Anyone that’s followed us for the last few years knows that we’re a big fan of the almighty growler on the day of the big game. 

Hey - me too!
Why?  Well, there’s a few reasons.  First of all – you’re probably planning on watching the entire game.  This gives you plenty of time to work through 64oz of beer.  Note: this cannot be said about every late season Bills game (c’mon, haven’t we all fallen asleep depressed during that completely irrelevant and inevitable Game 15 clunker and left a partial beer or two laying around?)  Second – you’re likely watching the game with friends or family.  That helps ensure that once you crack that growler, it’s gonna get finished.  Third – the Super Bowl is about football, and beer, and commercials, and wardrobe malfunctions.  But it’s also about food.  Pizza, wings, nachos, chili, spicy dips, warm cheese, roasted meats, grilled insanity peppers.  And with all of this delicious food, what could possibly go better than fresh beer from the tap?  I say – nothing.

Grown deep in the jungle primeval by the inmates of a Guatemalan insane asylum - yum

OK, I’ve convinced you.  But of course, there’s the all too predictable dilemma – which beer do I buy?  How do I impress my friends at the big party?  Nobody wants to be a Johnny Schlitz and bring the beer that no one wants.

Well, have no fear.  Your friends at Big Ditch are here.  You see, we are seasoned growler drinkers on this football festivus.  We have a tried and true template for pairing a good growler selection with the game.  Let’s get right to the rules:

1)      In case you didn’t notice: the Super Bowl is played in America.  Football is the quintessential American sport, so much so that no other country in the world even really attempts it, but that doesn’t prevent us from continuing to worship it for the hard-hitting, aerial-attacking, instant-replaying celebration that it is.  Your beer should be no different.  We know you’ve been itching to break out that bottle of HaandBryggeriet Royk Uden Ild, but on this day, do the right thing and bring a beer made by an American brewery.  Ideally, the beer would also represent an American style as well.  Luckily, this limits your selection to about 10,000 different beers.  But let’s continue.

2)      OK, the Super Bowl is great, la-la-la. But why the frick is it on SUNDAY?  I have not heard a rational explanation for this yet.  OK, so this once-a-year event that everyone in the country watches, gambles on, votes on their favorite commercials for, is disgusted by the halftime show by, is on a Sunday night?  Why in the world does the NFL want our country’s 300 million inhabitants to show up to work on a Monday morning with a mildly annoying headache and in a constant state of gassiness?  (These are rhetorical questions, please do not e-mail responses to this.)  The point is: let’s not overdo it on a Sunday night, ‘kay?  This is not a night to break out your 24% imperial-bourbon-aged-for-a-score-and-seven-years-so-it-doesn’t-singe-your-eyebrows-off beer.  Let’s keep it at 7% MAX – and the lower the better.

3)      Since we’re having the beer with food, let’s consider the food for a moment.  If you’re like me, you look forward to the Super Bowl all week, start eating during the National Anthem – and by the third commercial, you’ve already eaten so much that you’re looking for excuses to leave the room so you can momentarily loosen your belt a notch or two.  So, let’s make sure the beer is a bit on the lighter side in terms of body.  This sort of rules out stouts.  For that matter, let’s rule out the inevitable Christmas beers still lingering around.  It’s the beginning of February – just like the lights outside your house, it’s time to take those beers down.  Besides, I have never felt that nutmeg pairs well with most nacho cheeses.

4)      Now, being that the food tends towards the spicy side of things, this is a natural pairing with hoppy beers.  The hops tend to both distract from the spiciness, yet also enhance it.  So, let’s consider hoppy beers our goal.  However, we don’t want to kill ourselves with palate-numbing bitterness – I actually like tasting all this great food I’ve prepared (or my host/hostess has prepared for me).  So, let’s try to keep the bitterness down a bit, and balance our hoppy beers a bit more towards flavor versus extreme bitterness.

