It’s about that time, folks. The last tailgate of the season is upon us, so what better time to discuss tailgate drinking strategy? To conduct the perfect tailgate and maintain the ideal tailgate buzz, you need the right beers at the right times. Let this list serve as your guide, a series of suggestions for delicious and nutritious (don’t quote me on that) beverages to take your tailgate experience to 11. Shock and surprise, I’m going to talk about a lot of North Carolina beers.

It is NC Beer Month…

1. Start off with a medium beer on both body and ABV.

“Oh but Daniel,” you might say, “shouldn’t you do naught but sessions (a session beer just means a beer less than 5% ABV, good for a long session of imbibing) for a day full of drinking? Best not to go overboard!” And you would have a good point. However, I like to put a flourish on the start and finish to my game-day prep. My ideal beer for this is Green Man ESB. Not too strong, it’s got an incredible maltiness with a noticeable amount of one of my favorite malts, Biscuit Malt. The biscuit character in this ESB rounds out the hop and malt balance and delivers a better biscuit sensation than any Bo’Berry can provide. Green Man is a really great brewery who just expanded their operation to include a castle of sorts on the South Slope of Asheville, NC, and their ESB is my favorite example of the style. It’s a good start while everything is getting set up and ready to go for the tailgate. While you’re prepping tents and setting up cornhole boards, your liver is getting just as pumped ready to take on the day of drank. Yep. Drank. With an A.

2. Now is the time to go to the session beers!

Here’s where you have the toughest choice of all. Picking your primary choice of beverage for the day. I took my time and tried out a few different session beers for you to highlight the best ones for you! Here we go!

a. White Street Kolsch (White Street Brewery, Wake Forest, NC)

This beer is technically 5.2%, so just outside of a true session, but it’s worth consideration. This crisp, light lager style is as refreshing as it is clean. This isn’t a great style for beer drinkers who don’t like the taste of beer, because this beer tastes like beer. Its hop-malt balance is slightly more towards the malt side, but you still get a kiss-on-the-cheek from the hops in this one. Plus a hint of wheat helps to really round out this lager into a good easy-drinker.

b. Trophy Wife (Trophy Brewing, Raleigh, NC)

Trophy recently expanded from their small pizza/brewery restaurant and added a much larger brewery on Maywood. Hooooo, boy. They do some good work. Trophy Wife is an IPA, but in keeping with sessions, it’s light and smooth and wonderful. It’s got a citrusy, floral hop character that those who don’t like IPAs will enjoy; it isn’t as bitter as most IPAs and is really refreshing. What I like most about this beer in tailgate terms is that it’s the perfect cornhole beer. It’s great for drinking slowly over the course of a game, but it’s light and drinkable enough that if your opponent swishes that beanbag, you can down this puppy and get yourself another without feeling it in either your head or your stomach. Unless you get hit in the stomach by a stray throw. I’m looking at you, Mike.

c. All Day IPA (Founders Brewing, Grand Rapids, MI)

Founders All Day IPA. This is the session IPA for IPA lovers, right here. A good crisp hop character takes you by the hand and twirls you around in a world (a whirled?) of light, smooth mouthfeel and happy hoppy hippies. Wait, no. Happy hoppy…heppy? Huppy? Maybe I shouldn’t have downed all of these beers before writing…no, no, I kid. It’s a light, smooth mouthfeel and a happy hoppiness that is sure to please your palate. This beer is ideal for pairing with the food-times of a good tailgate, as it’s flexible enough to pair with ribs, pizza, hot dogs/hamburgers, all the usual stuff you’d find at a tailgate meal.

d. Pre-Game (Unknown Brewing, Charlotte, NC)

Pre-game is maybe my current favorite session beer. It’s a pale ale, so it’s not too hoppy, but has a great piney hop aroma and finish to it that is music to my tongue-ears. I love me some piney hops. At 4.2%, it’s a great citrusy, sweet drinker. It has almost an orange like flavor, with an effervescence that’s refreshing and still somehow smooth. It’s nice on a sunny day, and easy to down after full-on sprinting to catch that Frisbee before it flies into the street or under that car.

3. Now finish it off with one big beer!

If you’ve executed everything properly, you should have a solid buzz, at maybe a 3 or 4 out of 10 on intoxication. What I like is to cap it off right to bring you up to a 5 or 6, with one more beer, more full in mouthfeel and larger in ABV. For this, I like People’s Porter from Foothills Brewing (Winston-Salem, NC). A great robust porter, this has the fullness of body of Violet Beauregarde mid-transformation with a flavor profile that would rival an everlasting gobstopper. It’s malty and roasty and warm, and is the perfect punctuation on the tailgate. It would probably be a semicolon; you could continue the sentence of drinking in the arena (as long as you’re being responsible about transportation home. Drinking and driving is serious business, so DON’T DO IT.), or you could cap it at that and still have had a great day filled with friends, hopefully good weather, and good entertainment.

I’m looking forward to this Saturday’s tailgate, as the last tailgate of the year is always a fun one with the 328 crew. This season has had its ups and downs, so it’s a great time to button the season with a great tailgate. I hope these beer suggestions help you find your premium tailgate experience! Cheers!