Voting for this round has now closed. See round five here.

The Ultimate Texas Brand Bracket is hurtling toward its conclusion. As voters have narrowed down the initial 64 brands to our Elite Eight, the top seeds have largely proven their strength. We’ve still got three one-seeds and three two-seeds alive, along with a four (Blue Bell) and a five (Schlitterbahn). Let’s get right into the matchups that will determine our Final Four. 


A Homegrown Texas Brand Versus One We’ve Proudly Claimed

Technically speaking, neither Whataburger nor Dairy Queen is, at this point, purely Texan. Since 2019, Whataburger has been owned by Chicago-based BDT Capital. DQ, meanwhile, started in Illinois and is headquartered in Minnesota—although the history behind the Texas Dairy Queen Operators Council gives us a unique claim to joint custody of the brand. 

The question, then, is, Which one advances? Both have shrugged off all challengers up to this point, and each occupies a special place in the hearts of Texans: Whataburger as a source of (perhaps too much) state pride, and Dairy Queen as a nostalgic treat for small-towners and city folk alike. Through three rounds of brand-to-brand combat, Whataburger has won its matchups by wider margins, so we’re inclined to give it the edge, but don’t expect this one to be a blowout.


H-E-B Battles the Beaver

No brand has dominated its opponents like H-E-B has. When the grocery chain clobbered Austin-based Whole Earth Provision by a 95-point margin in round one, it might have been possible to chalk up the outcome to the fact that Whole Earth operates just six stores in only four Texas cities. After H-E-B went on to overpower both Cavender’s (sixty stores, in every corner of the state) and Academy Sports + Outdoors (more than a hundred stores in Texas, also widespread) by similar margins, however, it became clear—H-E-B is a powerhouse that dwarfs even other iconic Texas brands. 

It’ll face its stiffest test to date in Buc-ee’s. The beaver has thus far chewed through the tournament, bouncing Neiman Marcus, Fiesta Mart, and Whole Foods with ease. The chain, which only began its statewide expansion in 2001, has established itself as a definitive Texas brand in a relatively short time—it’s the newest of our quarterfinalists by many decades, but its success so far in this tournament has felt downright inevitable. Does the young gun have what it takes to pull off what would be a stunning upset against H-E-B?


Doth the Bell Toll for Dr Pepper? 

Dr Pepper entered the bracket as a top seed, and—despite surviving a surprise ballot-stuffing attempt in an earlier round—has performed as expected. It’s the Texas brand with perhaps the greatest mass appeal, since it’s available all over the world while still being undeniably Texan (although, like Whataburger, it now has an out-of-state corporate parent). The margins of its victories haven’t always been as dominant as those of other number one seeds, however, which may make Dr Pepper ripe for an upset against Blue Bell, which—listeria scandal be damned—has proven that it is still very much a Texas icon. 

Dr Pepper versus Blue Bell is a tough matchup to handicap. Both have overcome stiff competition from the likes of Tito’s Vodka, Stetson, Shiner, and Yeti—all of which have proven themselves much loved—to reach our Elite Eight. The two remaining brands are staples everywhere from kids’ birthday parties to retirement homes around the state, and we could see this vote going either way. 

Wild Cards

Schlitterbahn Survives to Face Southwest

The round of sixteen produced the biggest nail-biter of the bracket, with Schlitterbahn edging out Austin City Limits by just 16 votes. By the time all the votes were tallied between our website and our Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook pages, Schlitterbahn survived a close shave and slid into the Elite Eight with 2,651 votes to ACL’s 2,635. 

This round won’t be a battle of theme parks, however, as Southwest Airlines bumped off Six Flags to earn the bracket’s last quarterfinal bid. The company’s success thus far proves yet again that the occasional reputational black eye is but a blip when it comes to Texans’ brand loyalty. Having already eliminated one theme park, Southwest only needs to knock off one more to punch its ticket to the Final Four.