Congratulations are in order for the Alchemist once again: Heady Topper is the winner of the 2013 Vermont Brew Bracket, presented by Three Penny Taproom.
Heady Topper's road to victory was a little bit bumpier this year. Last year it bowled over Switchback in the Final Pour, and Lawson's Double Sunshine IPA in the championship. But Switchback proved a much more formidable opponent in 2013. The vote was a nailbiter all weekend, as a few lead changes ultimately ended with Heady Topper squeaking out the win over Switchback, 51 percent to 49 percent. The margin was fewer than 100 votes out of 2822 total.
With its second straight Vermont Brew Bracket title, Heady Topper remains the only winner the tournament has had — which is a pretty incredible accomplishment when you consider the brewery's brush with mortality during Tropical Storm Irene. Hope there's room in the Alchemist's trophy case — Heady Topper is also the most highly rated beer on BeerAdvocate and in the top four on Untappd.
But votes throughout the tournament were closer this year. And with surprising runs from upstart breweries like 14th Star and Drop-In, plus Switchback's spirited run in the championship round, it seems it's tougher than ever to declare a favorite Vermont brew. Not a bad problem to have. This year 35,748 total votes were cast in the tournament — thanks to all who chimed in.
Can Heady Topper make it a threepeat next year? Or will Switchback avenge its by-a-hair loss? Or will another brewery, like best-brewery-in-the-world Hill Farmstead, make a championship run? We'll find out in 2014. Until then, keep drinking local brews.