Chris Guest's picture

Craft Beer Pairings for the 2016 NBA Playoffs

Much has changed over the years in the National Basketball Association and some of the greatest players who played while I was growing up (Shaq, Allen Iverson, the inimitable Yao Ming) were recently inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Time flies, dunkers dunk and shooters shoot, but records are indeed meant to be broken. In a historic year in which one of the greatest players of all time, Kobe Bryant, ended his career by dropping 60 points an on unsuspecting Utah Jazz team and the 95-96 Bulls record for wins a year was beaten by this year's incredible Golden State Warriors team, the NBA is thriving and more exciting than ever before.

Here at The Beer Connoissuer, we always try to pair terrific craft brews with anything and everything that's going on in the world, so we decided to pick a few beers that represent each team that's made it into this year's playoffs.

Some will perform better than others, and there might even be a few upsets. Sit back, grab a brew and enjoy; these are our Craft Beer Pairings for the 2016 NBA Playoffs.


1. Cleveland Cavaliers (57-25) – Saranac Legacy IPA
8. Detroit Pistons (44-38) – The Pike Doubble Hopulus

At this point, it’s all about rings for Lebron James. Sure, he’s got two NBA championships, but it’s taken him six trips to the Finals to accrue those accolades. For Bron-Bron, a sixth straight Finals appearance (and seventh overall) is all but guaranteed, but now the unstoppable juggernaut that is the Warriors might derail Bronto’s plans to shore up his legacy. Still though, the games must be played and The King’s first series is against the Detroit Pistons and their beast of a Center, Andre Drummond. With pistons a-pumpin’, double-double machine Drummond led the league in rebounding during the season, and with the addition of talented scorer Tobias Harris before the trade deadline helping to shore up the team’s offense, these Motor City monsters will be looking for a huge upset.

Toast to Lebron’s legacy with Matt Brewing’s Saranac Legacy IPA, a solid and well-made American IPA, and then enjoy The Pike Brewing's Doubble Hopulus to represent Andre Drummond's expertise in the paint.

PREDICTION: Cavaliers in 4

2. Toronto Raptors (56-26) – Unknown Brewing Vehopciraptor
7. Indiana Pacers (45-37) – Upland Champagne Velvet

The Raptors came out smelling blood this year, seeking out victories like beer hunters snag whales. Led by key offensive maulers DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry in the backcourt, the carnivorous Canucks hope to disfigure their mild-mannered Midwestern adversaries with ceaseless, high-speed offense. For the Pacers to have a chance to pop some bottles of champagne (or Champagne Velvet), superstar shooting guard Paul George and the pride of Indiana will have to set the bar high, just as Upland, the pride of the Indiana brewing scene, has done with their impressively well-crafted ales.

PREDICTION: Raptors in 5

3. Miami Heat (48-34) – Green Flash Dia De Los Serranos
6. Charlotte Hornets (48-34) – Green Man The Rainmaker

With four teams finishing the season with identical records in the Eastern Conference, one of them had to be the third seed. It ended up being the Miami Heat, led by the Flash, Dwyane Wade and Center Chris Bosh, a craft beer lover. As the team’s name would suggest it does tend to get hot on South Beach, so Green Flash’s imperial stout with serrano peppers would certainly heat it up for the home team.

On the other side of the court, the Charlotte Hornets unexpectedly took home the 6-seed, and one more win would have (shockingly) assured the 3-seed! This team has a lot of upside and scoring talent in Kemba Walker, long-range bombers in Marvin Williams and Jeremy Lamb, and Linsanity himself, Jeremy Lin waiting in the wings. The Heat better watch out or the streaky Hornets will make it rain (much like NC brewery Green Man’s The Rainmaker) on Miami’s fiery parade.


4. Atlanta Hawks (48-34) – Mendocino Eye of the Hawk
5. Boston Celtics (48-34) – Sam Adams Irish Red

Though Georgia’s state bird is the brown thrasher, Atlanta prefers more predatory avian icons, namely Falcons and Hawks. These streaky raptors, led by Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap and the sneaky, scurrying Dennis Schröder can go ice cold at a moment’s notice, but when they’re on, they function with an effortless grace – draining buckets with laser-like precision and moving the ball more swiftly than a dormouse clutched in the talons of the aforementioned hawkeyed killer, hence the beer choice, Eye of the Hawk from Mendocino Brewing Company, beloved as much for its bird-themed brews as its delicious and affordable offerings.

The Hawks face the iconic Celtics, a fresh-faced and style-savvy squad led by point guard Isaiah Thomas and a battery of long and athletic wing players similarly capable of catching fire. Backed by a proud city with a lot of history, it’s only fitting they’re represented by a quintessentially Bostonian beer and brewery.

PREDICTION: Hawks in 7




1. Golden State Warriors (73-9) – Speakeasy Ales & Lagers Untouchable
8. Houston Rockets (41-41) – Rogue Beard Beer

A Western Conference Finals rematch in the first round? Yes please! The only difference is this time, the Rockets are an 8-seed, barely scraping into the playoffs on the last day of the regular season, and the Warriors are an improved version of the team that clobbered the Rockets four games to one last year. So… there’s that.

