Hey guys. I’m really sorry. I lied to you. Calling this a “Top 10 Tailgating Beers” article is kind of a misnomer. The truth of the matter is that this is probably more accurately a “Top 10 Beers to Enhance Your Cultural Tailgating Experience,” but that title is horrible and long.
See, the true best tailgating beers are the cheapest beers you can find: Schlitz, Hamm’s, Milwaukee’s Best and the like, just real garbage, awful, gross, whatever beers. Because you’re using these beers for shotgunning or cramming up a dead chicken’s patoot (ahem, Cleveland) or putting into a sock and swinging around as a hilarious weapon. You don’t care about hop bitterness or mouthful. You’re eschewing ABV and IBUs for BAC and DWIs (don’t do that last one).
But here’s the thing. If I wrote a top 10 list of all macrobrews, not only would it be boring, but it’d be a clone. Without Googling it, I can guarantee you that there’s probably 50 articles about just macrobrews, and all they talk about is drinkability and blah blah blah.
So here’s what I’m going to do…
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10. Bud Light
Because it tastes like every party you’ve been to since high school, and after all this time you’ve finally learned to crush a can against your head like a Beastie Boys video. That’ll show those douche bags at your divorce proceedings! Also, you should drink this in St. Louis, because, you know.
There. Now let’s assume that that entry covers all the PBRs and Hi-Lifes out there. Cool? Cool.
Here’s what I’m going to do instead. I’m going to list beers that help with the cultural experience of a tailgate. So, as an example, I might put Sam Adams on the list, because Sam Adams reminds many people of Boston, and New England puts on a very good tailgate. Therefore, Sam Adams helps you have a more authentic tailgating experience in New England. That premise shaky enough for everyone? Rock and roll. Let’s do this.
Normally I’d think that Dogfish Head beers are a little too strong for your average tailgate, especially since they’re on the forefront of the “extreme beer” movement in America (which basically translates to: if it exists, let’s turn it into liquid and get drunk off of it). Also, Ravens fans are crazy. Like, cut you up crazy. So where else are you going to find such a perfect intersection of lunatic fringes? Drink up. And watch your back.
Texas beer critics will bemoan how watered down it is, or how it’s not really a bock but a Vienna-style lager etc. etc. But here’s the thing, there are only three things that Longhorn and Aggie fans both agree on: 1) drinking Shiner Bock beer, 2) drinking 50 Shiner Bock beers 3) cheerleaders! Hooray! And for the folks that read this and try to lump it in with the Bud Lights of the world above, I’d argue that Shiner is darker and maltier enough to warrant its own entry. Also, quit harshing our collective mellow.
7. St. Arnold Fancy Lawnmower
Houston’s St. Arnold is a hell of a brewery. They’ve got some great seasonals (including two delightful winter beers), and they have personally gotten me to “tearfully scouring Facebook” drunk on at least a few occasions. And while their entire lineup is great, I’m partial to Fancy Lawnmower. It’s a Kölsch, so it has the same clean-tasting, drinkable characteristics as an American lager, but with a little body. Plus, something something “Honey I’m going to get a new Lawnmower” hilarious hijinks something.
Anchor Steam is a lager brewed at ale temperatures, and the only “Steam” beer out there. Not many are sold commercially, and those that are can only legally call themselves “California Common.” This “Frankenstein’s Monster” of a beer is synonymous with San Francisco, thanks to the efforts of Fritz Maytag (yep, from THAT Maytag family). Grab a sixer and head to Candlestick Park to watch Jim Harbaugh murder and eat a referee on the sidelines. I’d also bet you can drink some in Oakland without causing a ruckus.
5. Goose Island IPA
These guys get the nod for a number of reasons: 1) I find myself drinking Goose Island IPA way more frequently than I realize; 2) it is a beer much beloved and beholden by Windy City residents and 3) I have not given The Bears much love on these lists as of late. So cheers to you guys. Drink up this or any Goose Island beer (you can bet Jay Cutler has) and enjoy a chilly fall morning at Soldier Field.
4. Victory Storm King
I’m picking this imperial stout from Philadelphia’s Victory Brewing, because 1) it’s so rare to get a Victory in Philadelphia (BOOM!); 2) just like the Eagles’ playoff hopes, this beer is dark, thick and foreboding of a terrible future and 3) 9.1% ABV. Also, it’s very tasty. For the record, Victory is one of my favorite breweries in the country, and you would be wise to drink their stuff for any occasion, not just a crappy Eagles game.
You could do worse than finding yourself ready to tailgate at Mile High in Denver. Not only did the Broncos notch one of my top tailgating cities in the NFL, but this slice of Colorado (and I’m including Boulder, Lyons, etc.) churns out some of the best beers in the country. While I’m tempted to give the nod to Avery — a personal favorite — for the purposes of tailgating, I’ve gotta hand it to Dale’s Pale Ale. It’s tasty. It’s hoppy. And it’s in a can. So now you can do your Teen Wolf imitation with a higher quality of beer. Or build a wizard’s staff out of old beer cans!
I’ll be honest — Abita isn’t my favorite brewery in the world. But if you’re at a tailgate where the Abita is flowing, chances are you’re either surrounded by Saints fans or LSU fans, both of whom are effing crazy (in a good way). In other words, a good time is guaranteed. So as long as you’re tipping back a few, make sure it’s their Restoration Pale Ale. Abita started brewing Restoration soon after Katrina hit, and to date it’s been responsible for raising around $550,000 for relief efforts.
1. Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold
I’ve been harsh on Cleveland the last… 29 years. So I wanted to give them a little love. And having visited this cold, broken city where dreams and hope go to die a long, agony-filled death, I’ve learned one thing: these folks are really, really good at drinking. And while every Great Lakes beer is worth drinking (good luck getting your hands on the Christmas Ale), for tailgating fare, look to the Dortmunder Gold. It’s lighter, it was almost named “The Heisman” and it will pair nicely with the steaming pile of loss the Browns just suffered to (insert team name here).
Seriously though. It’s an awesome brewery.
Now, this is all just one man’s opinion, especially considering that, you know, the best beer at a tailgate is the one you’re holding. I know your dad told you that joke in a Chili’s one time. But cut the old guy some slack. There’s a kernel of truth there, right?
So anyway. Drink local. Support your team. Be responsible. And get home safely.