A Pint of NFL: How Tailgating is Like a Beer Sampler Pack

For all football fans who have been patiently, or maybe not-so-patiently, waiting for the 2012 NFL season to kick-off, the time has finally arrived and all that is wrong in the world is now right, if even for just a few hours on a Sunday afternoon.  However you chose to celebrate the return of  your Sundays, I’m sure you added your own twist and unique flavour, making it essentially “yours”.  For many fans, tailgating is what makes your experience particularly exciting.

Really, is there anything better than arriving at a stadium hours before kick-off, with a cold brew or two in hand and some form of meat grilling on the barbecue, discussing the upcoming season?  Thought not.  But as you know, not all tailgates are created equal.  It takes many seasons of honing your craft before you have arrived.  The best advice I can give is to keep your eyes open, befriend your more experienced neighbours, and listen to the professionals. But we can take that one step further.  Lucky enough for you, I have the ultimate solution for the rookie tailgater, as well as the well-seasoned professional.  Stay with me…

Every tailgate I have been to is very unique.  Each city, and each team has its own flavour, own traditions, and overall atmosphere.  As I sit in my basement enjoying the Bills vs Jets game, I purposely opted for a “Sampler Pack” from a nice  Canadian brewery, Rickards, as a way to celebrate the many flavours of NFL tailgating.  The pack has four very different brews – a red, white, blonde and dark.

First up for me is the Blonde.  Having tried it before, I know it to have a mild taste, in a way like a rookie tailgater who tends to forgets to pack things like seasoning.  God love ’em.  My blonde, beer that is, is so refreshing.  While not a microbrew in any sense of the word (brewed by behemoth, Molson’s), for me this one carries that ‘micro’ taste.  Perfect for summer time, and standing well on its own, this blonde is quite tame when compared with the very bold tastes of the other three patiently waiting for me in my fridge, but more on them in due time.

My wife’s delicious pulled pork has been slowly cooking, and will be ready just in time for the 4:30 Packers-49ers game, but that kind of dinner is not suited for this rather shy blonde, as it would be completely overpowered.  I  think I’ll plan my last beer, the dark, to accompany dinner.  Nonetheless, as a newcomer to Rickards I am thoroughly enjoying this Blonde, and in a sense I wish that I had just opted for a few more of these instead of the sampler…rookie mistake, perhaps.

Speaking of rookies, according to Jeff “Doc” Dockeray (aka the “Gridiron Chef”), owner and host of TailgateRadio.com, the biggest rookie tailgating mistake he has seen over and over again in his extensive tailgating experience is not coming to the parking lot prepared.  It’s not good enough to leave it until game day to start thinking about menu, beverages, cooking methods and so on.

As I mentioned before, there is a solution for all tailgaters no matter how long you’ve been at it – TailgateRadio.com.  This new radio program is ready to bring tailgating discussion to another level, with its upcoming show, “Beyond the Field”, set to air very soon on Live365.  Get inside tips and tricks from the good people who have been doing it for most of their lives.

My Rickards Blonde was particularly refreshing, but would its red cousin be as delicious?  I cracked it open, took a swig, and was greeted by a very heavy red.  I’m not a big fan of reds, and truthfully I wasn’t too excited about this one compared with the others in the pack.  Rickards Red is the brand’s flagship beer, the one that put Rickards on the map.  Interestingly, as expected, it is also my least favourite early in the game.  The very sweet taste is just too much.  I liken it to caramel and various other candies, and I’m more of a “salt” guy anyway.  While I appreciate the many flavours, I just don’t like how they meld together.  It’s almost like an icewine with brandy in that it is a dessert-only beer for me, and even then it’s too sweet. Better polish this one off right-quick.

Having done my research on the Tailgate Radio show and its host/owner, I can assure you the guests will be top-notch.  With many high-profile guests already set up for the site’s initial launch, I assure you TailgateRadio.com has the steam to succeed. I’m not going to get into the owner’s tailgating credentials (you can find them here), let me just say this is who you want to learn from.  Having many contacts from around the NFL (players, management, and hangers-on), it is sure to be entertaining.  But what I’m interested in is twofold: the tips and tricks I will pick up to strengthen my own tailgate, as well as the discussion in between Sundays.  I wonder if I can coax some beer discussion?  Never know.

The Rickards White was the beer I was most looking forward to.  While not being a “beer and citrus” kinda guy, this one works very well.   I decided to hit it in two ways – a tiny dash of lemon (I mean really tiny), and a piece of orange peel. I swirled it around a bit, and man, was it refreshing.  The citrus and coriander just screams “summer afternoon”, and I can see myself at Ralph Wilson Stadium with tens of thousands of my best friends as we discuss the Bills D, whether Fitz is our guy or not, and how to get Stevie Johnson into the game.  It brought me right to the parking lot on a summer afternoon.  Next Sunday can’t come soon enough.

The sweet smell of pulled pork coming from the crock pot sitting on my counter upstairs forced me to drink my White way too quickly.  I wish I’d taken my time, but I was helpless.  I blame the bbq sauce perforating all the way to my man cave.  But just as I was about to commit the cardinal sin by opening my final beer with no reserves before the late afternoon games, my patience was rewarded by my wife who so kindly told me that “Dinner’s ready!”.  Bless her.

And now to the main course – pulled pork with my wife’s BBQ sauce, on toasty fresh kaisers with mashed and carrots.  Fantastic.   I also did well by holding on to Rickards Dark, which served as co-headliner at this meal.  After pouring it into my signature beer glass reserved for special occasions, leaving about a finger of head, I almost immediately smelled the maple that this beer is known for.  I’ve tried this beer before, quite a while ago mind you, and this time I managed to find a trace of chocolate on the mid to late finish.  Really, it was the perfect choice to complement what turned out to be a stellar pulled pork.  While the beer would be even better in early fall on a crisp day, I’ll settle for late summer on a rather warm evening.  Beggars can’t be choosers.  I do have just two minor complaints, which are admittedly a little snobby.  First, that finger of head was gone after about two short minutes.  For those that don’t know, that’s pretty quick, and usually not ideal.  Secondly, it wasn’t quite as dark as I would have hoped.  Not that I really care about the colour, but a dark really should be getting close to black, not stopping short at barely chestnut.

My sampler pack was a lot like tailgating.  I enjoyed four very different beers, each with its own unique character.  I have had the good fortune of having done a lot of tailgating over the years at various venues, and across several leagues.  There are such differences between the atmospheres from city to city, team to team, some of which are subtle nuances, while others are as clear as night and day.  If anything, it’s refreshing to change things periodically by trying a new beer or a new tailgating venue.  Sometimes it works out very well (Rickards White), while other times not so much (Rickards Red).

We at LWOS wish all the best to the Gridiron Chef on his foray into Internet radio.  We will all be tuning in for what is sure to be educational and highly entertaining.  We are also excited that the Gridiron Chef is joining us all season long by contributing a weekly column, “Q&A With the Gridiron Chef”.

If you enjoyed this edition, feel free to visit my column, “A Pint of NFL” and see how other beers are compared to the likes of Terrell Owens, Jerry Jones and other NFL players.  You can also find me on Twitter – @APintOfNFL.


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