Do you hear that sound in the distance? That is the sweet sound of FOOTBALL coming to your citaaaaaaaaaaay. Football means tailgating and tailgating means beer. Plus other stuff too, like food and cornhole. But mostly beer.
And let’s be honest. If you’re reading this site you probably want to up your game when it comes to adult beverages at the old tailgate. So don’t settle for a case of your local session pilsner cheap beer. Go up top with some high quality brews.
Here are 12 readily-available, North Carolina-brewed beers we recommend for tailgating season. They’re broken out into category because you need some nice variety out there. We also don’t distinguish between cans or bottles. Both have plusses and minuses.
We’re going to descend numerically based on the season too.
Lighter Fare: Still August, it’s far too early to get super aggressive and dark with your beers. Not sweating through that shirt is hard enough as it is.
1. Endless River Kolsch, Mother Earth (Kinston) — Crisp, cool, relaxing, this is a beer you want to take along with you for the ride from summer into fall. It’s not too strong (5% ABV) and, much like a lager, is clear and easy going enough to withstand the heat you’ll face tailgating in North Carolina during August.
2. Cackalacky, Fullsteam (Durham) — Ginger beer is something you don’t necessarily think about often enough. This isn’t a full-blown ginger beer, per se, but it’s got the sort of kick and zip in it that makes you want to knock one back while you’re sitting outside, sunglasses on, watching people pour towards stadium. Big bonus that it’s canned.
3. White Zombie Ale, Catawba Brewing (Asheville) — It gets hot out there and sometimes you want a bit more spicy, creaminess in your thirst-quenching brew. The smooth mouthfeel will give your throwing arm a workout and the coriander will pair extremely well with that hot dog.
Session IPAs/Pale Ales: It’s a little cooler outside. That delightful bite of fall and football are creeping in. You’re looking for something with a little kick to put a hop in your step AND keep you upright.
4. Pinner Throwback IPA, Oskar Blues (Brevard) — OB did us all a favor by putting Pinner in tall boy, 16 oz. cans. That extra 4 oz. will keep you socializing just that much longer. At 4.9%, a cooler full of taste shouldn’t scare anyone away. A juicy, hop forward session IPA? Made for standing around cars for many hours at a time. (Only want 12 oz.?? They’ve got that, too)
5. Carolina Pale Ale, Carolina Brewing Company (Pittsboro) — A Triangle-NC standard by now, Carolina Brewing’s CPA has gotten a packaging revamp w/ 16 oz. cans (see obvious benefits above). No longer is this beer reserved for the post-game visit to the bar, feel free to keep it with you all day.
6. Jam Session Pale Ale – NoDa Brewing Company (Charlotte) — Are you noticing a trend? When tailgating, a 16 oz. tall boy gets preferential treatment EVERY time. It’s just science, folks. Jam Session is a straight-forward, crushable pale ale at 5.10%. A nice mix of earthy and citrus tastes highlight this incredibly balanced beer. Let’s face it, in the lots we’re all looking for consistency and balance.
Fall Beers: Probably not your opening game choices, but at some point there’s going to be a crisp in the air that will get your mind wandering to the post-game celebration around the campfire. That mindset pairs incredibly well with this next group.
7. Cottonwood Pumpkin (Foothills) — We’d venture to guess a fairly small percentage of people actually realize Foothills owns Cottonwood now. Probably the biggest reason for keeping the brand and logo around? This delightfully-spiced pumpkin ale that fits nicely with at a tailgate anytime between late October and Thanksgiving.
8. Harvest Time, Big Boss (Raleigh) — You don’t want a pumpkin-BOMB at the tailgate. The last thing you want is to struggle through a beer as kickoff is approaching. Harvest Time is subtle enough to have more than one, yet pumpkin enough to lose yourself in fall.
9. Bolo Coconut Brown, Burial Beer Co. (Asheville) — TREAT YO SELF! Seriously, you deserve it. It’s the weekend, you’ve had a hard week, just do it. Bolo Coco from Burial is chocolate, coconut cake in a 16 oz. can (tallboy!). Do I need to continue? Just find it and move on.
10. Up All Night Breakfast Porter, Triple C (Charlotte) — Be warned on a couple of things here. One, this is only going to come in big old bomber bottles. Two, it’s pretty expensive. Three, it’s got a whopping 10% ABV. None of that makes it ideal for purchasing two bottles for yourself and slamming them before you walk into a football game. But splurge on a bottle (or two) of this and split it between a couple of people before a noon game. The coffee kick and the fantastic breakfast flavors will make it worth the effort of bringing glassware (or throwing it in Solo cups). It’s not a “year-round beer” necessarily but you can find it on shelves.
11. People’s Porter, Foothills Brewing (Winston-Salem) — Foothills’ porter isn’t necessarily the signature beer in its line (Hoppyium probably takes the cake) but like all the beers from the Winston brewery, it’s absolutely approachable. And that’s what we want in a dark, fall-themed beer. Nothing too aggressive (5.8% ABV) but a nice, robust beer with plenty of flavor.
Bonus: When it’s nice and cool out, there’s a Bourbon Barrel-Aged People’s Porter that’s pleasantly boozy and well worth dipping your toe in a time or toe.
12. Hidden Pipe Coffee Porter, Raleigh Brewing (Raleigh) — More like a latte than an actual cup of coffee, this is an excellent offering in the coffee line. It’s not so thick that it’ll weigh you down during that game of cornhole, but you’ll still realize you’re drinking a coffee beer.