Good beer doesn't necessarily equal good football.
If the quality of local breweries somehow correlated to success on the gridiron, then the Denver Broncos, backed by the likes of powerhouse Colorado craft brewers like Great Divide, Avery, Odell and Oskar Blues, would have won every championship since the late 1990s. Even the eternally struggling Detroit Lions would be perennial playoff contenders, as they share a state with Founders, Jolly Pumpkin, New Holland and Bells -- all excellent breweries.
So which region would win a super brawl of beers? It’s a tough call, as the brews from New York State and New England are as well-matched as the Giants and Patriots.
Let's start with the big boys -- the quarterbacks of breweries. New York has Brooklyn Brewery, which makes serviceable and somewhat inventive beers that are distributed across the Eastern U.S. But just as the quarterback in New York is overshadowed by the future Hall of Famer in New England, Brooklyn Brewery is overshadowed by Boston Beer Company, makers of Sam Adams, which has been a leader in the craft brewing renaissance for decades and manages to sell lots of beer while staying close to its beer geek roots. Both of these breweries make many different beers that will satisfy casual beer drinkers and (slightly desperate) craft beer aficionados alike, so we'll call it a draw.
Things get more interesting when you dig a little deeper into the rosters of each region. New York lives up to its metropolitan-meets-blue-collar reputation with a mixture of innovative, old-school and in-your-face brewers. Captain Lawrence, just north of the Big Apple in Elmsford, N.Y., brews a fabulous India Pale Ale and some inspired beers like their Golden Delicious, an ale aged in apple brandy barrels. A little further out, you'll find Cooperstown New York's Ommegang Brewing, creators of true-to-style old world Belgian ales, which taste like they were brewed in a Belgian monastery but cost far less than their imported cousins. Travel even further into Western New York and you'll come across Southern Tier, whose Blackwater Series of beers will punch your palate with flavors full enough to make your toes curl. From finesse to forcefulness, New York has it covered.
When comparing breweries, it's fortunate that the Patriots say they are from New England, because that gives them domain over many great breweries from Maine to Connecticut. If they were the Boston Patriots of old, this wouldn't be a fair fight at all. Let's start up north in Maine, where Allagash Brewing creates some of the world's most original and exquisitely crafted beers. Their Victoria Ale, brewed with 200 pounds of Chardonnay grapes, is a beer I often recommend to wine lovers who are interested in dipping a toe into the craft beer world. Then there's Smuttynose Brewing in Portsmouth, N.H., which, just like Patriots’ wide receiver Wes Welker, manages to perform at a very high level while quietly going about their business. And I don't think you can find a bad beer brewed in Vermont, with places Rock Art Brewing, Long Trail and Otter Creek serving up delicious and affordable brews across the state. All in all, I think New England has a slight advantage over New York, but it's really anyone's game.
The truth is, I could make a case for the great beers in most places across the United States, which is good news for fans of good beer everywhere. As craft brewers continue to pour their hearts and souls into the beers they create, it's important that beer drinkers support their efforts.
I say: Pick up a few selections I’ve suggested from craft brewers in both regions, and sit back and enjoy the game!
Tell us, what will you be drinking and serving on Super Bowl Sunday?
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Jim Galligan is co-founder of the Beer and Whiskey Brothers blog, where he and his brother Don cover the ever-evolving world of craft beer and distilled spirits.