In a weird way, I care about the Super Bowl this year. This doesn’t typically happen. I couldn’t care less about who wins or loses, what plays are argued over, or how good Tom Brady looks in tights. But I do care about the American freedom and responsibility to spend this day with snacks, drinks, and the camaraderie of friends in the group chat texting about what we’re eating and drinking until we can’t eat, drink, or text anymore. After all, what’s more American than watching superhumans prance across fake grass while we at home overindulge in things we love most?
And so, with a heavy heart anticipating another holiday locked in my Manhattan cave, I am actually excited to partake in this enriching tradition. For me, myself, and my husband, that looks less like gathering around a TV and more like perching beside a precariously placed laptop plugged into the wall with the only HDMI cable that works (but barely); and digging into chips, dips, some form of fried chicken, and a plentiful variety of beers (or more likely, low-alcohol cocktails and hopped seltzers for my husband).
The obvious go-to for Super Bowl Sunday is American lager. That’s legit. But before you buy another case of Bud Light, Coors Light, or White Claw — especially the White Claw — I urge you to consider the curated selection of American lagers, Mexican lagers, and various other beer styles below. If you’re with me, empower yourself to try a saison. They can vary from tart and citrusty, to dry and peppery, and pair amazingly with r/wallstreetbets tendies. There’s opportunity for hazy IPAs at halftime, although perhaps not where you’d expect them on the food pyramid. And finally, a short list of stouts meet their match with bacon, cannolis, and bourbon cake.
Below are the 15 Super Bowl Sunday (or let’s be real, just Sunday) snacks of my dreams, and the beers to pair with them.
CHIPS & DIPS
Classic potato chips & French onion dip
Anchor California Lager (San Francisco)
Crispy, greasy, salty potato chips are practically made for beer. This is especially true of good ol’ fashioned American lagers, like this California-brewed classic from Anchor Brewing Company. The beer has a simple recipe using ingredients tied to the Golden State, including California-grown two-row barley. In addition, Anchor uses an old-school technique called kräusening and lagers the beer in the brewery’s own cellars.
Veggie platter & hummus
Wiley Roots Nearly Dry American Lager (Greeley, Colo.)
For that first hour of the afternoon when you still think you’re “not going to eat too much junk food or drink too much beer” after such a healthful Dry January, you’ll need to have a light lager on hand to wash down the delicately dipped celery stalks and carrots. This “Nearly Dry” light lager from Wiley Roots is low in alcohol (3.4 percent ABV), calories (109), carbohydrates (3.5g), and bitterness, too.
Nachos & seven-layer dip
Tecate (with lime) (Tecate, Mexico)
Once those sad veggie platter carrots start to dry out, and the blue cheese dressing is no longer a convincing substitute for actual cheese, move on to the seven-layer dip. For this, you’ll want to match that richness with a refreshing, lightly flavored beer like Tecate with lime. The kick of lime juice in this Mexican lager will provide the right amount of thirst-quenching acidity (and let’s be real, water) to refresh the palate after a few weighty nachos.
Area Two Experimental Brewing Table Terroir (Stratford, Conn.)
Beer cheese comes in many forms, but true of all of them is that they are made with beer, and should be paired with it. If you’re making true Kentucky-style beer cheese with sharp cheddar, pepper, and German-style lager served cold, or opting for a hot option with cream cheese, bacon, and brown ale, the obvious choice is to pair with what’s in the dish. But if you’re looking to mix it up with another complementary flavor, table beer is both refreshing with its light ABV and grain flavor, while its farmhouse-style yeast character offers a subtle dash of spice.
Cheese & charcuterie
Wellspent Brewing Co. Wandering Lights Saison (St. Louis)
Classic for a reason, the cheese platter with pepperoni, salami, salumi, prosciutto, or any charcuterie is all about fatty, salty flavors and textures. All manner of flavors can appear on your cheese board depending on how you build it, but what’s true of richly flavored cheeses and meats is that they pair deliciously with dry, effervescent, peppery saison. Wandering Lights saison is made with a blend of fresh and barrel-aged saisons, then dry-hopped and refermented with Wellspent Brewing Co.’s house culture before it’s bottle conditioned. It’s a burst of lemony citrus and perceived high acidity that counters the creamy textures while amplifying any peppery notes.
