The big game is right around the corner, and it's no longer enough to showcase the biggest TV on the block or the best snacks during half-time to have the best Super Bowl blow-out party. You also need the best brews.
Whether you're splurging for a keg of craft beer, or just filling a cooler with bottles and cans, here are some craft beer styles that go great with your Super Bowl celebration.
Pilsner — Often, pilsners are disregarded by craft beer fans who mistakenly believe that the golden lagers are synonymous with the lower-flavor Millers and Buds. But a well-crafted pilsner is not only complex and delicious, it's almost the perfect beer to pair with football.
This is especially true if you're entertaining guests who may not have fully bought-in to the whole craft beer thing: Pilsner is familiar and unchallenging, but the best examples are flavorful enough to stand up to chips, dips, and all manner of football snacks. The style is also comparatively low in alcohol (usually around 5%), so you can sip on them for all four quarters without getting too bored (or too blasted).
Firestone Walker's Pivo Pils is a superlative craft example that features a zesty citrus punch from generous dry hopping. Smog City's Little Bo Pils is even lighter and more quaffable, while Angel City Brewing's Gold Line Pils is available in kegs from the brewery. Contact Renee Rubin (Renee.Rubin@angelcitybrewery.com) for details on keg sales.
English Ales — A broad category to be sure, the traditional English ales were designed for extended drinking sessions, and they showcase a balance between rich English malt flavors, a more fruity yeast character, and earthy English hops. Despite the name, English bitters, special bitters, and ESB (extra special bitters) are actually not really that bitter (especially when compared to the hop-forward American pale ales and IPAs). These styles are actually great gateways into the more flavorful craft brews, and they can convince the doubters that ales are not always super-hoppy or super-dark.
Deep Roots from Inglewood's Three Weavers Brewing demonstrates the three-way balancing act between hops, malt, and yeast with aplomb, and even the ale-averse can find something to enjoy in the brew. Solidarity from Eagle Rock Brewery is a "black mild" that contrasts a complex malt flavor and midnight-black color with an impossibly light body. It's proof in a glass that dark beers don't have to be heavy, bitter, or scary, and at under 4% alcohol it's one of the best made-in-L.A. session beers (and a 5-gallon keg will only set you back about $80).
MacLeod Ale Brewing Co. in Van Nuys specializes in English-style session brews, and they have a spectrum of flavorful styles available from rich, malty Kings Taxes to the delicately hoppy Yorkshire pale ale The Little Spree. Kegs are available from the taproom. They're $100 for a five-gallon keg plus a $100 refundable deposit; call (818) 631-1963 for details.
Session IPA — The hottest style of 2014, the session IPA is a lower alcohol take on the ever-popular India pale ale. Just as aromatic and bitter but easier drinking, session IPAs are a perfect choice for an extended football game and the lengthy halftime spectacular.
They also make for a particularly interesting pairing with the more spicy items in the game day spread. The hot wing's best friend, the hop-derived bitterness will actually intensify the heat of spicy food while the lively carbonation helps scrub the richness from your palate and prep you for another bite.