CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The teams have been chosen and the contest is set. Now you have to make your Super Bowl party plans. Sure, there are lots of no-brainer ways to put together a beer and food list -- a couple of bags of chips and a 12-pack of Bud Light. But c'mon! You can do better than that!
It dawned on me during the playoffs that all four teams hailed from places with a strong historical beer heritage as well as a reputation for craft-brewing today. OK, I am going to widen the city limits a little when it comes to Green Bay, which is about two hours from Milwaukee, arguably America's beer-heritage city. But the whole state of Wisconsin was a hotbed of brewing through American history with names like Miller, Schlitz, Leinenkugel -- and now New Glarus and Titletown.
Pittsburgh, on the other hand, needs no leeway. The Steel City is all too well known for the likes of Iron City and Duquesne, but let's not go there. Today, The 'Burgh plays host to a few really great craft breweries, such as Pennsylvania Brewing Co. and East End Brewing Co.
Why not put together a menu that features a few big beers from each team's region? Heck, let's throw some Wisconsin cheese into the mix! Now we're talkin'!
Here are a few suggestions:
For the Steelers fan: Penn Brewing's St. Nikolaus Bock is a 6 percent ABV (alcohol by volume) brew. Penn is known for very traditional German beer styles. This bock beer is no exception with its rich and malty yet clean flavor. Penn Brewing's Penn Dark is an easy-drinking 4 percent ABV lager based on the traditional Munich Dunkel style.
Penn beers are not readily available in the Charleston area but look up north around Morgantown. If you are going to be in Pittsburgh any time before the game, you should stop by East End Brewing during its "growler hours" and get whatever they are selling, as they are a great little craft brewery (www.eastendbrewing.com).
For the Packer fan: Stevens Point Brewery's Einbock should be in stores by game day. It's a 6.2 percent ABV bock-style lager (read: liquid bread). You should also be able to find a few bottles of Stevens Point St. Benedict's Winter Ale, also 6.2 percent ABV, a beer made with aromatic and chocolate malts, giving the beer a bready yet chocolaty flavor.
Stevens Point Brewery is in Stevens Point, Wis., not exactly Green Bay. If you must have Green Bay beer, then your only choice is to find a way to get your hands on some beers from Titletown Brewing Co. They are an award-winning small brewery that sells their beer only in the Green Bay area.
Both sides can agree that cheese is good. There is no place in America that is more well known for cheese than Wisconsin. Craft beer -- yes, even Pittsburgh beers -- pair well with a variety of cheeses. The Wisconsin Dairy Board has a great pairing and cheese selection tool on their website. Just go to www.eatwisconsincheese.com and click on "pairing."
Now let's all don our favorite team's jersey and watch some overhyped commercials!
For more on the craft of beer, see Rich Ireland's "Beers to You" blog at thegazz.com.