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Game on! Vermont beers that can go the distance

Aug 31, 2020 08:29PM ● By Jeff S. Baker II

With the 2020 NFL season right around the corner, it’s time to start stocking up for game day! There’s nothing better than settling in on the couch with a spread of epic snacks to tackle your hunger. But before you just do a coin toss to decide which beer to grab, let’s run some beer-pairing drills.

The wing is king

From crispy fried to oven-baked and with hundreds of sauce options, there’s no denying that the chicken wing has been crowned the king of sports-watching cuisine. For spicy sauces, like buffalo or mango-habanero, you’ll want to grab a beer that’s light on bitterness and full of citrusy flavor. Zero Gravity (Burlington) Conehead IPA will help cool things down and set your taste buds up for a touchdown. If you’re in a barbeque sauce mood, a Black IPA, like Black Flannel (Essex Jct.) Pneuma brings some roasty notes to complement the BBQ sauce and a bitter edge that will cut through sweetness.

Tex-Mex dips

Beans & cheese? Yes, please! Whether you’re whipping up your famous seven-layer dip or a slow-cooker queso, the best bet here will be lagers. Along the southern border, malty amber lagers such as von Trapp (Stowe) Vienna are prized for their versatility at the table. Smooth and easygoing, the malty sweetness compliments the rich, earthy flavors of Tex-Mex dishes and there’s just the right amount of hops to keep your taste buds from being sacked.

BBQ chicken pizza

You can order out and then wait forever on game day, or you can make this King Arthur Baking Company Barbequed Chicken Pizza recipe at home and score extra points with the fam. To enhance the flavor of the BBQ sauce and cut through the richness of the cheese (I recommend swapping out the mozz for Shelburne Farms 2-Year Cheddar), reach for a beer that is amber and moderately hoppy. Rutland Beer Works (Rutland) Rutland Red and Drop-In Brewing (Middlebury) Red Dwarf both have what it takes to win in overtime. 

Spinach-artichoke dip

A staple on game day at my house, cheesy spinach artichoke dip served with warm corn chips always intercepts my hunger. It doesn’t get much richer than when you combine cream cheese and cheddar, so you’ll need a beer that resets your palate and gets you ready for the next bite. Grab a bright, crisp lager, like Queen City (Burlington) Bushwick straight from the fridge and get your touchdown dance ready ‘cause your taste buds are gonna want to party.

Buffalo cauliflower bites

I’m not sure you can call Sriracha-Buffalo Cauliflower Bites “healthier,” but the ruling on the field stands that they are a delicious meat-free treat. And the spicier the better in my playbook. But all that heat can be a challenge when trying to find a perfect pairing. It may seem counterintuitive, but I often reach for a dark beer when I’m trying to cool things down. Outer Limits (Proctorsville) Atmosbeer, a Dark Mild Ale, comes to the rescue with a plush malty center that can tame almost any heat. And at only 3.6% ABV you can have a few of them without going out of bounds. If you want to fan the flames and get an even bigger endorphin rush, grab a big Double IPA like Fiddlehead (Shelburne) Second Fiddle and get ready for the RedZone.

Jeff S. Baker II is the education and training manager at Farrell Distributing, a Certified Cicerone, and coauthor of the book Burlington Brewing: A History of Craft Beer in the Queen City.
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