Skip to content

The 8 Best Beers for Tailgating, According to Experts

We asked members of the hospitality industry for their favorite game day brews.

With the air growing brisker, both college and NFL teams are taking to the field again, and Americans are tuning in to cheer on their favorites. With game day comes tailgating and with tailgating comes plates of wings, bowls of piping hot chili, and, everyone's favorite, chips and dip. What do we pair with these savory treats? Beer! 75% of Americans surveyed in a Harris Poll said they enjoyed a beer or two on game day.

We asked members of the hospitality industry—chefs, festival organizers, and the like—to pick their favorite beers for tailgating, and it turns out there's no "right" answer. They picked everything from classic domestics to local craft brews, but one theme stood out—a lower ABV (alcohol by volume).  Check out their picks below and don't miss These Are the 25 Worst Beers in the World.

Miller High Life

miller high life

With simplicity and lack of fuss, a pilsner can be the perfect beer to pair with food during a football game. While you might think a chef wouldn't go for a domestic pilsner, spoiler, you're wrong. "Miller High Life is my go-to game-day beer. I love champagne and it's self-dubbed 'the champagne of beers.' Easy choice!" says Chef Jason Santos, Nash Bar, Buttermilk & Bourbon and Citrus & Salt.

BareWolf Brewing's Stranger in the Alps

BareWolf Brewing's Stranger in the Alps
Courtesy of BareWolf Brewing

However, lots of craft breweries are making delicious pilsner and a local brew is another top choice. Brisk, with subtle flavors, pilsners also often have a lower ABV, making them a smart and top choice for day drinking. "BareWolf Brewing's Stranger in the Alps Pilsner from Amesbury, MA," says Chef Aiden McGee, of the Dubliner Irish Pub. "It's refreshing, local, 4% ABV and great with bar snacks while watching the Patriots."

Bud Light

bud light

Of course, you can't skip the American classics, that's why Bud Light is a top pick for A&B Bar and Kitchen manager Leah DeBay. She told us, "As the NFL's sponsored beer it's an easy beer to drink and won't fill you up before enjoying all our bar snacks."

Lord Hobo 617 Lager

Lord Hobo 617 Lager
Courtesy of Lord Hobo

Pilsner's close cousin, lager (both are cold fermented), is also a popular choice for game day drinking. While Coors is one of the most popular game day lagers in the U.S., Nelson Duran, Beverage Director for Kings DIning & Entertainment told us, "My game day beer would have to be Lord Hobo 617 Lager. It's light and won't fill you up like other beers. Perfect for tailgating or just having a few drinks at home watching the game."

Shipyard's Pumpkinhead Ale

Shipyard's Pumpkinhead Ale
Courtesy of Shipyard

Ales are also a popular choice with our beer-loving experts and a big part of the craft beer craze that swept the country over the past decade. Debay's a fan of Shipyard's popular Pumpkinhead Ale, telling us, "Celebrate the fall, and football season, with this pumpkin ale. It's a crisp wheat ale with subtle spices that pair nicely with our fall tailgating menu."

 13 Pumpkin Beers To Try Before They're Gone

Tuckerman Brewing Company's Pale Ale

Tuckerman Brewing Company's Pale Ale
Courtesy of Tuckerman Brewing Company

Ales are usually a bit sweeter, with a fuller body and a higher ABV. Tuckerman Pale Ale, from Tuckerman Brewing Company, is Barbara Beckwith, GM Mountain View Grand Resort's pick. She describes it as a "deep golden pale ale, crisp and clean just like fall in the North Woods of New Hampshire."

Woodstock Inn Brewery's Pig's Ear Brown Ale

Woodstock Inn Brewery's Pig's Ear Brown Ale
Courtesy of Woodstock Inn Brewery

Her other favorite is a bit richer: Pig's Ear Brown Ale, from Woodstock Inn Brewery. "It's nutty, caramel and chocolate-y—no spoon necessary!" Beckwith enthused. 

Devil's Purse Handline Kölsch

Devil's Purse Handline Kölsch
Courtesy of Devil's Purse

A German ale that's light in appearance, Kölsch is a top-fermented beer that uses an ale yeast, noble hops, and light pilsner malt. Sort of like a hybrid, it's easy to drink and pairs well with almost any meal. The beverage director of Cape Cod's Pelham House Resort is a fan of Devil's Purse Handline Kölsch, saying "This is equal parts special and delicious, given the fermentation of Kölsch Ale yeast straight from Germany. It's a crisp, refreshing, and flavorful beer that pairs well with a wide variety of foods, making it a perfect gameday pairing for all your tailgating favorites!"

Tanya Edwards
Tanya Edwards is a seasoned food and health journalist, who has held roles at Yahoo Health as Managing Editor and at Food Network as Programming Director. Read more about Tanya