Best Beers for Tailgating and Watching Football

Avery Ellie’s Brown next to football on field
You're better than light beer. Courtesy Image;Dave Adamson/Unsplash

The best beers for tailgating trend toward darker, richer, maltier, warming brews. After all, summer is long gone. Soaking up rays at the beach, jet-skiing on the lake, pounding light lagers by the pool—that’s in the rearview.

The arrival of fall means football season and its pregame rite of passage—tailgating—is upon us. Any epic showdown on the gridiron naturally begins with great grub and icy beverages unpacked from a stuffed vehicle in a festive parking lot. Grilled meats, savory sides, and the right beer for tailgating is, of course, the sine qua non.

While the crisp fall weather doesn’t demand stouts and porters just yet, this means you’ll likely be drinking brown ales, pumpkin beers, lagers, and even some fresh hop IPAs. Which top tailgating beers should you be warming up with before watching ________ (enter your team) annihilate ________ (despised opponent)? These inspired brews are at the top of our truck bed.

Best Pregame Beers for Tailgating All Season Long

Filled pint glass and can of Avery Ellie's Brown beer
Avery Ellie’s Brown Courtesy of Avery Brewing Co.

1. Avery Ellie’s Brown

Brown ale is a natural choice for fall imbibing and one of the very best in this medium-bodied, copper-hued category is Avery Ellie’s Brown. This year-round 5.5 percent ABV ale is known for its complex, slightly nutty, caramel malt flavor. It’s plenty rich yet just light enough for enjoyable sipping on a perfect fall day while lounging with friends outside the stadium.

[$10.99; 6-pack; averybrewing.com]

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Bottle of Sierra Nevada Northern Hemisphere Wet Hop IPA
Sierra Nevada Northern Hemisphere Wet Hop IPA Courtesy of Sierra Nevada Brewery

2. Sierra Nevada Northern Hemisphere Wet Hop IPA

Don’t let the super-long, geographically puzzling name dissuade you from delving into this seasonal wet hop IPA. Caramelized malts and two-row pale malts provide a solid earthy backbone. Balanced citrus, floral, and piney notes from wet Centennial hops complete this deep amber crowd-pleaser.

[$4.99 per 12-ounce bottle; sierranevada.com]

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Filled glass and bottle of Ommegang Rare Vos beer on a table
Ommegang Rare Vos Courtesy of Ommegang Brewery

3. Ommegang Rare Vos

Renowned for their authentic Belgian-style ales, Brewery Ommegang sounds like the name of a fun place to visit just 40 minutes outside of Bruges. In fact, its farmstead-style headquarters are situated on an old 140-acre hops farm in upstate New York just outside of Cooperstown. The brewery’s ultra-popular amber ale—Rare Vos—is made with orange peel, grains of paradise, and coriander. It’s the perfect malty, sweet, floral beer to embrace the crisp onset of fall.

[$10.99; 4-pack; ommegang.com]

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Filled pint glass and bottle of Founders Harvest Ale beer
Founders Harvest Ale Courtesy of Founders Brewing Co.

4. Founders Harvest Ale

Nothing bridges the gap between summer and fall quite like a harvest ale. Several beer styles fall into this category. Go with wet-hopped—for its crisp and hoppy yet malty enough tone for cooler weather. One of the best examples is Founders Harvest Ale with its notable resin, fruity, floral, and citrus flavors.

[$13.99; 4-pack; foundersbrewing.com/beer]

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Can of Jackalope Bear Walker beer
Jackalope Bear Walker Courtesy of Jackalope Brewing Co.

5. Jackalope Bear Walker

Even though this maple brown ale is available year-round, there’s no disputing its timely autumn appeal. Like beer’s version of dessert, it’s made with chocolate malt and pure maple syrup. The result is a roasty, nutty, slightly sweet brown ale that can deliciously muscle through an entire tailgating season into the colder months.

[$9.99; 4-pack; jackalopebrew.com]

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Can of Jack's Abby Copper Legend beer
Jack’s Abby Copper Legend Courtesy of Jack's Abby Brewing

6. Jack’s Abby Copper Legend

Eagerly awaited each year when the leaves turn, this easy-drinking seasonal lives up to its heady title. Mellow and yet loaded with caramel, malt-biscuit, and gently sweet-nutty tones, this legendary New England lager is made with local Massachusetts wheat, Munich malt and noble hops.

[$10.99 for a six-pack, jacksabby.com]

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Can, filled pint glass and bottle of Alaskan Amber Ale beer
Alaskan Amber Ale Courtesy of Alaskan Brewing Co.

7. Alaskan Amber Ale

“Alt”—German for old (not alternative)—refers to beers that are fermented slowly at cold temperatures. The result with this iconic ale is a supremely drinkable, malty beer with notes of butterscotch and just the right amount of bitter hops to cheerfully remind you that the weather is still warmer than it’s gonna be soon enough.

[$9.99; 6-pack, alaskanbeer.com]

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Bottle of Firestone Walker Oaktoberfest beer
Firestone Walker Oaktoberfest Courtesy of Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

8. Firestone Walker Oaktoberfest

By mid-season, you’ll have likely reached your annual quota of Oktoberfest-style beer quaffing. Here’s the one you need to save room for. Matured in French oak barrels, Firestone Walker Oaktoberfest is replete with all those flavors reserved for something truly special—biscuit malt, toffee and a nutty sweetness all bathed in sumptuous oakiness.

[$5.99 per 16-ounce can; firestonebeer.com]

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Can of Great Divide Colette beer
Great Divide Colette Courtesy of Great Divide Brewing Co.

9. Great Divide Colette

‘Tis the season of Saison—and Denver-based craft brewery Great Divide makes one of the best American versions. Well-suited for your fall tailgate, Colette is ambitiously brewed with rice, wheat, and barley plus four different yeast strains. The result is a slightly sour, tart, fruity, yeasty beer, with a rewarding crisp finish.

[$10.99; 6-pack; greatdivide.com]

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Filled pint glass and can of Silver City Ridgetop Red beer on a wooden table
Silver City Ridgetop Red Courtesy of Silvery City Brewery

10. Silver City Ridgetop Red

The classic red ale is well-suited for a transitional beer sub-season hovering somewhere between warm and cool—a.k.a. early-to-mid-autumn. Brewed with NW Pale, Munich, Dark Wheat, Caramel Wheat, Carafa, and Light Crystal malts as well as Liberty hops, this deeply satisfying, year-round red is loaded with toffee, caramel, and bready malts tempered with a slightly piney citrus.

[$10.99; 6-pack; silvercity.beer]

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