So – where’s that leave us?  Well, it’s pretty clear that some of the styles we might best enjoy are the following:

-       American Pale Ale – probably the best match.  Pretty much checks every box on this list regarding the style of beer we want. 

-       American Amber Ale – I like this style as something that provides a bit more malt backbone to the beer, as a compliment to the food. 

-       IPA – obviously.  But this can lean towards the bitter side of things – so we have to choose our selection wisely.

-     Pilsner – wha?  “How dare you try to make us drink swill on our Super Bowl!” you’re saying to yourself right now, while preparing to alt+tab over to a create a bitstrip expressing your disgust.  But wait!  A well made pilsner is a perfect marriage of soft malt backbone and crisp hop finish.  A pilsner is a fine pairing with Super Bowl Sunday, and it doesn’t even have to be dressed in a helmet (if you don’t want it to).

Please don't confuse these light lagers with pilsners, or professional athletes.  Sigh.
-       “Session” IPA – wait, what is this?  The idea here is that you pack the hops and bitterness from an IPA into a lower alcohol beer.  Some call this a Pale Ale, which is a fair argument.  I tend to think that these beers (if done well) are far too bitter to call them Pale Ales, but the lower alcohol doesn’t exactly make them standard IPAs either.  We’ll include them in the mix for now as their own style.

I looked through all the selections available at local growler filling locations, including Consumers, Premier, Village Beer Merchant, and Aurora Brew Works.  These businesses alone account for ~125 different beers, and this is ignoring growler fill ups you can get from local breweries like Flying Bison, Community Beer Works, Pearl Street, and Hamburg Brewing.  But, having whittled down this list, I came up with the following possibilities:

CBW Frank (Pale Ale, 4.6%) – a nice, even malt base showcasing pine, earth, and citrusy hops.  Easy to drink, complex enough to sip and enjoy.

Southern Tier Live (Pale Ale, 5.5%) – a comparatively lighter malt base, but slightly creamier and much more citrusy.  This beer tastes incredibly “orange” to me.  Would go great with a variety of cheeses.

Founders Red’s Rye (Amber Ale, 6.6%) – this beer is a great mix of caramelly-malt character, grapefruity hops, with complementing spice and body from the rye. 

Dogfish Head 60 minute (IPA, 6.0%) – a nice choice due to its relatively low ABV, and therefore, drinkability. This beer features American hops, but its balance always reminded me a bit more of an English IPA. 

Ballast Point Sculpin (IPA, 7.0%) – this beer is about as bitter as I’d want to go for the game.  But it does feature the fantastic aroma and flavor of grapefruit, lemon, maybe some slight peach, and pine.  This flavor offsets the bitterness enough to make it manageable. 

Bell’s Two Hearted Ale (IPA, 7.0%) – in contrast to Sculpin, this is a relatively well balanced IPA.  It features a slightly bready malt base and distinctive citrus hop flavor, with firm but not overwhelming bitterness.

Otter Creek Kind Rye’d (IPA, 6.5%) – a relative newcomer compared to the others on this list, this beer is also fairly light on body but has a silky mouthfeel from the rye, and a great pine and citrusy hop burst in the aroma with a fairly bitter finish.

Sly Fox Pikeland Pils (Pilsner, 4.9%) – and here’s our pilsner.  Flowery, spicy, a bit grassy, bready malts.  Easy to drink, easy to appreciate.  The most subtle of all the beers here.  Your crazy uncle (the one who still wears his zubaz every Sunday - embrace the awesomeness) would love this one though. 

Victory Hop Ticket (“session” IPA, 4.5%) – I have nothing to say about this beer – because I haven’t had it yet.  But it’s my choice for Sunday.  I don’t mind experimenting and trying something new.  I’m guessing it will be good – Victory, in general, knows how to use their hops (see PrimaPils).

We hope these rules have served you well.  Of course, don't forget the most important rule of all: forget all the rules and just drink the beer you want.

Let us know how it went on Monday morning (ugh).  Cheers!

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