football or basketball). You should grab their Oatmeal Porter, and really, any of their darker beers available since there are a bunch. Walk a bit down Franklin some more and you'll also run into Top of the Hill, which... why didn't a Syracuse brewery think of this name?
Chances are it'll be cold in Pittsburgh once you get into the heart of football season (and definitely during basketball season). With that in mind, you'll need a heavier beer to keep yourself warm. Why not try out East End Brewing's Gratitude barleywine, which checks in at a sizable 11.5 percent ABV? Still looking for more, and you'll find that East End has a pretty solid roster of heavier beers (and some medium-bodied pale ales too). You can also wander to Pennsylvania Brewing Co. to get more of a fix on local options.
You think this makes no sense, and until recently you'd probably be correct. But the Miami beer scene has really blown up of late, making it a rising trip on the list for craft beer and football fans. Wynwood Brewing is your first choice, in all likelihood, though you may not get what you'd expect from South Florida. Along with the requisite Berliner Weisse options, they offer several great dark beers too, like the popular Pop's Porter. If you want even more Miami beer, MIA Brewing's artsy layout should also be on your list, for aesthetic alone (though they also have great brews).
Charlottesville, Va. is definitely a drinking town. So much so that Streaking the Lawn has its own bar bracket and everything to determine who serves up the best atmosphere. Moving past "bars" specifically, though, you may want to head over to Champion Brewing. Their best beers are on the heftier side (8 percent ABV and up), but you can find some other great options nonetheless like Missile IPA too, which are a bit more medium-bodied and allow you to stay out a little bit longer. Another option is Three Notch'd, for those looking to diversify their beer consumption.
12. Virginia Tech
Blacksburg doesn't have a ton going on in terms of beer, but there's plenty very close by that could also satiate the beer drinker's palate. Right over in Salem, Parkway Brewing has done a whole lot of good in just a little bit of time in the business (two years). Their Get Bent Mountain IPA is a local favorite and you'd be hard-pressed to find a beer of theirs that misses the mark with fans. Also outside of Blacksburg is River Brewing Co. in Radford (right by Radford University). Their log cabin vibe is a winner, and their beers have plenty of space to grow into local staples.
Why aren't you guys located closer to Westbrook?!?! (/shakes fist) That commentary aside... there's really nothing beer-wise in Clemson. Lucky you, when Tigers graduate and want to brew, they head over to nearby Greenville, S.C. Thomas Creek is your best bet over there, with the Trifecta IPA being one of several to try out a decent-sized list of different beer styles. Also nearby is Quest Brewing, which spends some time trying out unique flavor combinations (like a cucumber-jalapeno saison).
14. Florida State
What FSU lacks in beer prowess, it makes up for in quality football. But still, Tallahassee has some (or one) option for you if you'd like to pursue something more local than Cigar City (though you should probably do that too). In Tally itself, Proof Brewing's a solid outfit, making some delicious options to enjoy at the tap room or take home. The obvious top pick is the Robust Raincloud Porter -- even if it IS humid out. Coming this fall, Grasslands Brewing Co. will also be operational this fall -- TBD on what you'll get there, but it seems promising.
Mad about where your local brewery(s) fell in this list? Want to make a case for several more beers/breweries to be considered? Leave your thoughts/arguments in the comments.