It’s that time again when thousands of Buffalo Bills fans, a die-hard group that has been lovingly dubbed the Bills Mafia, descend upon Orchard Park to fill the parking lots in and surrounding New Era Field.
Grills, games and great beers are the name of the game for Bills' fans before the clock strikes kickoff each week. While there are more options this season than ever before when it comes to your chosen tailgate elixir, I’ve tested them all in the name of science to compile a list of true Buffalo beers that will pump up any pregame. And no, you won’t find any fizzy yellow macro stuff here.
What makes a great tailgating beer? For starters, it should be light and sessionable (so you can keep them coming for the duration of the tailgate), because you want to make it to the game. Second, it should be drinkable, since you're more than likely going to be pairing it with a bevy of salty snacks and grilled meats. Bottom line – the perfect tailgate beer is one you can responsibly enjoy a few of. In essence, it's beer you love to drink.
In terms of edible pairing options, if you want to go the salty route, this list of beers will pair best with pretzels, chips and dip and Doritos. Looking to fire up the grill? Then make sure you stock up on burgers, hot dogs, brats and sausages. But your tailgate food options are not so limited. Chili? Deep-fried turkey? Salads? This list of light lagers, Pilsners, cream ales and everything between will easily wash any of those options down.
12 Gates Brewing Coffee Porter
80 Earhart Drive, East Amherst (906-6600)
Skip the drive-thru at Tim Hortons. Just find a parking spot, set up your tailgating accoutrements and crack one of these bad boys to get your coffee intake for the morning. It’s smooth and roasty, making for a good first beer to grab out of the cooler.
Buffalo Brewing Company 1890 Loganberry Ale
314 Myrtle Ave. (868-2218)
Available now for the first time in cans, Buffalo Brewing’s 1890 Loganberry Ale is the perfect tailgate beverage for those looking to add some fruit to their breakfast. It’s light and fruity and will work to effectively awaken your taste buds after you’ve had your coffee (or Coffee Porter if you’re following this list).
Community Beer Works Let’s Go Pils Pilsner
520 7th St. (759-4677)
A light American Pilsner brewed specifically for Bills fans to crush while they do what they do. This one has several things going for it: it's a Pils, it’s named Let’s Go Pils and pairs easily with anything you pull off the grill and slap on a bun. Plus a portion of sales of this beer benefit Andre Reed’s Read with Reed 83 program.
[Look back: Three breweries celebrates the Bills with special beers]
Ellicottville Brewing Echo Victor Lima Helles
28 Monroe St., Ellicottville (699-2537)
Smooth light lager. Check. A 16-ounce can. Check. 4.5% ABV. Check. Portion of proceeds benefiting WNY Heroes. Check. Those are all good things. Grab yourself a four-pack on the way to New Era Field and you’ll be set until kickoff.
Hamburg Brewing 550 Game Time Pale Ale
6553 Boston State Road, Hamburg (649-3249)
A pale ale brewed specially for tailgating. Sounds like something that should be on this list. Subtle citrus and mild malt bitterness with a crisp finish. Drink a Game Time before game time.
[Photos: Smiles at Brews'n Blues at Hamburg Brewing]
Pressure Drop Brewing Citra Screamer
65 Vandalia St. (848-9942)
A light-bodied crusher with a crisp, clean lager-like finish and notes of citrus. This is pretty much the perfect beer for beer pong, cornhole, flip cup, high scissor kicks or passing the football around while high-fiving other fans.
Resurgence Brewing Company Cosmic Truth Session IPA
1250 Niagara St. (381-9868) and 55 Chicago St. (768-6018)
What sort of beer list would this be without an IPA? A Session IPA that is. One of my all-time favorite sessions, Cosmic Truth is an IPA you can responsibly enjoy a few of before you have to make your way into the stadium. The 12-ounce can is the perfect tailgating size, too.
Southern Tier Brewing Pilsner
2072 Stoneman Circle, Lakewood (763-5479)
Another beer perfectly suited for your tailgating gaming needs because STBC Pils is crisp and refreshing with a great dry finish. This one is crushable and will pair perfectly with hot dogs, burgers, sausages and diving through folding tables.
Thin Man Brewery Pills Mafia Pilsner
492 Elmwood Ave. (923-4100) and 166 Chandler St. (393-4355)
Same that went for CBW’s Let’s Go Pils goes for Pills Mafia, except this is a German Pilsner. If local breweries are going to brew beers specifically for the Bills, why wouldn’t I include them? See also its Helter Kelter Kellerbier.
Woodcock Brothers Brewing Niagara Lager
638 Lake St., Wilson (333-4400), and 908 Niagara Falls Blvd., North Tonawanda (260-1284)
Whether you’re playing beer pong, flip cup, Kan Jam, cornhole or just catch, reach for this beer. Niagara Lager is light and easy drinking, so stock up on these if you plan to imbibe more than a few before the game.
Drink responsibly, be safe and above all else, go Bills. If you need a ride home, let someone else get you there safely. Grab an Uber or Lyft, or try Ride Local (Liberty Yellow Cab). Or call me for a ride. Just be safe.
[Related: Explore the new Woodcock Brothers in the Wurlitzer]