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March Madness again is officially underway – the liquid kind, that is.

Manito Tap House is into the second week of its third annual IPA March Madness. Each week for four weeks, customers can get blind flights of four different Washington IPAs for $5 and vote for their favorite.

The weekly winners then face off in a Final Four round for the right to a permanent tap handle at Manito for the coming year.

Not surprisingly, week one saw Silver City’s Tropic Haze – part of the New England-inspired “haze craze” that’s sweeping the country – win out over three clearer competitors. You won’t be told who’s in this week’s flight until after you’ve tasted them and voted.  

Instead of using Facebook nominations to narrow the field to 16, like before, this year’s lineup was based on a blind tasting of 36 contenders by Manito’s staff. “We wanted to get the list more accurate and make sure the right field was in there,” says owner Patrick McPherson.

Like the typical tournament, there were some surprises. Nectar of the Gods (NOG) from Richland’s White Bluffs – hardly a household name around here, though it won gold in last year’s Washington Beer Awards – came in third in the preliimiinary tasting.

Finishing fifth was the hazy new Resolution IPA from Mac & Jack’s (Redmond), known mostly for its more mainstream African Amber. And the Magneto IPA from TT’s Old Iron, which launched just last June at the downtown Spokane brewery incubator, placed eighth.

“That’s pretty exciting,” McPherson said. “I knew he was doing some good stuff.”

Locals Perry Street IPA and River City Riverkeeper also made the cut, along with Backwoods Logyard (Carson), Bale Breaker Leota Mae (Yakima), Bellevue IPA, Boundary Bay Cedar Dust (Bellingham), Dru Bru IPA (Snoqualmie Pass), Fremont Lush (Seattle), Georgetown Bodhizafa (Seattle), Icicle Bootjack (Leavenworth), Puyallup River Hazey’s Comet (Puyallup), Reuben’s Crikey (Seattle) and Tropic Haze (Silverdale).

The weekly matchups aren’t entirely seeded based on the tasting results, though McPherson says, “We tried to mix it up as best we could.”

And while there are some tough draws, he adds, “If you’re going to win, you’ve got to beat the best.”     

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