“Puh-Tsss!” was the sound of the pop-top on my grandfather’s Ballantine Beer as I peeled it from the can and tossed it to the basement trash.
A fresh beer in hand, I would quietly run up the short flight of stairs into the den where he sat in his big chair leaning forward anxiously awaiting the next play of his beloved Pittsburgh Steelers. From upstairs in the kitchen my grandmother would shout, “Ed, you didn’t open another beer did you?!!” He would reply, “No dear!” and then pat me on the head and go back to enjoying his Sunday afternoon football.
No pairing may be stronger than beer and football. Hundreds of millions of dollars spent on advertising over decades has America thinking about their beverage choice in terms of a decision between something that is less filling or tastes great. Bud Bowl became more interesting than the Super Bowl, and if your beverage isn’t ice cold and riding on a silver, frost-encrusted train, then television would have you think it just isn’t appropriate for football.
Other than a nip of Baileys in your tailgate coffee, when it comes to football, people’s beverage selection hasn’t gotten far beyond a walk-in fridge full of Heineken.
However, it’s a different story when it comes to football and food. When my grandfather wanted something to eat during the game, he put down his Ballantine and reached for a sub with some pretzels or a half empty bowl of mixed nuts.
Today, food and football is an obsession about who can grill, braise, bake or barbecue a feast as if it were an Iron Chef competition. Mixed nuts have been replaced by sweet chipotle snack mix with almonds, cashews and pumpkin seed kernels. Pretzels have been pushed aside for baked pita chips with white bean and rosemary spread. Finally, my grandfather’s sub has been abandoned for slow-cooked pulled pork sandwiches with jalapeño slaw. This football food evolution has been downright fantastic, but to continue to wash it all down with the same beverage we knock back while mowing the lawn just doesn’t make sense. It’s time for a change, or at the very least a little variety.
For many years wine has enjoyed an elevated beverage status in our minds. A sophisticated drink to be uncorked only at the proper moment in a civilized setting, wine is mostly considered the beverage for formal occasions.
Wine industry folks have helped foster this attitude with their fancy jargon, intimidating labels, and sometimes holier-than-thou attitude. But, times are changing. As football has evolved from a ketchup and mustard culture to one that welcomes a little béarnaise sauce now and then, the culture of wine is changing from one of smug connoisseurship to a common man’s treat.
When it comes to football pairings, wine is the new beer.
Here’s a suggestion the next time you roll out your smoker on Game Day to create a killer brisket. Before you pop the wide mouth top on a can of Coors, think about uncorking that Cabernet Sauvignon you’ve been saving in your wine rack. When you bust out that recipe for wonton nachos, put aside the Bud Light and pick up some bubbly in the form of a dry, frothy Prosecco. And when it’s chili time, sip on a robust Argentine Malbec from a big glass. You’ll probably enjoy it at least as much as slurping Miller Lite through a vortex bottle.
There’s always room for a great bottle of wine, and millions of wine racks are filled with bottles just begging to be opened. You’ve upped your food game, and now it’s time to do the same for your beverage selection. So, after you put on your home team jersey this Sunday, do yourself a favor and uncork some wine. It’s been a long football season, and you’ve earned it.