Unless you have absolutely no access to cable (understandable) or hold a vendetta against nachos (not as understandable), you'll probably be tuning into the big game next Sunday. And when you do, chances are you'll be knocking back a beer, or two. In close proximity will also be some salty, fatty, supremely satisfying food: the chips, dips, pretzels, wings, chili, sausages, and burgers that are all de facto components of a respectable game day spread.
Under the right circumstances (read: summer backyard barbecues), we’re into the idea of swilling ice-cold cans of mass-produced pilsner as much as the next person. But for an indoors football feast where the food is as much the star attraction as what’s on the screen, the beer shouldn’t be a complete afterthought. So choose something nice, go for variety, and find beers that will adequately complement and contrast that flavors on the table.
Not quite sure how to make that happen? Here are 10 game day food and beer pairings to get you started:
Pretzels & Hellesbier
Many tend to think of pretzels and pilsner as a perfect pairing, but go against the fold and try a more obscure German-style beer, like Helles. It’s a very simple, lightly perfumed beer with a brilliant straw color and a snappy finish that’s well suited for these yeasty, salt-sprinkled pretzels.
Try This: Weihenstephaner Original Premium ($12 for a six-pack)
Snack Mix & Maibock
Snack mixes are crunchy, gently spiced, and often just a tad sweet. They require a beer that will neither stand in the way of nor get washed out by the spiced flavors. Maibocks (also called Heller Bocks) are a perfect choice because they’re assertive and malty without being cloying or in-your-face. And most are only moderately alcoholic, which means you can comfortably have one or two before reaching for the next pairing.
Try This: Heater Allen Lenz Bock ($6 for a 22-ounce bottle)
Guacamole & Vienna Lager
Dark Mexican lagers like Dos Equis, Victoria, and Negra Modelo are actually exiled versions of Austrian-style Vienna lagers. They pair well with Mexican foods because they’re refreshing, clean tasting, and robust enough to match the cuisine’s bold, intense flavors like those in guacamole.
Try This: Great Lakes Eliot Ness ($10 for a six-pack)
Spinach Dip & Farmhouse Ales or Saisons
Saisons and farmhouse ales are the versatile workhorses of beer-and-food pairings. They often have a bread-y quality that’s simple and refreshing, and their high levels of carbonation cleanse the palate with each sip.They’re pretty much a no-brainer for savory, earthy dips like spinach and artichoke and French onion. Pick a bone-dry one from Belgium or an American analog like this one from California that isn’t overly spiced or heavy on the palate.
Try This: Bruery Terreux Saison Rue ($12 for a 750ml bottle)
Pimento Cheese & Hoppy Ale
Hoppy ales like IPAs are notoriously finicky when matched with food. The bitterness from the hops paired with their enormous floral and fruit aromas often interfere with and even alter a dish’s flavor. (In extreme instances, the effect is akin to that of Szechuan peppercorns.) The perfect foil? Cool, creamy pimento cheese dip, spread thick on crackers with just a hint of peppery spice.
Try This: Maine Beer Co. A Tiny Beautiful Something ($8 for a 500-milliliter bottle)
Nachos & Chile Beer
Heat begets heat begets heat with this fiery pairing. Spicy food and spicy beer don’t always harmonize—sometimes the commingling of capsaicin is just too much—but the echoing of flavors and sensations is a neat trick when it works. Try choosing a chile beer that isn’t just gimmicky, off-the-charts spicy, and be sure to stock up on extra sour cream just in case the Scoville units get out of control. This beer is also delicious with spicy jalapeño poppers.
Try This: Evil Twin Fire Water ($10 for a 22oz bottle)
Chicken Wings & Brown Ale or Stout
Because chicken is essentially a blank canvas, this pairing is all about the sauce. For honey mustard wings, choose a beer that can match the sweetness without accentuating it, like a malt-forward brown ale. For spicy wings, try a cooling, silky beer like a Cream Ale or even a nitrogenated Stout.
Hot Dogs & Gose
Hot dogs are one of the simplest foods for pairing with beer—they taste great with practically anything. It’s hard to go wrong here. That said, a light-bodied, dry, lemony beer like Gose is a perfect palate cleanser for fatty wursts and other salty encased meats.
Try This: Sierra Nevada Otra Vez ($10 for a six-pack)
Classic Burger & Baltic Porter
Beef calls out for a beer with some structure—choose something hearty and bold like a Baltic Porter. The dark malts are layered and robust, which creates a solid match for juicy burgers with all the toppings.
Try This: Devils Backbone Danzig ($12 for a six-pack)
Cookies & Imperial Stout
Enter the fourth quarter with these nutty, bittersweet cookies and a boozy nightcap beer bursting with chocolate, vanilla, and marshmallow flavors. Leave the clean up for tomorrow...
Try This: Off Color DinoS’mores ($16 for a four-pack)
What will you be drinking on game day? Tell us in the comments below!