Hops Huddle

04:00 August 22, 2014
By: Nora McGunnigle

Refresh Your Tailgate with Local Brews

Nora McGunnigle

 In New Orleans, we bleed black and gold. Or purple and gold, “Vermilion Red & Evangeline White,” or green and gold. Whether you pledge your allegiance to the Tigers, Cajuns, Saints, Lions, or Golden Eagles, I think we can all agree that not much goes better with football than beer. 

The big daddy of college football around these parts is LSU’s Tigers in Baton Rouge. Tin Roof Brewing, which cans its flagship Blonde Ale in LSU’s purple and gold graphics built their brewery on the marriage between football tailgates and local beer. Co-founder William McGehee, an LSU alum, says that the original plan for Tin Roof’s beer was that it would be an official LSU licensed product, though that collaboration is off the table for the time being. Tin Roof has also worked with the university to create a brewing program.

McGehee says that he attends every LSU game, and since the school doesn’t permit corporate-sponsored tailgates, he and the Tin Roof staff “bounce around campus and hand out beers to groups.  We also have several can specials at bars and restaurants around campus.” He adds, “Cans make it very easy to sample on game day. The tailgating culture is very much a part of Tin Roof.  It's not the sole reason for doing cans, but it definitely was considered as an added benefit.”

When asked about the Tin Roof beer he recommends most for tailgating, McGehee says, “Tin Roof Blonde is our most well known tailgating beer, because it's an easy drinking, refreshing beer.  The bulk of football season is still hot, so this pairs well.  Juke Joint and Voodoo Bengal also work well with the craftier fans.” He also says that in his experience, the LSU fans love the Blonde for its light body and easy drinking, “and the purple and gold cans don't hurt.”

“We do big tours for home football game weekends, and are looking forward to having our tap room open for this season. We've seen great sales of all brands the last two football seasons, which speaks volumes to the growth of the craft beer segment in our markets in the last couple of years.“ 

Over in Hattiesburg, Southern Prohibition head brewer (and diehard Southern Mississippi fan) Benjamin Green declares, “Beer is best friends with football season,” and also agrees with McGehee’s assessment of cans: “Cans are meant for tailgating.” As far as Green’s recommendation for a game day beer, he also recommends a blonde, their Suzy B, which he calls “Light, crisp, refreshing!” He adds that fans tend to gravitate toward Suzy B because “It is very hot at the beginning of football season here. Also, you can sip on Suzy all day long.” 

Green says that Suzy “goes well with everything and a tailgate,” but that their Imperial Red Ale, Fire Ant, goes really well with BBQ or other grilled meats. He adds that on game days, “We get out there with the crew as well as our local distributors, Southern Beverage, and knock back a few Suzy Bs.”
“We are in a college town. USM loves SoPro and SoPro loves USM.”

Out in Hammond, Cari Caramonta, co-founder of Gnarly Barley Brewing says that in addition to their support of LSU and the Saints, they also cheer on their hometown team, the Southeastern Louisiana Lions. Since their brewery is in a college town, they have lots of alumni and (of-age) students who support the brewery now that Gnarly Barley’s Catahoula Common and Radical Rye P.A. are on the market. Although they are not yet bottling or canning their beer, Caramonta suggests hitting up local wine and beer store Red White and Brew “to fill a growler of the Catahoula Common for tailgating. You can also purchase a keg there. The Catahoula Common is a great football beer because it is refreshing, crisp and seasonable.” 

She adds, “We do enjoy BBQ or putting something special in the smoker for football games with friends. One of our favorite beer recipes is making pulled pork in the slow cooker with our Catahoula Common.”
Back in New Orleans, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone doing anything else on Sundays during football season than watching the Saints. The NOLA Brewing Tap Room has endeavored to create a welcoming environment for Saints fans to watch the game. Lauren King, Tap Room Manager, says, “we do a dollar off pints of [NOLA] Blondes during Saints games, and we project the playoff games on the warehouse wall with a huge attendance, and have the three TVs inside as well.”

As far as pairing food or cooking with beer, King has a lot of thoughts, remembering Girl Stout Cookie Cupcakes from last season, and says, “I always throw in Hopitoulas in my chili.”  She adds, “I definitely recommend our Blonde Ale, as well as our Hopitoulas, which pairs really well with spicy tailgating foods and tends to be the universal crowd pleasers. When there are cold Saints games, tailgating outside with an Irish Channel Stout is the way to go with the gold and black can.” 

Charles Lebeuf with Crescent City Brewhouse points to the brewpub’s four German-inspired beers (Pilsner, Weiss, Black Forest Schwarzbier and Red Stallion Vienna Lager) as always being great with a football game and recommends the “brewhouse hot wings, ribs, alligator sausage po-boy, shrimp po-boy, cochon de lait po-boy or our crawfish mac & cheese,” as great football watching food. 

You can always catch the game downtown at Gordon Biersch right next to Harrah's. They have multiple televisions for sports and fresh beer brewed on the premises to enjoy. This fall, in addition to their flagship beers — Golden Export, Hefeweizen, Czech Pilsner, Marzen, and Schwarzbier and seasonal Fest Bier — new head brewer Daniel Reynolds is bringing new flavors to the brewpub's beers with its Brewers Select Series, which this fall includes Righteous Ale and the Big Easy Rye. He's also experimenting with various flagships like the Golden Export and the Czech Pilsner by serving them on nitro as well as in an "over-hopped" format.
Tailgate beers should be easy drinking, relatively low ABV, and in cans. Some beers to look out for that would be great to bring to a tailgate, in addition to the ones mentioned above, would be Founders All Day IPA (sixteen bucks for fifteen cans at Rouses), Terrapin Recreation Ale, NOLA Brewing’s Rebirth Pale Ale, Abita Jackamo, New Belgium Fat Tire, and Brooklyn Lager.

As football season turns cooler, keep an eye out for NOLA’s fall seasonal, Smoky Mary smoked beer, Bayou Teche’s Cocodrie Tripel Pale Ale (at 8% ABV, it will warm you from the inside out), and Tin Roof’s Parade Ground Porter.

If you’re bringing a six pack to watch the game at someone’s house, I recommend bottles of Chafunkta’s Kingfish Pale Ale or Covington Brewhouse’s Anonymous IPA. I also have a soft spot for both Terrapin’s Rye Pale Ale and North Coast’s Scrimshaw Pilsner, also only available in bottles. If you’re watching the University of Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns, bring some Bayou Teche Biere Pale or Acadie, cher. And although Parish Brewing doesn’t distribute bottles of their Canebrake and Envie Pale Ale in New Orleans, you can get them up in Baton Rouge and Lafayette — and if you do, could you bring a six pack of the Envie back for me? 

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