Last August, we ranked the best (hyper-)local beer for each individual school in the ACC. Because it’s beer and college football, there were certainly complaints. But the idea behind keeping things as close to campus as possible made a lot of sense. So we’re doing that once again this year.
However, instead of being ranked by an individual beer, each ACC football team will be sorted by the best local brewery. Most of the schools in the conference have a brewery in the same city. However, some (Clemson) do not, and they suffer the consequences of that. If this reminds you of the “Drinking the NCAA Tournament” series Aaron and I have authored for the past three years, yes, it is similar.
With all of that said, we dive in:
Ranking Each ACC’s School Best Local Craft Brewery
1. Wake Forest Demon Deacons: Foothills Brewing
If you’ve been to North Carolina, you’ve certainly noticed this brewery’s widely-available options like Jade IPA, Hoppyum and People’s Porter (all great in their own right). But what puts Foothills over the top is Barrel-Aged Sexual Chocolate, its annual Russian Imperial Stout release around Valentine’s Day. I finally got to enjoy the well-balanced beer this year, and it did not disappoint (as opposed to Wake football, which...).
2. Louisville Cardinals: Against the Grain
The Cards drop just one from the top spot from last year, still proving that this is not just a bourbon city (though they’re quite good at that). Against the Grain’s located at Louisville Slugger Field and churns out some of the top beers in the state, including Bo & Luke, one of my own personal favorite brews — and an excellent Kentucky bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout. Several other darker options (and some of the hoppier stuff too) is also worth your time.
3. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets: Orpheus Brewing
Finally, Atlanta people can’t possibly get mad at me again, right? Orpheus’s collection of IPAs and sour stylings is my type of scene, and they have darker options for those who’d rather stay away from the assaults on your palate. But if you’re willing to just dive in, hoppy options like Transmigration of Souls and Life.Death.Life.Truth are waiting for you.
4. NC State Wolfpack: Lonerider Brewing Co.
This was not an easy one to land on, with so many options in Raleigh. But a focus on doing standard styles (porters, IPAs) consistently well put Lonerider over the top for me. Magnificent 77 and Pistols at Dawn are both worth testing out, but might as well give everything a shot if you can. I’m sure the NC crowd will tell me why this is 100-percent wrong.
5. Duke Blue Devils: Fullsteam Brewery
Admittedly, I was skeptical of Summer Basil, their basil saison -- and yet, it was a very pleasant and refreshing drink. The experimentation there is not their main objective, though it does speak to their ability to nail something more complex. Other Fullsteam options include some darker fare including First Frost (winter warmer) and Working Man’s Lunch (brown ale). The barrel-aged version of the latter being a real winner.
6. Pittsburgh Panthers: East End Brewing
East End’s Gratitude barleywine release is hotly anticipated, and may be an atypical style expertise. But there’s plenty more to sample from the Pittsburgh staple, including a slew of stouts, Belgian strong ales and IPAs. No matter what you choose to keep you warm outside a largely vacant Heinz Field, East End should do the trick.
7. Virginia Cavaliers: Three Notch’d Brewing
Several breweries above have focused on the heavier (ABV, IBU) side of things, but Three Notch’d doesn’t pursue that as much — though there are some exceptions there, including milk stout Biggie S’Mores. Still, you’ll find a nice selection of options that go a bit easier on you. Not a bad thing if you’re parking at a brewery for a day.
8. North Carolina Tar Heels: Carolina Brewery
Confined just to Chapel Hill, versus the entire Research Triangle, your options are limited for UNC. Yet, Carolina Brewery is a serviceable option for dark beers, especially of the seasonal variety. Santa’s Secret is a quality winter warmer, and their more regular stouts and porters are also worth your while.
9. Miami Hurricanes: Titanic Brewing Co.
Coral Gables is more limited than the rest of South Florida, so Miami’s getting Titanic instead of a host of other options in the region. While the brewery’s menu has some hoppier options available, the highlight is probably its brown ale, Boiler Room, which admittedly seems strange for the climate.
10. Syracuse Orange: Eastwood Brewing Co.
Formerly Double Barrel, Eastwood’s one of a handful of spots in Syracuse proper. On the sweeter side, they have a Chocolate Raspberry Porter, and for hop fans there’s an appropriately named ACC IPA. Prison City’s the best brewery in the larger CNY area, but unfortunately Auburn does not qualify.
11. Florida State Seminoles: Proof Brewing Co.
The Tallahassee beer scene’s grown considerably since we started this exercise a few years back, and Proof’s success has been a key part of that. From big imperial stouts to Goses and pale ales, they’ve built a resume of both popular and complicated styles. Creatures in the Dark is a local favorite.
12. Clemson Tigers: Carolina Bauernhaus
Anderson, S.C. is as close as you’ll get to Clemson in terms of breweries — which is punishment enough, so we won’t ding the Tigers further for that. Carolina Bauernhaus largely focuses on IPAs, wild ales and Goses. And though that’s not what I would expect from a smaller outpost in S.C., they make it work in the mold of larger local options like Westbrook.
13. Boston College Eagles: Down the Road Brewery
BC, if you’d just put your college IN Boston, you’d be No. 1 on the list. Instead, we’re headed to nearby Everett to investigate Down the Road, which does IPAs and other styles reasonably well while also taking a crack at imperial stouts. If you can’t find Trillium or Tree House around, it looks like Seventh Star IPA and Undine DIPA could help you out in a pinch.
14. Virginia Tech Hokies: Rising Silo Brewery
A couple breweries have popped up in Blacksburg, but Rising Silo is the most established option right now. They’re not trying anything too crazy — blondes, IPAs, browns — but that’s not a bad thing for a younger outfit. Simpler can also be better in a college town sometimes.
Hate where your school’s brewery was ranked? Start yelling at me in the comments.