Football Food: Tailgating on Tap

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

The OFD brewmasters offer their sage advice on what should be in your tailgate cooler this month.

As we enter Week 3 of the 2013 college football season, much virtual ink has been spilled here on OFD over the highly contentious issue of how a Notre Dame fan is to fill his or her belly on gameday. How much guacamole should one make? Is it possible to actually make California Burritos without eating the ingredients in the process? And how much Miracle Whip is too much? (Answer: null set.)

But as these verbal wars rage on, there is one question that has been left unanswered: What beverage will you use to wash down all this delicious, mouth-watering food? That, my friends, will be answered by OFD's resident brewmasters. This week will focus specifically on choices for the hot-weather tailgating season. We'll give a couple suggestions of our own, and we suspect that all of you in the commentariat will have a few ideas as well...so feel free to chime in!

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FirstDownMoses' Pick: Samuel Adams Rustic Saison

What is this stuff? As anyone who has ever worked in the fields can attest, farming is thirsty work. And if you were a farmhand in medieval Wallonia (French-speaking Belgium), then you would know this better than anyone. With fresh water not always available under the beating hot sun, what was a man to do to quench his thirst?

In this case (as with most good solutions), the answer was to create a refreshing summer beverage. Named after the seasonal farmhands ("les saisonniers"), saison was introduced as a golden-colored light-bodied brew with a pilsner base-grain; it also possessed a relatively low ABV% (3%-5%) so that workers could drink pints of it all day without being stricken by a dangerous combination of sun, over-exertion, and too much alcohol [not that we've ever over-exerted ourselves in anything around here]. As it was invented before the days of refrigeration, saison was preserved by an above-average amount of hops and a uniquely intense array of fruity citrus flavors and spices, usually of a variety unique to that particular region.

Why should I drink it? Well, this being South Bend, the weather has been known to be scorching hot all the way into mid-autumn. Thus, if you want to tailgate for hours in the hot sun, it would be wise to choose a brew that is delicious, very drinkable, and won't make you want to take a nap after 3 sips. Furthermore, this beer is certainly not of the more expensive variety; this means there's only a one-dollar difference between enjoying a saison-filled day of refreshment and mirth versus spending the afternoon staring at an empty 12-pack of Keystone Light in your trunk and regretting your life choices.

How can I make it? If you've got the mettle AND the wherewithal to attempt home-brewing, then one all-grain version I've made (we'll call it the "Sorin Saison") needs Belgian Pilsner base-grain (American 2-row also works); Hallertauer hops [4.00%]; Saaz hops [5.70%]; coriander seed, orange peels, and galangal (for spices); cane sugar; and Wyeast #3944 "Belgian Witbier" active yeast. To avoid derailing this post with a 10-page explanation of the process, just let me know in the comments if you'd like the complete recipe!

What kind should I buy? You mean you don't have time to brew your own? Well, in that case, your best bet is the Samuel Adams Rustic Saison; brewed with a touch of honey and sporting a 4.3% ABV, it's currently being sold in seasonal six-packs at a great price. [NB: Don't panic if SA's website says it's not in stock, it says that for all of its seasonals.] It checks off all the right boxes on the "Super-Refreshing on a Scorching Hot Gameday" checklist, so it will be a worthy addition to your hot-weather tailgating lineup!

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Paul Rigney's Pick: Southern Tier Pumking

What is this stuff? Pumking is the granddaddy of Pumpkin beers. A seasonal imperial from the Southern Tier Brewing Company, Pumking perfectly combines the mouthfeel and flavor of a pumpkin pie with the complexity of brewing a spice beer. Spice beers in of itself are a tough beverage to wrap your head around. You want to taste the spices without overpowering the rest of the beer. In the same way that too much salt or pepper can ruin a meal, too much or too little spice can ruin a beer. It is a gauntlet that, when run well, produces an amazing beer.

Why should I drink it? Because football goes from late summer into cold winter, you want a beer that gives you a taste of fall without overpowering your palate in the process. Fall beers fit the bill perfectly, none moreso than the genre of pumpkin beers. While pumpkin itself only gives a brew a vegetal flavor, the spices bring it home. As a homebrewer who enjoys a complex flavor profile in his beers, I can't recommend Pumking enough. Refreshing, dynamic, crisp and flavorful, this beer leaves you wanting more.

How can I make it? I've made a 5-gallon pumpkin batch myself and it is currently languishing in my cellar. What I did was I took about 8 pounds of Libby's canned pumpkin and partial mashed it at 170 degrees for an hour with a pound of 2-row, a half pound each of 60L Caramel Malt and Wheat Malt. Once that hour was done, I brought it to a boil and added Mount Hood hops for the 60 minute boil along with Pilssen DME. At the end of the boil, I added Cascade hops for aroma. As for spices, I made my own! My pumpkin pie spices include cinnamon, ginger, allspice, clove, mace and nutmeg. I also added molasses, vanilla extract and dark brown sugar. After a 14-day primary and a 14-day secondary, I bottled by adding more spice and a SECRET INGREDIENT. You ready for what that is? It is THIS!

What kind should I buy? Brewing pumpkin beers is a tough process! I've brewed ales and porters, partial mash and extract kits all the same and pumpkin beers are by far the most difficult beer that I've brewed. Its a science and a lesson in restraint. You don't want to over-do the spice and ruin the batch. At the same time, you want the taste and mouthfeel of a pumpkin pie!

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Excited? Outraged? Eager to offer your own suggestion? See you in the comments!

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