Summer 2019 was a lot of fun. But it’s well over now. Time to get into fall mode. That means light jacket weather, darker beers, heartier meals, and tailgating before college and NFL football games. From Atlanta to Austin, football fans (and fans of eating grilled foods and drinking beer) will descend on parking lots hours before kickoff to stand around talking about how great their favorite team is while they eat sausages and burgers and drink the local brews.
Growing up in Philadelphia and attending Penn State, Emmanuel “Manny” Pressley, bartender at Brabo Brasserie in Alexandria, Virginia is well versed in both hosting and attending festivities like these.
“When recommending a beer for this type of gathering, I recommend offering crowd-pleasers that span a wide variety of flavor profiles,” he says. “Oskar Blues is a very easy drinking IPA, fairly well known, and almost has a craft beer feel to it. Yuengling is an approachable and well-known lager that provides a well-rounded drinking experience. Bold Rock is the surprise hit.”
But you don’t have to just buy one of those three choices. We asked some of our favorite bartenders to tell us their go-to beers to bring to a tailgate.
Drew Hairston, beverage director at Dirty Habit in Washington, DC
My go-to tailgate beer would be a Corona Extra with a lime. It’s a general crowd-pleaser that even the staunchest cheap beer “snobs” won’t scoff at. Lately, with the introduction of lower-calorie packaged beverages, I have been sneaking in a few Whiteclaws or Naturdays into my cooler as well.
Hilary Chadwick, director of food and beverage at Viviane in Beverly Hills, California
House Beer from Venice, California. It’s exactly the beer I always wanted but never found until I moved to LA. It’s craft enough to have some complexity, but without all the frills.
Brittany Villafane, head sommelier and mixologist at db bistro moderne in New York City
I have a soft spot for an ice-cold Tecate because it’s hard not to stop at just one, usually suits everyone’s taste and reminds me of having a few after a swim in Mexico.
What more could you ask for?
Miller High Life
Lauren Mathews, lead bartender at Urbana in Washington, DC
One of my favorite beers to bring to a tailgate is Miller High Life. It’s a lower ABV beer that you can drink through the tailgate and it won’t knock you down too hard. Also, it’s not too pricey so it’s wallet-friendly to bring a lot to a tailgate.
Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest
Hemant Pathak, head mixologist at Junoon in New York City
Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest, A wonderful Germen-American collaboration while using custom yeast and secret hop blend from Germany’s Bitburger Brewery. Quite interesting juice with a rich, malty flavor and smooth taste. Loving it.
Bearded Iris Homestyle IPA
Daniel Carrillo, bartender at STK Steakhouse in Nashville
I love Bearded Irises Homestyle IPA. Typically, I don’t like something overly hoppy because it has a tendency to rest heavy in the stomach and the bitter finish is overwhelming but the Homestyle IPA from Nashville’s Bearded Iris is a surprisingly light and approachable IPA with enough heft to stand up to all the heavy gameday grub I get into.
Lost Nation Mosaic IPA
Brian Krux, mixologist and bartender at Topnotch Resort in Stowe, Vermont
I bring Lost Nation Mosaic IPA. It is a low ABV IPA that won’t crush you if you have three or more. I have no idea how they packed that much flavor in such a low ABV IPA.
Founders All Day IPA
David Bliszcz, bartender at The Franklin in New Orleans
Founders All Day IPA. It’s simple. This choice is legit all in the name. With an ever-expanding variety of craft beers available and a growing number of connoisseurs (we can call it what it is, ‘beer snobbery’), less and less of us are reaching for those tailgating standards such as Coors Light and Miller High Life. The masses demand more flavor!
But drinkability is important, too. At a tailgate, one is more than likely to drink many beers, so the choice cannot be too heavy in flavor or alcohol content. You’re not going to have a good time. Founders All Day IPA clocks in at a reasonable 4.7% ABV with a delightfully crisp taste of citrus and hops. Did I mention this beer is marketed in a 15 pack as opposed to the standard 12 case?
Mary F Wiley, bartender at Sabroso+Sorbo in Philadelphia
Yards Brawler. It pairs really well with grilled foods and has a lower ABV, which allows you to have many throughout your tailgate but also still make it to the game. That’s a win-win situation.
Five Borough City Light Pilsner
Cameron Shaw, head bartender at The Lookup in New York City
I love to bring the Five Borough City Light pilsner to a tailgate. Coming in at 4.2 percent ABV, it’s light enough to keep you hanging in there until the clock runs out, with a super yummy unfiltered body and a classic Bohemian Pilsner hop profile.
Bell’s Official Hazy IPA
Nikki McCutcheon, beverage director at Magic Hour Rooftop Bar & Lounge in New York City
Bell’s new Official Hazy IPA is an awesome domestic beer that comes in a 16-ounce can. It’s perfect for tailgating. It’s also a nice lighter/fresher IPA that bridges the gap between fall and winter drinking.
Knee Deep Lupulin River
Stephen George, beverage director at 20|Twenty in Carlsbad, California
That’s tough, I’m tempted to say something that would be unpopular (more for me), but I’ll go with one of my favorites instead. I would go with something high octane, like Knee Deep 2IPA “Lupulin River” or Knee Deep Triple IPA “Simtra,” a little more bang for the buck with a higher ABV.
Fewer drinks, resulting in fewer trips to the port-o-potty. A big win in my book.
KCBC Viking Fandango Double Dry Hopped IPA
Lamarr Hawkins, bar manager at Brooklyn Cider House in New York City
The Viking Fandango Double Dry Hopped IPA from KCBC is a perfect beer to share with friends. Smooth while tangy, this is a choice IPA to keep a smile on your face no matter how your team does.
Pabst Blue Ribbon
Kelly McAuliffe, manager at Salazar in Los Angeles
I also bring PBR. It’s not fancy, but it’s classic and a crowd-pleaser. Plus, you get a lot of bang for your buck when hanging with a large group! A tailgate is no occasion to get crafty or put on airs.
Bohemian 1842 Pilsner
Christopher Stephenson, bartender at The Vault in Salt Lake City
The 1842 Czech Style Pilsner form the Bohemian Brewery. It’s light, crisp and has a nice bitter bite on the backside. It’s session-able at 4% ABV and it comes in a can. Cans are always a go-to for tailgates.