With the Houston Texans off to an encouraging start, fans have returned to one of America’s favorite pastimes, Tailgating.
Tailgating is almost always a long event, lasting hours before, during and after a game. With that in mind, we gathered a panel of tasters to sample over 35 beers with sessionable qualities. A session beer is a term referring to beers that are refreshing, easy to drink and relatively low in alcohol. (Essentially, you could crush a six pack over the course of a football game and still function). Listed below is a selection of 10 must try tailgate beers this fall.
Because we tasted such a broad range of sessionable beers, from craft ales and lagers, to mass produced pilsners, we didn’t think the playing field was level enough to rank them. After all, it’s likely that tailgate goers enjoy both craft beer and mass-produced beer. Personal tastes aside, it’s hard to effectively rank a craft blonde ale against a cider against Modelo Especial. Instead, we focused on selecting the best of the best by answering two questions:
Is this delicious?
Is this crushable?
Joey Williams of Spec’s Midtown helped select several craft beers that would be perfect for tailgating. Brian Brossa, former beer buyer for Whole Foods, helped us describe what we were tasting in the beers and why we liked them. Also, a special shout out to all the helpers from my brother’s baby shower, most of them tenured beer drinkers. All of the beers selected are widely available in Houston, and proudly, nine of the ten are made in Texas.
Modelo Especial: American Adjunct Lager, Grupo Modelo, Mexico City. Modelo Especial was, by far, the most flavorful of the gas station variety. This beer has a clean structure with a reasonable pilsner hop quality. It’s relatively inexpensive and satisfactorily crushable. 4.4 percent ABV.
Lonestar: American Adjunt Lager, Pabst Brewing Co., Fort Worth. Of the quick buy beers, Lonestar was the obvious second place choice to Modelo. It didn’t taste like bitter hops or floral hoopla or, thankfully, carbonated water; it tasted like your first beer memory. Lonestar is a balanced pilsner made with malted barley and corn. Without calling out the watery brands, Lonestar is good for what it is — affordable and drinkable. 4.65 percent ABV.
Dome Faux’m : Cream Ale, 8th Wonder Brewery, Houston. Dome Faux’m is a cream ale and cream ales, despite the notion from the name, are refreshing and easy to drink. Because the temperature of yeast fermentation for an ale is higher than a lager, it’s quicker to make, and often the choice of type of beer for small craft brewers. But really, the flavor of the beer is determined from the initial brewing process. Cream Ales originated in America in the 1800s as an ale version to the American lager. While Dome Faux’m has a heavier bitter finish for a cream ale, it’s easy to drink. A seasoned beer drinker can tell that the hops in Dome Faux’m were applied skillfully. 5.1 percent ABV.
Luchesa Lager: Kellerbier, Oasis Texas Brewing Company, Austin. Luchesa Lager is a Kellerbier, which is an unfiltered version of a Helles, which is Germany’s response to the original Czech Pilsner. Unfiltered beers are delicious because the components that give them flavor haven’t been completely extracted. Luchesa Lager has clean flavor with a dry interesting finish of floral spices. Perhaps jasmine. 4.8 percent ABV.
The One They Call Zoe: American Pale Ale, Hops & Grain Brewery, Austin. A New Zealand varietal of hops is used in Zoe and Joey Williams of Spec’s Midtown describes the finesse of Hops and Grain Brewery as “masterfully shown” in this beer. Zoe has flavorful hops, while at the same time the light texture is crisp and easy to consume. The complete package. 5.2 percent ABV.
5 O’clock Pils: Czech Pilsner, St. Arnold Brewery, Houston. Several common beers you enjoy, like Budweiser, Miller etc. are mass produced versions of the Czech Pilsner. The Czech Pilsner flavor profile is described as having slight hop bitterness and floral attributes. We loved 5 O’clock Pils for its light pilsner skunk and clean finish. The flavor was balanced from beginning to finish. Interestingly, 5 O ‘clock Pils is dry hopped, which means hops were added post fermentation, effectively adding more flavor without hop bitterness. 5.2 percent ABV.
Ciderkin: Cider, Argus Cidery, Austin.Ciderkin drinks more like a champagne than a cider. It’s not cloyingly sweet like some ciders can be. Tim Zawinsky, founder of Bluebonnet Distributing describes Ciderkin as: “Tasting like your biting into an apple. It’s crisp, with effervescent qualities.” Mom is guaranteed to love this cider at the tailgate. 4.5 percent ABV.
Dallas Blonde: Blonde Ale, Deep Ellum Brewing Co., Dallas. Not only is the billboard awesome, “A Reason to Hate Dallas... less,” but so is this blonde ale. Blonde Ale’s tend to be more fruity than other ales. We loved the light citrus peel and bittering hops used in tandem. It packs a mouthful of flavor for an easy to drink beer. 5.2 percent ABV.
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Firemans 4: Blonde Ale, Real Ale Brewing Company, Blanco. This Blonde ale has clean flavor with the whisper of a lager finish. Before canning their beers, Real Ale Brewing Company worked with German and Italian industry experts to help develop a canning line that insured freshness. Dedication like that speaks volumes about their commitment to making good beer. 5.1 percent ABV.
Real White Ale: White Ale, Real Ale Brewing Company. The Real Ale White is a Belgian style witbier. Also referred to as a “white beer,” it is unfiltered and has a crisp, slight zest. This is the type of beer you see people drinking with a lemon or orange wedge. White was our favorite because of the interesting yeast flavor and also because it finishes gracefully with subdued spice notes. 4.6 percent ABV.
Honorable Mention: Steel Reserve. Not considered a session beer, is perfect to crack open when your team is six touchdowns behind. Of the malt liquors we tried, Steel Reserve had the best hop flavor and kick with a slightly sweet finish. 8.1 percent ABV.
Obviously, beer is a very sensitive subject for some, and the essence of personal taste is as unique as a thumbprint. I’m confident that one of the above beer selections will interest you, and if not, feel free to roast me in the comment section.