Let's Get Crafty, Wining & Dining

Tailgating Season Is Here!!

By Timothy Long

I love fall. It is by far my favorite time of year. Oktoberfest begins in September and brings us many wonderful new festbiers to enjoy. Blue Crab season runs well into October. The torturous humidity of the DC area dissipates. It’s a time for blue jeans, sweatshirts, and sweaters. But the best part of fall is the way it kicks off, pun intended. In the last weeks of August, College Football returns and tailgating season begins!

The great thing about every subject mentioned in the previous paragraph is that you can enjoy them all together. You can easily put on your college sweatshirt and blue jeans, go to any crab house, and drink festbier while watching your game and devouring crabs. My wife and I will do this a couple of times this season. However, as much as I love them, blue crabs are not the best tailgate food. They are messy. They draw tons of flies.  And the set-up takes way too much room.  So, we’ll deal with crabs another time.

The tailgate is a huge American tradition. And it is not just about drinking before a football game. These types of celebrations occur in the fall, and have for centuries, when growing season ends and the crops have been harvested. The football tailgate is merely an extension of those celebrations. University of Notre Dame cultural anthropologist John Sherry states that:

The idea of getting out of your house and feasting and drinking somewhere else is a pretty old tradition. People eat and drink and build up community in the process. It’s one last blowout before we hunker down for winter.

It is believed that fans partied before the first college football game between Rutgers University and Princeton University in 1869. And legend has it that Green Bay Packers fans coined the phrase “tailgating” back in the early 1900s. Statistics show that 35% of people who tailgate do not even attend the game. I have been part of that 35%.  Sometimes you just get too wrapped up in the fun.

One of the great things about our area is that there are so many universities within a short driving distance. And many of them are perfect for tailgating. Beer is the most popular tailgating drink by far. But what beers should you have? First, make sure you have a varied selection both in brand and style. Just like the tap handles at a bar, you should have a diverse selection. Second, remember to always check the ABV of the beers you purchase. People tend to assume that all beers have the same ABV, about 5%. So be careful.

My suggestion, of course, is to go all craft. Trust me, some dweeb will show up at your tailgate with Bud, Bud Light, or Miller High Life and then drink your good beer. It’s inevitable. It’s the Murphy’s Law of Tailgating.

Tim’s Tailgating Beer Menu Suggestions:

Your styles of beer should also vary as fall progresses. You’ll need a different mix each month as the temperature declines.

This is not a list of specific beers. It is a suggested way to properly offer a good variety each month.

September: 50% Pilsners or Light Lagers, 25% American or West Coast Pale Ales, 25% Indian Pale Ales. As it starts to cool down through September, adding some heavier beers will work. But you still want to have mostly lighter beers. Remember, tailgates are marathons, not sprints. Lighter beers with lower ABVs are essential. Oh, and be sure to mix in some Oktoberfest beers as part of your lagers. Prost!!

October and November: 25% Pilsners and Light Lagers, 25% American or West Coast Pale Ales, 50% IPAs, Porters, Stouts, or Browns. It’s colder out, and a heavier beer can really hit the spot. Now you can really have fun planning your tailgate beer menu. Winter is coming, and a good stout is always a great cold weather choice.

Tim’s Tailgate Food Menu Suggestions:

Everyone knows the usual suspects: hamburgers, hotdogs, wings, and chips and dip. But why not mix it up and give it some flare? Try a couple of these.

  1. Bratwurst. Nothing says fall like Bratwurst. These fantastic sausages are not expensive, are easy to grill, and go great with beer. You’ll need a bun a little heartier than a hotdog bun, and some good mustard. Dijon is great, but German mustards are the way to go. That’s it. Brats are different and fun.
  2. Beer-based Chili. You can find a hundred recipes on the internet. I prefer beef, but the protein can be whatever you like. Make it the night before, heat it up before heading out, then keep it hot on your grill or a hot plate. The accoutrements are easy: sour cream, shredded cheese, and chopped onion. A few plastic bowls and spoons and you are all set to go.
  3. Beer Can Chicken. You’ll need to buy a special stand online to stand it up on the grill, and they’re cheap. Take a whole chicken, season it however you like, then shove your favorite can of beer up its butt and stick it on the grill. Start it early so it has time to cook. Beer Can Chicken always comes out juicy and moist. It’s always a huge tailgate hit.
  4. Beer Cheese Dip with Soft Pretzels. Again, there are a ton of cheese dip recipes online, all of which are easy to make. The key is soft pretzels. That’s what makes it unique. You can also offer a couple of good mustards to really spice things up.

Beer Chili Recipehttps://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/244558/beef-bean-and-beer-chili/

Beer Brats Recipe: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/149975/beer-brats/

Beer Cheese Dip Recipe: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/220556/guinness-beer-cheese-dip/

Beer Can Chicken Recipe: https://gimmesomegrilling.com/beer-can-chicken-on-grill/

As I stated earlier, we have an array of universities either in the immediate area or within a short drive: Maryland, Virginia Tech, UVA, Navy, Howard, or, if you dare, WVU. Take a weekend, go tailgate, and enjoy the game. It does not even need to be at your school. That’s the great part. Tailgating at any school is fun! It’ll take some planning, but the planning is worth it. Get out and enjoy this great American tradition.

Tim’s Whiskey and Cigar Recommendations

Bulleit Rye Whiskey

As August becomes September, this whiskey is perfect. You get cherry and vanilla on the nose, with a hint of leather. It starts off a little spicy on the palate. But then it cools off with smooth citrus and peach flavors. The finish is peppery and spicy with hints of cinnamon and mint. It’s aged four to five years and is 90 proof. At around $38 per bottle, it is well worth the price.

Monte Cristo Platinum Series Toro

Monte Cristo is one of my go-to brands. Their cigars are always easy to light and have an excellent draw. This Platinum Series Toro does not disappoint and is a medium-bodied delight.  It starts off with earth and hickory flavors. After a few puffs, hints of citrus and sweet fruit come through. It finishes light with mostly hickory. It’s a great hanging out at a tailgate cigar.

This cigar, and many other fine cigars, are available at John Crouch Tobacconist at 215 King St. in Old Town Alexandria. Mention this article and get 10% off the purchase of this month’s recommended cigar.

About the Author: Timothy Long is an educator, writer, consultant, and experienced restaurant operator. Email: tlong@belmarinnovations.com. Instagram and Twitter: @wvutimmy. Blog: What is that fly doing in my soup? http://whatflyinmysoup.com

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