Fort Point Beer Co. Sfizio Italian Style Pilsner (San Francisco)
Pairing pizza pockets with a craft beverage may seem… excessive, but then, so is making miniscule bagel-pizza hybrids and creating a jingle about them that will never, ever leave my mind. Pizza and beer is cannon. Bagels and beer are brunchy. Combine the classic-meets-hip vibe with an Italian-style pilsner. Fort Point Beer Co.’s Sfizio is named for that little indulgence you can’t help but allow yourself to have.
PUB CLASSICS: CHICKEN (or Cauliflower)
Saucy chicken wings
Coors Banquet (Golden, Colo.)
Buffalo sauce. Barbecue sauce. Garlic parmesan sauce. Thai spicy sauce. A wing is what you make it, and what you pair with it matters very little, as long as it is light, easy-drinking, and available in quantity. Coors Banquet is basically a special occasion Coors Light that tastes way better and has less chill in the best way. It’s a favorite of bartenders and brewers for a reason. Impress your friends by introducing Coors Light’s older, cooler sibling.
Fried chicken (tendies)
Waypost Brewing Co. Saison (Fennville, Mich.)
You’ve heard of pairing fried chicken and Champagne, right? Well, it’s definitely a thing. Fried chicken and saison is a similar concept. Waypost Brewing Co.’s Saison stands up to sparkling wine celebratory vibes with its sunny color, fruity aromas, and bubbly carbonation at less than half the alcohol, meaning you can drink more saison than Champagne (and if you’re lucky, watch more Puppy Bowl than Super Bowl).
Buffalo chicken dip or cauliflower dip
Cigar City Maduro Brown Ale (Tampa, Fla.)
Buffalo chicken dip — made with chopped-up chicken breast, hot sauce, and cream cheese — has an effect on people. For this pairing, you’ll want to go all out on flavor but still let the Buffalo flavor shine in its unnaturally orange, greasy glory. Tampa, Fla.’s Cigar City Maduro Brown Ale is not only the best brown ale around, but a complementary companion to that hot and spicy attack with its smooth, slightly sweet, lightly roasted toffee flavors to soothe the palate.
PUB CLASSICS: PORK
Pulled pork sliders
East Brother Beer Co. Red IPA (Richmond, Calif.)
Sweet meat can be a glorious thing. With the strong flavors and soppy texture of pulled pork, this beer is one that can lift the palate with its combination of strong malt flavors and sharp bitterness.
Pigs in a blanket
Hop Butcher for the World Kielbasa King (Darien, Ill.)
Kielbasa King is obviously ideally paired with its namesake smoked Polish sausage, but if you don’t have kielbasa, pierogi, or golabki on hand, these little pigs will do, too. This smooth, pungent, fruity double IPA packs tropical fruit and berry notes, along with citrusy herbs, into a sweet and strong package that makes for great conversation — and a satisfying pairing.
Bacon-wrapped dates/tater tots/asparagus
Guinness Draught (Dublin, Ireland)
When the paralyzing scent of bacon cooking in the oven comes a-wafting, prepare yourself with a richy, roasty, but low-ABV Guinness Draught — you’ll be salivating before you even know that those bacon strips are destined for a soft, sweet date, a crispy-creamy core of potato, or even a healthful snap of asparagus.
Athletic Brewing Co. All Out Stout (Non-Alcoholic) (Stratford, Conn.)
All Out Stout is all out of alcohol, but full of aromas and flavors that’ll have you fooled by the end of the day when you’re desperately waiting for the game to end. Aromas of marshmallows and pralines float from a fluffy, milky coffee-colored head, and the palate delivers with a chocolaty flavor that’s at once dessert-like and thirst-quenching.
AleSmith Brewing Company Speedway Stout (San Diego)
This bourbon-soaked bundt cake from La Villa Cucina’s Daniel Rosati is rich with chocolate, coffee, and whiskey flavors that pair perfectly with the similar notes in AleSmith Brewing Company’s Speedway Stout — an imperial stout made with coffee.
Reuben’s Brews Mind the Gap! IPA (Seattle)
By the end of the night, as you begin to regret that third slice of cake but crave one last delicious beverage, reach for this citrusy, easy-drinking IPA from Reuben’s Brews. The Mosaic, Citra, and Simcoe hops give this brew grapefruit and clementine notes. A nice touch of caramel malt brings in body and sweetness before a minty herbal finish to prep you for bedtime.