Right now is one of my favorite times of year, not because I like raking leaves or carving pumpkins, not because the fall seasonal beers are out, no, it’s football season! I am a University of Maine Black Bears season ticket holder; of course season tickets are only half as fun if you don’t have a tailgate pass to go along with them. So if it’s game day I’m over on campus with my grill fired up, beer in hand, enjoying my favorite time of year.
While I’m standing at the grill I always take notice of what other tailgaters are drinking, the usual suspects are always on hand, Bud, Miller, Coors, and PBR. I often wonder if this is drinker preference or habit or if people even realize how many craft beers are available in cans these days. I used to fill my cooler with those same cans, it was just easier than bringing bottled beer and a cup, glass is not permitted in some tailgate areas, but in the past few years the availability of craft beer in cans has jumped. The increase in canned craft beer has improved the whole tailgate experience for me, I love that I can go to a local beer store and pick up the latest and greatest bottle released and grab a 12 pack of cans for Saturdays game.
You won’t only find craft beer in my coozie and cooler at the tailgate; I’m often cooking with the same beer I’m drinking. I like to add stouts to beef stew and malty autumn beers to my chili. Ever tried making pizza on the grill? It’s excellent and Portland Pie Co sells a beer dough made with Shipyard Export ale that is worth picking up. I’ve even been known to marinate steaks and kabobs in beer. There are also a variety of condiments and dipping sauces out there that incorporate beer, Stone Brewing Co makes a barbeque sauce I’ve heard is fantastic and I like the beer mustards for pretzels.
Probably my favorite food to serve while tailgating is beer brats. I pick up one of those aluminum foil bread pans at the supermarket, slice up a sweet onion and a green pepper into long strips and throw them in the foil pan. I then pick a malty beer; you don’t want a lot of hops in this one. My recommendation, because it’s easy to find in cans is Shipyard Export ale, but most brown or amber ales would work. I pop the beer open and pour it in the foil pan with the onions and peppers. Set the pan on grill and crank it up, you want the beer to boil. After the beer starts boiling you can back the heat down just a touch but don’t lose your boil, set a couple bratwursts into the pan of boiling beer, you’ll want to let these boil for a bit and plump up, I usually turn them a couple times. When the brats are done, use a pair of tongs and remove them from the beer, set them on the grill top for a just 30-45 seconds, turn them once to get a sear on the both sides. To serve I like to have a large soft bun, not just a hotdog bun, a 6” sub roll or something similar. Set the brat in the bun, use your tongs or fork to pull out some of the now soft and beer soaked onions and green peppers; I usually serve them with yellow or spicy mustard.
If you are ever wandering through the tailgate area before a game and see me stop by and see what’s in the cooler, it might just surprise you. With names like Baxter, Brooklyn, Shipyard, Cisco, Sierra Nevada, The Alchemist and more available in cans the chances of finding a Bud in my cooler are pretty slim.