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Whether you’re ordering pizzas for your buddies or feasting on all things fried, baked, spicy, and cheesy for the Super Bowl this weekend, don’t overlook that having some good beer is an equally important part of the event. Rooting for your favorite team with a cold one at hand not only builds camaraderie but is also a fantastic thirst-quencher to accompany the day’s salty eats. Unfortunately, tasteless light beers get most of the attention during long sporting events, even though the craft beer market has equally light, better-tasting options. Come on, let’s face it: When people ask for a drink, it’s cooler to hand them something delicious—and surprising enough to take their mind off the score for a moment.
Made by: Radeberger Gruppe (a subsidiary of Dr. August Oetker), Germany
The most popular party drinks tend to land in this style of lager, the pilsner. Pils are light in flavor and alcohol (typically 3 percent to 5 percent), so you can drink a few without really feeling the effect. The Jever Pilsner made by Radeberger Gruppe comes in traditional style from Germany. It’s extremely light in color, continuing into a golden straw hue that smells slightly of honey, biscuits, and very mild fruit. You will taste no alcohol and this beer serves as a refresher or palate cleanser more than a centerpiece. The taste doesn’t hang around for long, which is good if you plan on drinking more. Jever is a very clean beer, offering no more than a refreshing transition from the guacamole to the bean dip. For those used to a can of lower-shelf beer, step up to Jever.
Paulaner Premium Pilsener
Made by: Paulaner (subsidiary of Brau Holding International), Germany
Another brewery that does a good pilsner, Paulaner dates its German operations to 1634, when monks were the main brewers. Paulaner pils has a similar look to the Jever, with sunshine-golden color. The biggest difference here is the more evident use of hops. The nose and taste reflect a more generous grassy and floral hop presence, giving the beer a subdued bitterness in addition to a more medium body. The Paulaner pils will make your beer selection more complex, without scaring off those who prefer lighter brews. It is refreshing, with a dry finish that subtly keeps you wanting more.
Hair of the Dog Ruth Pale Ale
Made by: Hair of the Dog, Portland, Ore.
Stepping up the hops ladder, Hair of the Dog brewery brings us Ruth, its version of a pale ale. Hair of the Dog is known for its darker brews, so it’s not surprising that it has a more interesting take on the pale ale. Right away I notice a lot more zesty carbonation. The color is almost a hazy pineapple-orange, and it tastes of a distinct earthy nose of tropical fruits, honey, pine, and grapefruit citrus. The bubbles from the carbonation move the flavors all over your mouth to reveal not a traditional pale ale, but a slightly yeasty, fruity cross into wheat-beer territory. Ruth is another refreshing beer with mounting complexity and a light flavor that’s certain to keep people happy.
Ithaca Flower Power
Made by: Ithaca Beer, Ithaca, N.Y.
Perhaps one of the best India Pale Ales created on the East Coast, Ithaca Brewery’s Flower Power IPA is, as beer nerds say, a “hop bomb.” It pours a beautiful amber-orange hue and really pops you on the nose. Powerful fruity and floral hop characters such as citrus, lemon zest, and grapefruit transcend with hints almost to the memory of fruit loops. An initial sweetness gives way to a tidal wave of sticky, bitter, hop goodness. For all the spicy dishes on the Super Bowl party menu, this is your beer. The hops cut straight through any buffalo wings or hot sauce you may come across. A big hoppy beer like this will ensure a very dry finish. Before you grab another, keep in mind that Flower Power weighs in at 7.5 percent alcohol; too many of these will put you down faster than you might expect.
Brooklyn Black Ops
Made by: Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn, N.Y.
That’s it: The Giants have won. (So this writer hopes.) How are you going to celebrate? Time to bring out the big guns with a hometown brew, Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Ops. The brewery claims on the back of the bottle that this concoction doesn’t really exist, but what they’re referring to is the limited quantity (only about 1,000 cases were produced in 2011) of this bourbon-barrel aged imperial Russian-style stout. It pours a black oil-like color with a mocha head, brandishing a nose of chocolate, malt, bourbon, vanilla, and slightly burnt coffee. Brooklyn also re-ferments the Black Ops in bottle by adding yeast at the time of bottling before aging it four months. This gives a distinct yeast flavor that is quickly covered by delicious layers of rich chocolate, velvety bourbon, and vanilla-oak flavors. Black Ops is a beer that gets better with age, so any vintages you can find will offer much more. At 10.5 percent alcohol, this is certainly one to finish your night, as well to pair with any dessert you may be offering.