The 2014 NFL season will kick off tonight in spectacular fashion, as the defending champion, defensive-minded Seattle Seahawks host the explosive, Aaron Rodgers-led Green Bay Packers in a rematch of the notorious Fail Mary game just two years ago (remember the replacement refs?) Since your attention will undoubtedly be focused on game action over the first few weeks — at least until your team starts 0-3 — we've taken the liberty of putting together a cheat sheet to help with off-field (read: couch) drinking. We've assembled a list of 10 of our favorite craft beers to wash down buffalo wings on Sundays, keeping in mind that you'll likely be drinking for a large portion of the day. Here is a mix of light and dark, IPA and fruit-forward beers to look out for on your rediscovered favorite day of the week.
1. Bell’s Brewery: Oberon Ale
This has been a huge year for this Kalamazoo classic, which finally showed up on both coasts in New York and California and got sleek new packaging in canned form. No matter how you drink it, this wheat ale with just a touch of spicy Saaz hops is just so refreshing. Orange slices are a local tradition, so you don’t have to feel self-conscious about putting a fruity touch on your beer. Go for it.
2. Lagunitas Brewing Company: NightTime
When it comes to hoppy brews, Lagunitas never disappoints. Sure, they make a killer session IPA — Daytime — but look to NightTime for a sleeker, darker, more tropical hop bomb. There’s an interesting roast quality, plus a hint of brown sugar. You can call it an American black ale all you want, but expect a huge, juicy double IPA that backs up Northern California's reputation.
3. Golden Road Brewing: Hefeweizen
There’s nothing like a nice tallboy (16-ounce can) of Golden Road’s hefe on a hot day – it’s even better for watching an late summer football game! It sports delicious banana and citrus flavors, and at 4.6% you can put back a few without worrying about an ice-cracking hangover the next day.
4. SingleCut Beersmiths: Jan Olympic White Lagrrr
While everyone loves to geek out over extreme beers, sometimes you just need a beer you can hang with. Since your NFL party is probably going to last all day, how about something light, crisp and freshing? SingleCut Beersmiths from Astoria, Queens makes a great wheat lager that goes down easy at 5.2% ABV and is a perfect pairing with spicy game day wings.
5. Great Lakes Brewing Company: Eliot Ness
A Vienna lager is a great lighter alternative that doesn’t skimp on the flavor. Eliot Ness by Ohio’s Grate Lakes Brewing in particular is a standout for its sweetness as well as its bready, toasty malts, which pair great with all manners of salty pork. While it has a decent hop presence, it’s well-balanced and won’t overwhelm.
6. Oskar Blues Brewery: Dale’s Pale Ale
The football-watching bro may have been weaned on Bud, Miller and Coors (BMC) but there are plenty of great crossover beers just waiting for them. Oskar Blues out of Colorado has made the transition easy with Dale’s Pale Ale – and it even comes in a can with artwork of the Rocky Mountains! While this may make it resemble another popular local brew, these mountains won’t turn blue when the beer is ready to drink, so don’t waste your time waiting. If it’s cold, this fantastic American Pale Ale is good to go. It’s got a dynamic hop flavor and is balanced expertly with malt sweetness. It’s also got a much more manly kick of 6.5% ABV, so don’t try to play pong with this….or go right ahead and Instagram us the results.
7. The Bruery: Sour in the Rye
Well-known for their mastery of rye and sour beers, The Bruery’s Sour in the Rye, a rye ale aged in oak barrels, stands out as a masterful combination of the two unique styles. It’s quite sour, with hints of cherries and citrus but it’s also spicy and extremely well-balanced. Though it’s pricy and only available in 750ml bottles, it’s a treat for fans of either style and a great one to share with friends.
8. Prairie Artisan Ales: Prairie Hop
If you want something a little spicy with a substantial, but not overpowering hop presence, Prairie Artisan Ales' Prairie Hop is the brew for you. Layered tropical fruit flavors give way to floral, grassy notes with a peppercorn spiciness, which goes perfectly with lighter grilled fare like chicken and fish. If you're wondering why Prairie Artisan Ales garners so much hype among beer enthusiasts, try this one out — we think you'll agree it’s one of the best American-made saisons.
9. Founders Brewing Company: All Day IPA
We singled out this sessionable IPA from Grand Rapids favorites for our Spring beers list. They've already increased distribution of All Day IPA bottles, but it’s worth repeating now that All Day comes in cans, too! You’d be hard-pressed to find an IPA that drinks easier than this — which at 4.7% you could really drink all day and probably all night, too. The taste is bitter but doesn’t overwhelm — hints of pine, citrus and spice make for one of the most enjoyable drinking experience you’ll have this late summer.
10. Evil Twin Brewing Bikini Beer
Likely the lightest beer you’ll drink all summer at just 2.7%, this is the perfect IPA for the beach, with a ton of tropical citrus fruit hoppiness. Evil Twin, a gypsy brewer that formerly brewed these beers overseas, is now brewing Bikini Beer (and Hipster Ale) at Connecticut's Two Roads Brewing, which means it will be more affordable with a wider distribution than ever before.
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