Photo by Megan Leigh Barnard

Beer School

Tailgating is high art in these parts. With two NFL teams in the state, and three teams a manageable drive away, Columbus is at the epicenter of all things football. A little-known fact about this city: there’s a pretty decent college team playing most of its games here on Saturdays as well. They draw a fairly large crowd and, on occasion, you’ll see people tailgating.

Though public consumption of alcohol is frowned upon, beer is an important part of the tailgate experience, which has now been elevated to a gourmet experience. If you come, you’d best come correct. Keep those clearance-cooler wieners in your freezer and bring some killer grub, or you’ll offend the tailgate gods. (Why do you think the Bucks lost to Sparty last year? It was you, and your weak-ass Velveeta dip.)

In line with that, you might want to rethink your beverage choices. This isn’t the place for coffee-infused triple IPAs that should be sipped from a snifter – but there are some craft beers that can compliment the most creative parking lot cuisine, while retaining the drinkability required whilst lubing up for the game:

  1. First up is a hometown hero. Elevator’s Bleeding Buckeye Red is precisely what it claims to be. Nothing fancy here, just a mellow balance of malt and hops wrapped up in a gorgeous auburn body. The ABV is in that “sessionable” range so you’re not going to find yourself stumbling around after a pint. You can find this in cans, bottles, and growlers.  This beer goes well with almost anything. (Unless you’re from Michigan, in which case you might consider something served from a urinal.) 
  2. Keeping with the sessionable theme, Four String’s flagship APA delivers a healthy dose of hops without the knee-knocking ABV. Brass Knuckle is a beer just about everybody can enjoy. You can rock the local product without alienating friends who haven’t been assimilated into the craft beer scene, plus Brass Knuckle evokes football the way it was played back in the leather helmet days, when guys would tape lead pipes to their forearms, and go upside each others’ heads. 
  3. The half-dozen true Bengals fans in Columbus can fly the Cincy flag with Rivertown Brewing Company’s Hop Bomber, a rye pale ale that comes in under 6 percent ABV. In all honesty, Hop Bomber isn’t nearly as robust as the name would lead you to believe, so it’s not going to offend the masses. The rye lends this beer a spicy bitterness that will match that of diehard Bungles fans when Andy Dalton throws that pick-six to end a playoff run.
  4. Cleveland fans are loyal to a fault and that’s why a Browns fans should stick with Great Lakes. Yes, there are some great beers coming from other brewers in the Cleveland area, but nothing pairs with the dark despair all Browns fans feel quite like Edmund Fitzgerald porter. When you realize all hope is lost (three weeks into the season) you can take solace in drinking what is easily the best porter on the market.
  5. Politics aside, Stone opening a brewery in Columbus would benefit everybody, including our local brewers who would have an opportunity to collaborate with Stone and gain some national exposure. Columbus would be good for Stone because we love craft beer, and we’re just an awesome fricking city. So, when you’re rounding out your tailgate cooler, include a six-pack of your favorite Stone beer, and tell North Carolina to go suck it like a Michigan fan.