Every beer has a distinct personality. So does every football team. Each week, we’ll take a look at the Monday Night Football matchup and discuss which beers best represent each team.
Arizona Cardinals (2-3)
Shane: Pumpkin Ale, Tributary Brewing Company. Just a few years ago, the Portsmouth Brewery went through a bitter breakup with Tod Mott, their famous head brewer (and creator of the world-famous Kate the Great Russian Imperial Stout). Mott decided to form his own brewery, which would become Tributary Brewing Company. Similarly, Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer went through a nasty (and public) split with his former team, the Cincinnati Bengals, only to eventually move on and (after a brief stint with the Raiders) find success once more with the Cardinals. The Cardinals are excellent on both sides of the ball, and have been ever since they rose to power, seemingly out of nowhere, in the same division as the dominant Seattle Seahawks. However, they have struggled to find their feet in 2016. The Cardinals were an extremely popular pick to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl this year, but, so far, this Cinderella team seems instead to be turning back into a pumpkin.
Pete: Prima Pils, Victory Brewing Company. The Cardinals are extremely well put together. They have a great coach, great defense, great running back, offense etc. They fit the bill of being a great NFL team and have all the components of being fun to watch and technically sound. But they will not win the Super Bowl, I don’t know why, but they just won’t. Much like this beer, a world class pilsner (yes WORLD, from Pennsylvania), has all the attributes of a great beer. It elevates the style and came out of nowhere to shake up the style category because everyone thought good pilsners had to come from Germany or the Czech Republic. America makes those piss water mass market pilsners right? Well, sorry to tell the world, Victory makes one of the best pilsners. That correlates with how the Cardinals, a perennial also ran basement team, rose to become one of the best teams in the NFL. It just came out of nowhere. But a pilsner, no matter how good, just can’t be the best beer in the world. No matter how well made it is, no one is going to say, “Screw Heady Topper I want a Prima Pilsner.” It can be the best made beer but for some reason can’t be the best. Just like the Cardinals, they can be one of the best assembled teams but just cannot be the champ (for some reason).
York: Little Sumpin, Lagunitas Brewing Company. For whatever reason, I constantly find myself rooting for the Cardinals. Maybe a bit of fantasy football, a little rooting more against their opponents like the Seahawks, or possibly just because they seem to have made a real solid team out of some interesting odds and ends. Lagunitas is an NFL caliber player on the West Coast, notably for West Coast IPAs. They’ve got plenty of competition with Russian River, Ballast Point, Stone, and countless other great breweries, but they’re always on the short list. The Cardinals are an oft-forgotten team playing in a division with the contemporary powerhouse Seahawks, and the deep history of the Rams and 49ers. Little Sumpin is one of the better style mashups I’ve found from West Coast breweries. It’s most definitely a hop-forward ale, but it’s got a smooth, wheaty character that makes it approachable for those who normally find West Coast IPAs a bit assertive. The Cardinals equivalent to the baseline IPAs from Lagunitas are the Palmers, Fitzgeralds, and Petersons, but when you watch the Cardinals play, there’s so much more going on. It becomes obvious that there is much more to focus on if those aren’t your style or quite good enough for you. Watch Matthieu roam the secondary or David Johnson juke his way out of the backfield. Chandler Jones is an absolute wrecking ball, and hell, even their kicker has had a little sumpin to watch for.
New York Jets (1-4)
Shane: Pabst Blue Ribbon, Pabst Brewing Company. No one is going to mistake Pabst Blue Ribbon for a “good” beer, just like no one is ever going to mistake the Jets for a “good” football team. Still, both have an undeniable popularity. The popularity of the Jets stems mostly from the fact that they play in the enormous New York market. The popularity of Pabst stems mostly from the fact that its quality sits ever-so-slightly above that of its similarly priced competition like Bud Light and Miller Lite. And like the Jets, the popularity of Pabst Blue Ribbon takes a serious hit in New England, where there is a better, more local option (the Patriots and Narragansett, respectively) playing the same game. And you know what? I may be a Patriots fan, but I’m also a football fan. It’s not like I’m ever going to turn off a game just because the Jets are playing. Similarly, I’ve always found Pabst Blue Ribbon to be a perfectly drinkable beer. The NFL needs terrible, sad-sack teams. The beer industry needs cheap beers. They each fill their role, and they fill it well.
Pete: Aecht Schlenkerla Eiche, Brauerei Heller-Trum / Schlenkerla (Oak Smoked Dopplebock) - So the Jets are an acquired taste. You have to almost enjoy the short comings, the controversy, the constant feeling that no matter how well everything is going...the sky is going to fall. That niche basically explains the difference between people who like smoke beers and people who don’t. I am someone who enjoys them. They are rich smoky and remind me of ham or campfire. That’s not something everyone likes or gets and I am ok with that. More for me. I know many people who keep trying to like this style, and this is one that just may not happen for you. You won’t get it. Unlike an IPA that you can usually train your palate to enjoy; smoke beers may always feel like drinking ash to some people. I have handed Schlenkerla to many friends who have grimaced and told me I was drinking an ash tray. Perhaps it is because the smoked malt has an aggressive flavor and it has character you just don’t expect. These beers have a weight and grab your palate in way that you cannot mistake. I picked this style for the Jets because there is always going to be something smoldering or burning when you discuss this team. And much like Schlenkerla, the best smoked beer brewer, the Jets are the best at being whatever the hell the Jets are.
York: Yuengling Lager, D.G. Yuengling & Son Inc. - I suppose this is a similar argument to Shane’s with PBR; however, I think Yuengling adds a level of regionality that PBR may not share. Growing up near the city, I was surrounded almost entirely by Jets and Giants fans. There were, of course, a few of the people whose fathers raised them a 49ers or Cowboys fan, but in general most people could pick out Fireman Ed more accurately than their congressman. The mass market, rowdy fans, and longing for the past greats to be replicated leads to an extremely loyal fan base that is quick to rain down boos, but never really bails on their team. Yuengling has one of the most loyal followings I’ve ever witnessed in a beer. Pennsylvania in general seems to latch particularly strong onto regional products (see Hershey’s Chocolate or Wawa) and the Lager is one of them. When anywhere near Pennsylvania, Yuengling is the default beer where a Budweiser or Coors might otherwise be. Once you leave the area, though, people often haven't even heard of or tried Yuengling. When they do, it seems to be met with a "Yeah it's a good beer. Why are you upset it's not my number one ever favoritest thing I’ve ever had ever?" Yuengling Lager is good. It’s got history, it's got green bottles, and it has transcended the tier of basic gameday beers by adding the regional base to it. The Jets are fine. They’re sure great to follow along with, but only Jets fans could really get excited about the team in recent years.
Shane: The Cardinals have struggled, but they seem to be righting the ship. The Jets are just awful, even more so after losing their #1 receiver this week. I have a limited appetite for pumpkin beers, but I’ll happily take Tributary’s Pumpkin Ale over a PBR. Cardinals, 27-13.
Pete: This just screams “the hope game” for the Jets. I think they will manage to win this game in a decisive fashion, which will be the perfect thing to hype the fan base into thinking “Hey, everything is ok! The ship is on the right track!” Then they will proceed to be embarrassed by the anemic Ravens and routed by the Browns. That just feels right. So I will say Jets, 24-14.
York: I like the Cardinals here. I had them very, very high on my board this year and had the Jets as low as the Cardinals high. I don’t see this being all that much of a game, and home field for New York in this game would have been much more advantageous in the colder months against an Arizona team. Cardinals, 34-10.
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