So you’re hosting a party in honour of The Big Game.
You could certainly do this university-style and provide some bags of chips and convenience-store dip, and let everyone chip in on delivery pizza and bring their own beer, no matter how tasteless and offensively sad that beer is. Or, you could elevate the experience for yourself and your guests a little, which, I swear, is not that much work or expense.
Buy a few menu items mostly ready-made from the grocery store if you like and add a few fresh ingredients, seasonings or condiments to punch them up. Or, make one or two things from scratch — something easy, like chili, where you just shovel a bunch of ingredients into a slow cooker and let it do its thing while you recline on the couch in a luxurious puddle of your own drool.
But listen carefully: Under no circumstances should you click on any Super Bowl food ideas from Pinterest. That is how you end up with a football-shaped cheeseball painstakingly coated in pepperoni slices, and that is something no one needs in their life.
Regardless of which foods you serve, pairing them with the perfect beer makes both the food and beer taste like something completely new. Yes, I get it, this sounds like the worst wanky stereotype of a wine snob, but it’s completely legit.
Last fall, I took a semester-long college course on the history, tasting profiles and culinary uses of major beer styles from around the world. I cannot recommend such a thing highly enough, if for no other reason than on the first day of the semester, when people are wandering the halls like confused sheep trying to find their classrooms, you will feel like the coolest human being alive when someone pokes their head in the door and asks, “What class is this?” And you get to answer, “Beer.”
But anyway, for every beer we tasted in class, we worked out food pairings that would either complement the flavour and aroma notes in the beer, or contrast them.
So here are some suggested beer pairings for your Super Bowl spread:
- Sam Adams Boston Lager — The caramelized sweetness of the malt compliments the tomato and braised meat, but the beer has enough hops bite to balance out the spiciness.
- Fuller’s ESB — Same deal: A balance of complimentary malt sweetness and enough hops to have a backbone against a spicy chili. If you go with this beer pairing, try throwing some cocoa in your chili to give it a bit of molé flavour that the roasty notes of this beer will pick up.
- Red Racer IPA — Hop oils neutralize spiciness in food, but there’s enough underlying sweetness here to pick up the notes in, say, a mesquite barbecue or spicy-sweet Thai wing sauce.
- Sierra Nevada Pale Ale — Honestly, if in doubt, just go with this beer above all others. It’s got lots of bright, piney, grapefruit hoppiness, perfectly balanced with malt sweetness. Ideal for a spicy-sweet dish like wings, but it would compliment a lot of foods beautifully.
- Kostritzer Schwarzbier — This dark and roasty, but light-bodied lager will match especially well with a pulled pork that has some coffee or smoke notes.
- Cameron’s Obsidian Imperial Porter — Full-flavoured enough to stand up to the savoury gooeyness of pulled pork, its molasses sweetness will compliment the braised meat and onions, while the roasted malt prevents it from becoming cloying.
Charcuterie and cheese (as in, “put a bunch of good Italian deli meats and hunks of cheese on a wooden board with baguette, olives and whatever else seems good”)
- St. Feuillien Saison — The earthy funk of this Belgian will pick up on the same note in the cheeses and the bright sweetness of the beer balances all the creamy saltiness of the charcuterie board.
- Duvel — Bright and effervescent to cleanse the palate as you’re cramming fistfuls of meat and cheese into your maw, but if you want to make it to halftime, beware the 8.5 per cent alcohol content, which really sneaks up on you.
- Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier — This yeasty, full-flavoured beer can stand up to nachos, and the bright sourness of the wheat balances the spicy creaminess of the dish.
- König Pilsener — Crisp and clean to act as a palate cleanser, with just enough honey sweetness to balance.
- Erdinger Dunkel Weissbier — A dark, spicy wheat beer, its caramelized notes will compliment the braised meat and onions, while the roasty malt and bright wheat notes provide contrast.
- Beau’s Le Coeur Noir Black IPA — The beautiful result if a stout and an IPA had a love child, this beer will pick up the caramelized, smokey notes in the ribs and provide offsetting hops if you give your ribs a spicy kick.
- Czechvar — The crispness of a Czech lager contrasts fatty and creamy dishes nicely, but it also has enough hops to stand up to savoury pizza toppings.
- Collective Arts Rhyme & Reason Extra Pale Ale — Complex and citrusy, it can hold its own against a loaded pizza, and it’s got a nice hop bitterness to cleanse the palate. This is another excellent go-to beer for almost any type of dish.
Now, you could also align your beverage choices with your rooting interests:
Cheering for the Carolina Panthers?
- Arrogant Bastard Ale — Because public sentiment, the bookies and all the stars in the sky are in line with you, so you’re probably feeling pretty confident about now. This is “an aggressive ale” whose punch belies its relatively modest 7.2-percent alcohol content. It will take you down a few notches, even if your team doesn’t.
Cheering for the Denver Broncos?
- Schneider-Weisse Aventinus — A dark beer for your dark-horse hopes. With bananas, raisins and roasty malt aromas, this beer is like a hug from someone wearing a nice sweater. Which is something you may feel like you need at the end of the game.
Still licking your Conference Finals wounds?
- Delirium Tremens — This fruity, boozy (8.5 percent alcohol), spectacularly complex Belgian golden ale will heal all your psychic wounds. It was awarded Best Beer in the World in 2008, and it deserves it. There, there, now—don’t you feel better?