The Guys Guide: Tailgating & Craft Beer

In Beer News by Ryan

A few years ago at a college football tailgate I watched somewhat disappointingly as everyone wheeled up their coolers and started pulling out Bud Light, Miller Lite, Keystone Light…even Stag.  But this is expected, right?  I mean, it makes sense.  Those cans in the coolers were easy to keep cold, easily transportable and you could sip on those throughout a marathon tailgate.

Then, there was the one guy there that said, “to hell with it.”

He brought a cooler full of Unibroue beer.  And not just a couple of 12 oz bottles mixed in with a 12 pack of cans.  I’m talking bombers of La Fin Du Monde, La Maudite and Don De Dieu.  Frankly, I thought he was nuts.  Not because he brought craft beer to to a tailgate but because he brought beers that were so high in ABV.  But, three or four years ago, those were your only options – either go light and sacrifice flavor or go big and hope you actually make it to kickoff.

Now, well, now things have changed.  More and more breweries are canning their beers both big beers (Oskar Blues’ Ten-Fidy) and small (Half Acre’s Gossamer).  No longer do you have to tote around canned macro-brewed beer.  Ladies and gentleman, YOU have options.  What follows is:

The Guys Guide to Tailgating With Craft Beer. (Cue fanfare.)

How ’bout that product placement?

First and foremost, go find some canned craft beer. It’s out there and I bet there is more available than you might think.  Chances are there is some available in your area.  If you’re not sure where to start just go to your favorite liquor store and look around.  Or, has a great breakdown by state of breweries that can their beer.  You might be surprised to find that a big brewery has started canning or you may find a local one that you weren’t aware of.

Secondly, buy smart.  If you know you are going to be tailgating for a few hours then go with something light.  The only thing that drinking a couple of 8% ABV beers is going to get you is a early exit from the tailgate and a good chance of missing the first half.  We opted to go light and local with Chicago’s own Half Acre and their Gossamer and Daisy Cutter.  The Gossamer is a low in ABV, 4.2%, but high in flavor Golden Ale and the Daisy Cutter is an American Pale Ale that clocks in at just 5.2% ABV.

Damn right it is.

Also, buy a little more than you normally would because someone is going to want to try some.  Those that like (insert standard macro-brewed beer here: _____) really dug the Gossamer and a few were brave enough to try a hoppy beer and enjoyed the Daisy Cutter.  And what better way to turn someone on to craft beer than around smoked meats, name-your-salad and football shaped cookies at a tailgate?

But your craft beer options don’t stop at cans.  As Karl explained during his TV hit, there are these things called growlers that you may have heard of, perchance?  We also advocate visiting a new or favorite brewery or brewpub and getting some beer to go.  Beer Advocate has a travel guide section where you can search by city and find breweries, brewpubs and beer stores.  When you find one that piques your interest you can check out the beers that have been reviewed.

This is a great opportunity to sample beer from a brewery you’ve never heard of, one that you’ve been dying to visit or a personal favorite.  We road tripped to a game in East Lansing, MI so we had plenty of options between there and Chicago: The Livery, Bell’s, Michigan Brewing Company…the list could go on.  But, we wound up at one of our favorites; Dark Horse Brewery in Marshall, MI.  Their beer was served at our wedding reception and is consistently in the beer fridge and cellar.

Sapient Trip Ale, a crowd favorite

The same rules I laid out for canned beer apply to growlers.  You may really like that Imperial Stout they have on tap but now is not the time for a big, boozy stout.  And pick something that everyone might like because a growler is meant to be shared.  That, and you can’t really put it in your pocket for the walk to the stadium.  We wound up with Dark Horse’s ROD, a red ale brewed with herbs and (allegedly) aphrodisiacs , and the Sapient Trip Ale – a Belgian Tripel.* Oh, and if you really liked that beer you sampled but thought it was too much for day of tailgating – grab it on the way out of town.

*(Editors Note: We are aware the aforementioned Dark Horse beers break the guideline of choosing beer that is low in alcohol content.  ROD is 7.2% and the Trip Ale is 8.5%.  But, C’mon.  Have you ever tried finding a low ABV Dark Horse beer?  They only make a handful.)

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About the Author



Equal parts beer nerd and policy geek, Ryan is now the curator of the Guys Drinking Beer cellar. The skills he once used to dig through the annals of state government as a political reporter are now put to use offering unique takes on barrel-aged stouts, years-old barleywines and 10 + year verticals.

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