My FIRST fall beer shopping trip.

My FIRST fall beer shopping trip.

Whether it’s the sound of crashing helmets, spectacular catches in the end zone, or the glorious flavor combination of a corn dog loaded down with mustard, football is back and our life is wonderful again.  As much as we all enjoy what happens on the field, even fans of a bad team can enjoy the best part of football off the field, tailgating.

When it comes to tailgating, your beer of choice can say more about you than the name of the team on your jersey.  With craft beer exploding across the states, the variety is almost endless and it can be overwhelming to figure out the right brew for you.  We’re going to help guide you through what craft beer to take to your tailgating party to ensure that you don’t get a penalty.

craft beer

The craft beer wall in my local convenience store. There are so many options!

1. Pumpkin beer is GREAT beer.

Pumpkin beers are one of my favorite styles of beer and it tastes like it sounds.  I like my pumpkin beer to taste like I’m drinking pumpkin pie.  Blackstone Pumpkin Ale out of Nashville, TN is the best pumpkin beer I’ve ever tasted.  I picked up three cases of it when it arrived at the Cash Saver in Memphis.  I hounded the beer manager about it on Twitter, but I believe he forgave me once he saw how much I purchased.  These beers are enjoyed by men and women alike for their wonderful flavors and lustful aromas.  Pumpkin beer like any other style can also differ by brewery.  Fat Tire’s Pumpkick has only a small hint of pumpkin in it, whereas UFO’s Pumpkin leaves you with no doubt you just drank dessert.  Pumpkin beers are perfect for fall weather tailgating or for sitting around a fire at night.

pumpkin craft beer

A small selection of pumpkin beers I purchased so far this year.

2. Oktoberfest?  More like ROCKTOBERFEST if you ask me.

Oktoberfest is a 16 day festival celebrating beer in Munich, Bavaria, Germany.  In the U.S, Oktoberfest has become a very popular style for brewers to produce.  Most are traditional with a malty aroma, amber-red color and a smooth taste.  These beers usually have some hops but are not overwhelming, and have a malty sweet flavor.  Ayinger, Paulaner, Samuel Adam’s, Shiner and Spaten all make fantastic Oktoberfest beers. Magic Hat has an Oktoberfest called Ourtoberfest, whose name made me laugh like crazy when I first read it and whose flavor keeps me looking for it every year.  If you’re a fan of amber beer, this is a style for you.

3. With greater alcohol content comes greater responsibility. 

When you dive into the craft beer world, it’s easy to not pay attention to the alcohol content on the side of the bottle.  In Tennessee, you have to purchase the high gravity beer (6% or higher alcohol content) at a liquor store but in Mississippi I picked up an 8% Schlafly Pumpkin at the grocery store and was four beers down before I realized I was drinking a high power beer.  When tailgating you’re interacting with people and at some point, you’re going to be driving.  If you’re going to drink a high alcohol drink, make sure to only take a small amount of it with you and be prepared to quit drinking once you have consumed the beer that you brought to enjoy.  Remember, craft beer is wonderful because of the flavor but you have to respect it’s power.  There are wonderful high gravity beers available this season, like Victory’s V-12 with it’s explosive flavor, but with 12% alcohol content.  I always make sure I have designated driver when I open that bottle.  Old Chub’s Scottish Ale is also a fantastic tailgate beer at 8% with a wonderful flavor perfect for fall.

V 12 Craft Beer, V12 craft beer

Victory V-12. Delicious and POWERFUL.

4. Light colored beer is the enemy.

In the world of craft beer with it’s many complex flavors, I see no reason to drink light colored beer.  If you’re going to be downing two bratwursts and some seven layer dip before walking into the stadium, why in the world would you subject yourself to drinking yellow water whose flavor cannot compete with your food?  Now, I have found some pilsners and IPAs to be very good, but whenever I’m outside, I just feel wrong drinking it.  But hey, every beer drinker is different so if you’re going to go down that road, forgive my smack talk and go with a Shiner Wild Hare IPA or a Naked Pig Pale Ale from the Back Forty Brewing Company out of Gasden, Alabama.

5. The colder the weather, the darker the beer.

As the winter cold sets in, your tailgate beers are going to get darker as the winter seasonals arrive to your store shelves.  Porters and stouts will reign down on you and you’ll be thankful for their thicker and richer approach to beer.  You’ll drink a little less beer, but you’ll also make less trips to the facilities which as the weather gets colder, is a very good thing.  Christmas beers will also be very popular around this time and with good reason, they are delicious.  And anyone who reads my columns knows there’s only one Christmas beer for me.  SHINER CHEER.

The Spoetzl Brewery's head brewer is my personal Santa.

The Spoetzl Brewery’s head brewer is my personal Santa.

In the end, craft beer is about the enjoyment of flavor that the brewer’s passion and knowledge has brought forth.  Make sure your cooler has your name on it at the tailgate, so that your awesome beer doesn’t get mistaken for whatever junk beer made its way to the party.  And also, be responsible and don’t drink and drive.  If you follow these rules your tailgate season is going to be a blast.

If you have any beer questions or suggestions, feel free to write me at