It’s football season again, and what better game-time beverage is there than cold, refreshing beer? Maybe you want to support local businesses instead of handing more money to Corporate America, but you know some of your squad will at out refuse to drink your favorite IPAs and ales, and will ask you for a Bud Light.
Or maybe you even want a break from those big flavors and want something drinkable, with a lower ABV, to go with your chips and burgers. What to do? We have some answers.
THE FOUR-LETTER WORD
Much of the mainstream beer drinker’s hesitation with, and even aversion to, craft beers lies in one ingredient: hops. Americans have a love a air with hops. Many, if not most, craft breweries center their offerings around the almighty IPA. Hops are citrusy, pungent, flavorful…and bitter.
For those mainstream beer drinkers, “hops” truly is a four-letter word. Sure, hops balance sugars and add crispness and flavor, but flavor is a funny thing.
There’s a lot to be said for individual tastes. One person’s “I can’t drink mass-market beer; I need a beer with flavor” is another person’s “OMG, how can people drink IPAs? I need a beer with flavor.”
KNOW YOUR NUMBERS
Look for low IBUs—and by low, I mean in the teens or even single digits. While an “average” IPA has bitterness in the 40-60 range, and IPAs in the 20s and 30s are fairly mild, anything with an IBU over about 18 had Erin grimacing and sticking her tongue out with a vehement “No. No way.”
Another appeal of mass-market brews is their low ABV and the associated low carbs. Corporate beer is seen to be healthier, by those standards. But most of the craft beers we tested have similar ABV to the mass market beers.
The biggest drawback to these local beers is that you can’t grab and go at the corner gas station or even in most mainstream grocery coolers. Giant Eagle and Kroger carry a few; smaller groceries like Hill’s and Weiland’s carry some; specialty beer and wine shops carry some, but many are only available on draft, by the growler, either in the brewer’s tap room or at a specialty store.
The upside to this is that breweries are happy to tell you where to find their products, and buying by the growler ensures that you’re getting some of the freshest beer available. And, anyhow, you have two or three half-used packages of Solo cups already, right?
Lagers, pilsners, Oktoberfest, and Kolsch-style beers are going to be your best bets for low-ABV, low-IBU, mainstream- friendly options.
Dayton’s Warped Wing Brewing Company sells its Trotwood lager in cans as well as draft. Called “a beer’s beer” by the company, it’s malty and smooth, unassuming and balanced, a lot like Budweiwer and a little more flavorful.
Nocterra’s outstanding Trail Break helles lager, made with all German malt and hops, is easy drinking at its easiest. Another excellent choice is Old Dog Alehouse & Brewing’s Monk’s Tale—a smooth helles that started as a summer brew, but will be extended into the fall.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY
If crisp pilsners are more your thing, check out North High Brewing’s Life sparkling ale, full of complex flavor, or Commonhouse Ales’ Czech Please, a clean, no-frills brew with a nice finish.
Elevator’s Heiferweizen and Grove City Brewing Company’s Jolly Orange are similar to Blue Moon, delicious with a slice of orange, each having its own slightly distinct character—Heiferweizen a little lemony, Jolly Orange a little spicy.
Mexican-style lagers, similar to Corona, are generally easy-drinking and popular, with or without limes. Grove City’s A Poco was Erin’s closest estimation to a cold Corona. Land Grant’s Urban Sombrero has faint spicy and oral notes that add character.
Combustion’s Sir Veza was a universal hit with my friends. Curtis described it “light, like a light beer, but with the flavor of a lager.” At 4.5% ABV, that’s not far off.
“I’ll tell you what, it smells good,” Zack said. Janie chimed in, “This would be a great beer pong beer!” Now, maybe you’re not having “that” kind of tailgate (or maybe you are), but any beer that stands up to beer pong is a testament to drinkability.
Oktoberfest-style beers generally also fit the bill. Elevator’s Oktoberfest is heavy on the malt, similar to Rolling Rock, but other brands are sweeter and heavier, reminiscent of Sam Adams beers.
Looking further into fall, Grove City’s Alumni lager is scheduled to return in November. Around the same time, Chicago’s Forbidden Root Brewing Company is scheduled to open its Easton brewery and taproom, including their super- drinkable Hoodie Weather Vienna lager.
For something slightly different (and a little further out of Central Ohio) but still excellent with salty snacks and grilled burgers, seek out Catawba Island Brewing Company’s Hot Blonde Mango Habanero Ale. It’s not like anything you’ll buy in the beer cooler of your corner store, but it’s slightly fruity, a bit spicy, and will add a little kick to your game-time cookout.
Not so much of a beer drinker, or having an upscale morning tailgate? How about mead-mosas? Yes, you read that right. Mead-mosas. Skip the wine-aisle bubbly, head to one of many specialty groceries or the taproom on the East side, and grab one of Uprising Meadworks’ bottles, like the ginger-lime Copper Knob, to mix with your orange juice.
So pass up the drive-through this football season, and try something local. You’ll find easy-going selections with flavor, reasonable ABV, and great drinkability, that your mainstream- beer-fan friends, and even you, will love.