The air is getting warmer, the sun is staying in the sky for a few more minutes each day, and the robins are pecking at the worms in your front lawn, these signs can only point to one conclusion. NCAA March Madness? No. We’re talking the Maine Madness Beer Tournament.

Now in its third year, this bracketed beer competition pits Maine beers against one another in head-to-head matchups voted on by you, the beer lover. Though the tournament ultimately crowns a champion a la NCAA March Madness style, the real purpose is to celebrate the bountiful beer scene we enjoy here in Maine.

My challenge to you during each round is to drink one Maine beer you’ve never tried before. The tournament has six rounds, whittling down the field from 64 beers to 1 champion. That gives you the opportunity to try at least six new Maine beers during the two week tournament.

If you take this challenge, the real victor of the competition is you.

The winner of the past two tournaments was Maine Island Trail Ale from Rising Tide Brewing Company, a crisp session IPA with big notes of citrus and grass. After its second victory, MITA, as it is affectionately called, has been retired from the tournament and now enjoys the distinction of being Champion Emeritus. (After two victories all champions will be gracefully retired from the tournament.)

The retirement of MITA means that this year’s Maine Madness Beer Tournament will crown a new champion.

If the past two tournaments have taught us anything, it’s that we can almost never predict how a round of voting will turn out. We’ve seen many a behemoth fall to a lesser known beer in David and Goliath fashion all based on the passionate voting of fans.

During the tournament use social media to get out the vote for your favorite beers, share the link to each round, make passionate pleas for your friends to vote, even go door to door to campaign for your favorite beer. Be sure to like Maine Madness Beer Tournament on Facebook to get the updated link for each round. Every IP address gets one vote per round, so vote from smart phones, computers and tablets.

The list of participating beers does its best to represent the diversity of Maine’s seventy breweries. The official bracket was created during our ‘Selection Sunday’ at Rising Tide Brewing Company, our standing champion, by drawing matchups blindly from a hat.

We are trying to get Warren Buffet to offer one billion dollars to anyone who can pick every winner, but for some reason the Oracle of Omaha hasn’t returned my phone calls.

But who needs a billion dollars when we have access to one of the best beer scenes in America?

The bracket is set and voting is about to commence. Let’s make this year’s tournament the biggest yet. Remember to take the challenge and drink one new Maine beer during each of the six rounds of voting.

In the third year of the Maine Madness Beer Tournament I firmly stand behind the tournament’s official motto: To Drink ME is to Love ME.

Cheers!

Dave Patterson is a writer and musician from Cape Elizabeth.

WHAT: Third Annual Maine Madness Beer Tournament

WHO: 64 Maine beers compete in six rounds leading to an eventual champion

WHERE: Voting will take place online at MaineToday.com

WHEN: Each round roughly follows the schedule of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament

VOTE: mainetoday.com/maine-madness-beer-tournament

FOLLOW THE TOURNAMENT: facebook.com/MaineMadnessBeerTournament

OTHER BEER HAPPENINGS

St. Patrick’s Day Tap Takeover at Elements: Books Coffee Beer

5 to 9 p.m. Thursday, 265 Main St, Biddeford. facebook.com/events/192177721146598

Celebrate the world’s favorite drinking holiday with a tap takeover from Banded Horn Brewing and Gneiss Brewing at Elements in Biddeford. Each brewery will have four beers on tap. There will also be one beer brewed in collaboration between the two breweries. Banded Horn Brewing of Biddeford has an Old-World-traditions-meet-American-innovations approach to brewing, while Gneiss brewing of Limerick brews all their beer with at least fifty percent malted wheat and their house German Hefeweizen yeast. The two breweries will compliment each other nicely for this tap takeover event.

Second Annual Bearded Brewfest in Portland

1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sullivan Complex – University of Southern Maine, 66 Falmouth St., Portland. $43.19, $59.02 VIP Ticket. beardedbrewfest.com

When you combine craft beer and big beards in the city of Portland you’re asking for a good time. Our fair city not only has a wealth of great locally brewed beer, you can’t swing a pint glass in Portland without striking a bearded man. That’s what makes the Bearded Brewfest such a fun event. In its second year, this beer festival boasts some of Maine’s best breweries – Banded Horn, Allagash, Foundation, Rising Tide, amongst others – along with the CanAm Beard Competition and the ability to test a number of beard-centric products. By all accounts it was a great time last year, and this year should be just as fun.

Allagash Brewhouse Movie Series Presents: The Big Lebowski

6 to 8 p.m., Saturday, March 19, 50 Industrial Way, Portland. $5 per ticket. fareharbor.com/allagash/items/17101

Combine Allagash Brewing’s world-class Belgian-style beers along with the cult classic, The Big Lebowski, and you have a hell of a Saturday night. Ticket includes admission, free popcorn, and cookies. Beer will be available on tap for purchase. Be on the lookout for other Allagash movie events to enjoy the experience of watching a classic film inside one of Maine’s most storied breweries. The Dude most certainly abides.