In other news, the Warriors broke the 95-96 Chicago Bulls record for most wins in a season (73) and were basically untouchable, much like Bay Area brewery Speakeasy Ales & Lagers’ terrific Double IPA offering. The Warriors as a team are – truly – poetry in motion, and the Rockets have a goofy dude with a poofy beard. Seriously though, I have much love for Harden (represented here by Rogue’s funky and wacky Beard Beer, brewed with yeast from the beard of Rogue’s founder).

PREDICTION: Warriors in 4

2. San Antonio Spurs (67-15) – Founders Curmudgeon Old Ale
7. Memphis Grizzlies (42-40) – Tallgrass The Grizz

Despite Kawhi Leonard’s continued maturation into of the best players in the league, the splashy signing of Lamarcus Aldridge over the summer, and the almost unbelievable home record of 40-1 they accrued during the regular season, the Spurs still have the unofficial reputation as the most boring team in basketball. They’re a consistent playoff contender with team-oriented play dictated by their patently surly head coach, Gregg Popovich, with an almost robotic efficiency. So why not Surly? Because he bears a striking resemblance in both appearance and character to Founders’ own Old Curmudgeon.

Speaking of bears, the Grizzlies and their stable of veterans (Zach Randolph, Vince Carter, Matt Barnes) certainly bear the burden of doubt in this matchup, losing 10 of their last 11 to the Spurs, but despite the tall odds, you never know when you might be mauled by a Grizz, both in bear form and Kansas-based brewery Tallgrass’ Double IPA form.

PREDICTION: Spurs in 4

3. Oklahoma City Thunder (55-27) – Roughtail Hoptometrist
6. Dallas Mavericks (42-40) – Union Old Pro

In what might be the last playoffs that Kevin Durant and Russel Westbrook suit up together as members of the Oklahoma City Thunder, their first-round matchup sees the mad scientist of triple-doubles up against Dirk Nowitzki, one of the greatest shooters to ever play the game. Local Oklahoma brewery Roughtail’s Hoptometrist would suit Westbrook’s frenzied pace with its impressive hop bill and wild hoppiness, and the spritzy tartness of Union Craft Brewing’s Old Pro Gose would match up nicely with Dirk – the grizzled, salty German talisman (and consummate professional) for the Mavs.

PREDICTION: Thunder in 4

4. Los Angeles Clippers (53-29) – Bell’s Hopslam
5. Portland Trail Blazers (44-38) – Worthy Lights Out Stout

It’s Lob City vs. Rip City in this West Coast showdown. The Clippers have become LA’s chosen team, and with good reason. A bunch of talented players (and lots of off-court headlines), have put Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan in the spotlight and ready to do some damage this postseason. Bell’s hefty Double IPA, Hopslam, perfectly represents this team’s penchant for pummeling the rim with dunk after dunk after dunk.

Before the Clips can move on though, Dame has something to say about that. In the nation’s best craft beer city, the Trail Blazers were left for dead during the offseason after LaMarcus Aldridge skipped town for points south. Portland’s superstar Point Guarde Damian Lillard had other plans, however. Draining buckets at an alarming rate, Lillard and (the likely Most Improved Player) C.J. McCollum shot the lights out of Rip City (much like Worthy Brewing’s delectable and complex Imperial Coffee Stout) and torched opponents on the way to the 5-seed.

PREDICTION: Clippers in 5

Honorable Mention (Worst Record Game)

Los Angeles Lakers (17-65) – Good People Snake Handler
Philadelphia 76ers (10-72) – Smuttynose Rocky Road

The Black Mamba had a fitting exit to a legendary career, racking up a season-high sixty points against the Jazz, but as stalwart announcer Hubie Brown declared, Kobe’s last game acted as “the deodorant” for the worst Lakers season in history. The young team’s year was highlighted by in-fighting and a lack of chemistry, but even they managed to best the record of the abominably abysmal 76ers, who were one game away from tying the worst NBA record of all time, also set by the 76ers in the 72-73 season. It’s tough to say who would win, as the Lakers accounted for 10 percent of the Sixers’ wins, but we’ll give it to team with the third all-time leading scorer. The teams have no reflection on the quality of the beers, however, which both scored much higher than either team. 

Thanks for reading and feel free to share on any social media platforms you frequent with the button above. Cheers, and may your shot always find the bottom of the net.


billzav's picture
Greetings, Unknown Brewing is based out of Charlotte not Toronto. Green Man is based in Asheville. A better alternative would be Unknown Brewing Vehopciraptor for the Charlotte Hornets and Bellwoods Brewery Witchshark Imperial IPA for the Toronto Raptors. Cheers, Bill Z.
billzav's picture
Ah, I see you want by name and not necessarily NBA city that brewery is based out of. My bad. Cheers, Bill Z.



billzav's picture
Greetings, Unknown Brewing is based out of Charlotte not Toronto. Green Man is based in Asheville. A better alternative would be Unknown Brewing Vehopciraptor for the Charlotte Hornets and Bellwoods Brewery Witchshark Imperial IPA for the Toronto Raptors. Cheers, Bill Z.
billzav's picture
Ah, I see you want by name and not necessarily NBA city that brewery is based out of. My bad. Cheers, Bill Z.