So, in honor of football and tailgate season beginning, we thought we would put together a few ideas for some great Michigan beers to enjoy throughout the various stages of tailgate. Being in Michigan, we have tailgated and sat through games in weather of all seasons; from the dying summer still capable of swelter to the Witch of November and her beating rain, sleet, and snow. Here is a guide to get you through all phases of the season. We can't promise a winning season with this guide, but we can promise a well-fortified one!
Early Fall Beers
Early in the football season when temperatures can still easily get into the high 80's, we like a lighter beer--something that is both drinkable and relatively low in alcohol content. In my experience, the first tailgate is always a festive one when friends you may only see a few times a year are all back together. Because visiting and making merry is paramount, no one is really interested in putting together a big, elaborate meal so subs, dips, chips, etc. are usually the fare. Taking this into account, we recommend the relatively new, Purple Gang Pilsner from Atwater Brewery in Detroit for the first tailgate. This is a solid Pilsner with all the classic characteristics; white bread and light grain notes with some subtle hoppiness. It will pair perfectly with the lighter food and at 5.5% ABV, you can drink several of them and not be on Mars before the game starts. Other good options would be Founders Dry Hopped Pale Ale, Short's Pontius Road Pilsner, or Frankenmuth Brewery's Hefeweizen Ale.
The next phase of tailgate takes us into the leafy, crisp mornings of late September and early October. This is my favorite time of year, when summer is behind us and the hustle & bustle of the holidays is just around the corner. Also at this point in the season, there is a firm sense of what kind of football team we have. It may sound like nonsense, but this makes a difference in the preparation for and general feel of the tailgates through the rest of the season. Either tailgate or the actual football games themselves will be riding shotgun from here on out, one clearly being of greater importance than the other, and I have lived through many of both. At any rate, this is usually the time when we break out the turkey fryer for deep-fried tailgate. Deep-fried turkey, deep-fried cheese, deep-fried breaded meats, candy bars and so on. All delicious, all death defying, and with this kind of up-tempo diet you need a good fall beer.
Ambers, ESB's, rich pale ale's, etc. They both soak up the grease and dull some of the shame induced by what you just ate. A perfect beer for this tailgate is Bell's Best Brown Ale. This is a seasonal offering from Bell's and one of their finest beers. Very malty yet well balanced with American hops, it is warming on cold days without seeming heavy. A beautiful beer for deep fried food and other heavier fare. Another great option would be to bring a couple of our state's own Octoberfest beers, Atwater's Blocktoberfest or Frankenmuth's Octoberfest. Other good beers for this time of year would be Jolly Pumpkin's Bam Noire, Schmohz's Pail Ale, or Brewery Vivant's Triomphe Belgian IPA.
End of Fall Beers
The final phase of tailgate is when it's just cold. Really damn cold. All the mid-afternoon games have passed leaving only noon kickoffs, which means 7:00 AM tailgates, and the season (and tailgating) has become a grind, a back-breaking testament of will to see who will be left standing when the final AP poll is released. The number of tailgates on campus and enthusiasm surrounding them has severely dwindled by this time. But November and the icy, misty mornings (if it's not pouring sleet) are beautiful on campus and if the team is doing well, anticipation of bowl games and a possible conference championship cut through the still, cold air. Usually for us, this means it's time for a big pot of chili, spicy cornbread, and some meat & cheese pies--stuff that is easy to make, will warm us, and give us the nerve to cheer our weary, wounded team across the finish line.
For this scenario, we like to bring some porters and stouts on board. They can be from moderate to high in ABV, just as long as they keep us warm and enthusiastic. One of our favorite examples of this is the delicious and somewhat rare, Founders Breakfast Stout. This is a fall release from Founders Brewery in Grand Rapids, and it is among some of the highest rated stouts in the country, world, & universe. It's full of coffee, chocolate, and roasted grain notes, and it comes in at a fairly robust 8.3% ABV, so it will definitely warm you up. We love this beer and think it goes great with cold weather and a bowl of chili. Other great options are New Holland's The Poet Stout or Darkhorse's One Oatmeal Stout.
We covered a lot of ground here, but the season is a long one and you must be prepared. We hope this gets you as ready and excited for football & tailgate season as we are. Remember to be safe, stay warm, mix in a water or two, and to keep Howling for your team and Michigan beer this fall!