Super Bowl Sunday is a time for gorging on various meat and cheese concoctions, yelling profusely at the television and gathering with friends – but more importantly, it’s a time for beer. There will certainly be no shortage of beer in Minneapolis and throughout much of the United States, in fact, according to a 2015 Huffington Post piece, Americans will drink about 325.5 million gallons of beer this Sunday. And with so many different breweries and selections, there’s certainly plenty to go around.
Now, with all of the focus on the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots leading up to the game, we wanted to turn the spotlight on their respective territories – two areas that are overflowing with good beer. Of course, that got us thinking, which area puts out the better suds? While New England has the more well known, accessible breweries, Philadelphia’s more hyper-local scene churns out some real good ones.
Grab a glass and join us. It’s five rounds, five different types of beer – winner takes all.
MASS-PRODUCED: YUENGLING’S TRADITIONAL LAGER VERSUS SAMUEL ADAMS’ BOSTON LAGER
Yuengling prides itself on being “America’s Oldest Brewery” and, for close to two centuries, the company has been pumping out its traditional lager less than 100 miles outside of Philadelphia. The brewery has had both its ups and its downs over the years but now is ordered throughout the city simply by asking the bartender for a lager. It’s a basic beer, stripped down to its basic element but Yuengling’s Traditional Lager is one of those beers you can drink for hours, hell days if you wanted to – and at 4.5 percent ABV, you can.
Samuel Adams has morphed into one of the most well known names in beer over the last decade and the company’s staple beer, Boston Lager, has been integral to that success. It’s not much different from its Pennsylvania competitor – though it does have less taste at the end – in that Boston Lager is a very basic-styled beer and brewed with the intent for mass consumption, especially since its five percent ABV. The nod on this one goes to Yuengling, especially if you add the light versions of these beers to the mix but don’t be fooled, Sam Adams makes some other outstanding beers.
ROUND: YUENGLING LAGER (PHILADELPHIA)
BEST SEASONAL: TRÖEG’S MAD ELF VERSUS VERSUS SAMUEL ADAMS’ OCTOBERFEST
Considered the Red Ryder BB Gun of Christmas beers, Mad Elf helped put Tröegs on the map. This Belgian dark ale, brewed about an hour and a half outside of Philadelphia, has a ruby red color and features a delicious blend of honey, chocolate malts and cherries, the latter of which is undoubtedly the strongest. It’s made using hallertau and saaz hops and, at 11 percent ABV, it packs one hell of a wallop. More than two could mean trouble. It’s a delicious beer that most Philadelphian’s wait all year for and as far as seasonal holiday beers, Mad Elf is still the standard for which others attempt to mimic.
We know that Sam Adams was just represented on the list, but it’s hard to argue against the brewery’s version of Octoberfet – it basically helped to further popularize the German favorite here in the United States. Chock full of hallertau, mittelfrueh and tettnang hops, this Boston favorite has a plethora of malts that make it a hearty Munich-style lager. At 5.3 percent ABV, it has a little more bang to it than your traditional lager and is available only in the fall months on a “limited” release, though you should have no problem finding it. It’s delicious, it’s simple, it’s Octoberfest – unfortunately, it just cannot stack up to Mad Elf because, while Oktoberfest only stands out a little amongst other similar beers, Tröegs’ effort is the perfect beer during the holidays.
ROUND: TRÖEG’S MAD ELF (PHILADELPHIA)
INDIA PALE ALE: NESHAMINY CREEK’S COUNTY LINE IPA VERSUS MAINE BEER’S LUNCH
One of the newest breweries bursting onto the scene in Philadelphia, Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company, continues to build its reputations for reliable beers – which is exactly what we’d call County Line IPA. Consisting of warrior, chinook, columbus, simcoe and centennial hops, this beer has a bready malt undertone to it, perfect for counteracting some of the dry bitterness. At 6.5 percent ABV, it’s not a beer you can guzzle, so drink in the pine notes and citrusy lemon hints that come with each sip. It might not be the gold standard for IPAs but it’s certainly solid.
Since 2006, Maine Beer Company has been creating some pretty solid beers for the New England area and beyond but one of the brewery’s staples has become Lunch – an IPA that the website mentions is “a special whale that has been spotted off the Maine coast since 1982. She has what looks like a bite taken out of her fin, which adds to her unique character. We dedicate this beer to her determination and persistence.” Made from amarillo, simcoe and centennial hops, this seven percent ABV brew is an east coast take on a west coast-style IPA, offering subtle malt sweetness, pine and citrus fruit flavors. It’s an easy sipper, perfect for a summer afternoon out on Cape Cod or really any time of year – and it wins, no contest.
ROUND: MAINE BEER’S LUNCH (NEW ENGLAND)
DOUBLE IPA: VICTORY’S DIRTWOLF VERSUS THE ALCHEMIST’S HEADY TOPPER
Over 22 years, Victory Brewing Company has established itself as one of the powerhouses not just in the northeast but across much of the United States – and Dirtwolf is definitely a powerhouse DIPA. Considered an Imperial DIPA, Dirtwolf is among the top five beers in its class and we’d put it up against any of those other – yes, we’re looking at you, Pliny the Elder. Consisting of citra, chinhook, mosaic and simcoe hops, this 8.7 percent ABV beauty offers a healthy blend of citrus, pine and tropical fruit flavors and finishes pretty dry. It should be on the list of any IPA fan, if you haven’t already had it.
If Dirtwolf is a powerhouse DIPA, then Heady Topper is the New England Patriots of DIPAs. Located in Vermont, The Alchemist Brewery has built a reputation as a premier provider of suds since 2003 and there’s little arguing that Heady Topper is its best beer. While it might not be easy to get your hands on – especially outside of Vermont – this eight percent ABV Imperial IPA has a medium bitterness to it, along with pineapple and mango, which complements the earthy pine perfectly. Find this beer, get this beer, drink this beer. It’s one of the best out there. Almost any other beer would lose to DirtWolf.
ROUND: THE ALCHEMIST’S HEADY TOPPER (NEW ENGLAND)
SAISON: TIRED HANDS’ SAISONHANDS VERSUS ALLAGASH SAISON
Tired Hands might not be the most well known brewery on this list, but it makes some damn fine beers and has quickly gained recognition in the Philadelphia area. I mean, they did make an Ecto-Cooler beer a few years back that sold out almost immediately, but we digress. Among the company’s other notable beers is SaisonHands – a 4.8 percent ABV, four-grain beer that’s perfect for any warm day. Brewed with rye, oats and wheat, Saisonhands has flavors of tropical fruits, citrus and is what the brewery calls “our most accurate interpretation of a traditional saison.” It’s worth your time if you’re big into farmhouse beers.
Located in Portland, Maine, Allagash really has some great, drinkable beers and Saison is right there with them as one of the company’s staple beers. Saison is a 6.1 percent ABV interpretation of a classic Belgian farmhouse ale, complete with a mixture of barley, malted rye, oats and candi sugar. It has a hint of bitterness that you notice during its dry finish. Saison is created using cascade, northern brewer and bravo hops and is another fine beer for warm days, however in the end it’s just not as good as its competitor, which is simply a little more crisp. Honestly, you cannot go wrong with either.
ROUND: TIRED HANDS’ SAISONHANDS (PHILADELPHIA)
After five rounds, it looks like Philadelphia takes the battle of beer three rounds to two.