Hey friends! It’s off-season time! Playoffs are done, the draft has happened, and now we’re in the terrible chasm of non-hockey. So it’s time to think ahead.

I’m thinking ahead to tailgates, because I do love a good tailgate as much as the next person. So I wanted to throw together a list of some of tailgate essentials to make your pregame the best it can be.

Equipment:

    • Camping ChairsI mean, if you want to stand the whole time, go for it…but THE most important piece of tailgating equipment is a good chair. I’d suggest one with cup holders in the arms at least, maybe a built-in tray. Comfort is important in these situations, and the ability to rest one’s feet while knocking back a delicious beer or demolishing some 7 layer dip.
    • A GOOD CoolerCoolers are great. They keep your beverages cool and your food cold until it’s ready to be very not-cold. You can get cheap styrofoam coolers from the grocery store, but it’s worth it to invest in a larger cooler that A: You can personalize (nothing like a good Section 328 sticker to slap on it!) and B: can hold a lot more and saves you money in the long-term. The best coolers have a drain in the back you can open up to get the melted ice (water, I think it’s called) out for easier clean-up!
    • A Portable GrillSome others might bring their entire-pig-sized grill, but it’s nice to have your own to be able to bring. Maybe yours is seasoned better. Maybe you just prefer grill control. Having your own grill is always a good idea.

Food:

  • Chips: No tailgate is complete without a purple bag some top notch chips on which to snack! BBQ chips, pretzels, standard Lay’s or Ruffles, maybe a dip of some kind for them. Something salty, something sweet, something savory. A good variety of chips is a MUST for tailgates, regardless of how long it is.
  • Primary Protein: I mean…there are so many options. Beer Can Chicken, that steak that’s been marinating for the perfect amount of time, an entire pig. Are you vegetarian? I like seitan. Literally tastes like chicken. Whatever your pick, select a good protein prime for grilling and make sure it’s seasoned properly. If you’re feeling fancy, bring enough to share with others!
  • Sides: Something in addition to the chips! Something savory wouldn’t be the worst. I like a good Bacon Potato Cheddar Tart is never amiss. Add some spices and a good herb presence to a solid side, maybe have some veggies in there if people want to be “healthy” or whatever. But a good savory side is a good call to balance out all the other courses.

Drinks:

  • Alcohol: Tailgates are not specifically for drinking, they’re for hanging out with your friends before a game, having fun and growing closer. That said, usually a lot of drinking goes down at these things. Session beers, liquors with mixers, whatever you bring, make sure that it’s something you enjoy and something that you can have a few of over the span of the tailgate without getting so messed up you fall asleep during the game, or spend most of it in the bathroom excising everything you had at the tailgate. I’ve written already about tailgate strategies and the by-the-hour breakdown of my drinking suggestions, so I’ll spare you the recommendations of specific beverages, but I’ll also add this: It’s ok if you don’t drink. Yeah, the 328 crew is passionate about our fermented beverages, but we’ll always understand and respect if someone either doesn’t drink or is choosing to abstain for a tailgate. You do you, friend. And if you do decide to drink, please always make sure you’ve got a plan for getting home safely.
  • Water: Hydration! Hydration! Hydration! Stay hydrated, folks. The last tailgate of the year this past season had a lot of water dropping on us from the sky. That’s not the sort of hydration we’re looking for, though. Bottles of water! Bring them. And drink them.
  • Powerade: or Gatorade or a sports drink of your choice, but it helps prevent hangovers and can give you that extra push you need to beat the World Champions of the World in the cornhole tournament.

People:

  • Your Best Buds: The 328 crew!

I can’t wait until it’s tailgate time, folks. It’s going to be a great season, and the tailgates will match. Our first and last of the season are going to set records. I can feel it. I’ll see you there!