Jan. 26, 2014 at 11:22 AM ET
This year’s Super Bowl matches up two excellent football teams from Colorado and Washington, but even more importantly, two of America’s best beer producing regions.
Let’s take a look at which state would win in a Super Bowl-inspired craft beer shootout. After all, regardless of what happens on the field, everyone wins when the beer is good.
Just like the culture of a football team can have a huge impact on how they perform (ask a Cleveland Browns fan), the beer cultures in different parts of the country affect how their craft brewers approach the art of beer making.
Colorado’s craft brewers are productive, brewing up big numbers of beers and flinging them to all corners of the United States.
You can find craft beers from breweries like Great Divide, Left Hand, Oskar Blues, New Belgium, and Breckenridge in many states from sea to shining sea. Maybe it’s the fact that they grew up in the shadow of Coors Brewing Company, but craft brewing is a big export business in Colorado.
Washington’s beer scene is quite different – they keep the good stuff for themselves. Ask any beer geek from Washington to recommend a local brew, and they’ll skip right over the larger craft breweries in the state and start rattling off the names of nano-breweries that make 15-gallon batches of the best beers you’ve never heard of. They keep it hyper-local, which means the Washington beer scene languishes in obscurity even though it’s amongst America’s best.
Still, Washington’s larger breweries manage to send their beers all the way to the East Coast, and they’re worth seeking out, especially if you’re rooting for the Seahawks to win on Sunday.
At 6.2 percent ABV, Elysian Brewing Company’s The Immortal IPA is a great choice to enjoy while the Seahawks look to make history with their first Super Bowl win. This excellent example of a West Coast IPA is hoppy from start to finish, with tropical tastes of pineapple, tangerine and grapefruit leading the charge, with just enough caramel from the thin malt backbone to keep things in balance. There’s also a pinch of pine in the flavor, which adds a bit of earthiness to the whole affair.
If you prefer your hopped up beers to have a earthy, pine-forward hop profile (or if you’re rooting against Seattle) you can pick up Elysian’s Loser Pale Ale, a 7.0 percent ABV American Pale Ale that strings a piney hop bitterness throughout its flavor as tastes of lemon zest, caramel and biscuits dance on and off of your palate. Loser Pale Ale finishes in a fury of bitterness, not unlike a certain cornerback who went to Stanford.
If you’re in the Northwest, you have many more options for excellent and fresh Washington beers, like Pike Street XXXXX Stout, Mack and Jack’s African Amber (which is distributed only in kegs) and some of the unusual offerings from Epic Ales, including their Terra Saurus stout, which is brewed with shiitake mushrooms. And, of course, all those obscure local beers of which outsiders only hear whispers.
If you’re rooting for Denver, there are many wonderful ways to express your fandom through your beer choice.
There’s Breckenridge Brewery’s Vanilla Porter, a 4.7 percent ABV study in smooth and smoky satisfaction. Notes of chocolate and coffee and roasted grains ride a swell of sweet vanilla from start to finish, making this a great choice for someone with a sweet tooth who’s looking for a lower-alcohol option, lest they fall off the couch before Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers can lip synch their way through halftime.
For those who like their beers like they like their football players (huge, powerful, and hairy), there’s Great Divide Brewing Company’s Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout. This 9.5 percent ABV monster will pummel your palate with a relentless onslaught of huge roasty flavors – Oak! Chocolate! Dark fruit! Coffee! Licorice! Pine! Boom-boom-boom! Somehow this amazing Russian Imperial Stout manages to pack all of that power yet go down smoothly, likely due to its rich and velvety mouthfeel and an ample thread of earthy sweetness.
They say a balanced attack is key in the playoffs, and few hopped-up brews can match Oskar Blues’ Dale’s Pale Ale, a truly iconic Colorado craft beer. Dale’s manages to deliver a perfect mix of pine and citrus flavors in its earthy hop profile, backed up by just the right amount of sweet cereal from its malts. The result is 6.5 percent ABV brew that seems simple on the surface, but satisfies sip after sip. Like all of the beers brewed by Oskar Blues, Dale’s Pale Ale is only available in cans, which means you can crush one on your head every time Welker runs a pick on Richard Sherman.
Just like the big game, this one’s tough to call. While the beers from Colorado are excellent and well known, Washington has flown under the radar and could be full of surprises. As it’s a toss up, I’ll bring it back to the real-life quarterbacks.
While Russell Wilson’s beer preferences are unknown, Peyton Manning recently pledged his desire for a post-game Bud Light. Advantage Washington.