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Best drinks for Superbowl XLVII

This Sunday sees the San Francisco 49ers take on the Baltimore Ravens for the title of 47th Superbowl champions.

The 49ers are the favourites to win the game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.

The head coaches on either side are brothers, John and Jim Harbaugh. This has led this year’s showdown to be nicknamed “Harbaugh Bowl”, “HarBowl”, “SuperBaugh” and the “Brother Bowl”.

The Ravens ended their 2012 season with 10 wins and six losses, the 49ers 11 wins, 4 four losses and a draw.

Both teams are seeking to add to their clutch of Superbowl titles. For the Ravens it would mean a second win having clinched the title in their first appearance at Superbowl XXXV against the New York Giants.

The game will also be notable for one of the Raven’s linebackers, Ray Lewis, who, at 37 years old, announced in 2012 that he was retiring. The Superbowl is his chance to go out in style.

For the 49ers however it would be their sixth Superbowl win, tying them with the Pittsburgh Steelers for the team with the most Superbowl wins of all time.

The 49ers last won the Superbowl 16 years ago at Superbowl XXIX against fellow Californians the San Diego Chargers.

Alicia Keys will sing the national anthem at the start of the game and Beyoncé will star in the half-time show – as infamous as it is famous following Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” at Superbowl XXXVIII (where, incidentally, Beyoncé sang the national anthem) – along with Destiny’s Child and her husband Jay-Z.

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (l) and 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick (r)

Back to the drinks, AB InBev usually has the beer rights wound up tight when it comes to Superbowl advertising and it is estimated that 50 million cases of beer are drunk on Superbowl Sunday – 94% of which is Bud Light, Budweiser, Miller Lite and Coors Light.

However, in the comfort of your own homes or at your own tailgate parties there are no brand restrictions to hold you back.

Bud Light and Budweiser might be the marketers’ drink of choice but the east and west coasts have enough craft brewers and wineries to satisfy all tastes.

Whether you’re a 49ers or a Ravens fan or perhaps just plain curious about what this whole “football” thing is, over the following pages you’ll find the best drinks with which to display your allegiance and a rudimentary “bluffer’s guide” to the game.

Kick off is at 5.30pm Central Standard Time on CBS and 11.30pm here in the UK where the game is being aired by the BBC.

San Francisco 49ers

Running Back Frank Gore the 49ers’ leading touchdown scorer

Coach: Jim Harbaugh

Quarterback: Colin Kaepernick

Form: The 49ers are coming back into form following a poor decade. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s they were one of the most dominant teams in the NFL until 2002 when they began to fade.

For the 2011 season the 49ers hired Jim Harbaugh and the team went from a 6-10 losing record in 2010 to a 13-3 winning streak.

Quarterback Colin Kaepernick took over from Alex Smith in 2012. That season he threw 1,814 yards and 10 touchdowns, a 98.4% pass rate with only three interceptions. He himself also rushed 415 yards for five touchdowns.

The 49ers have one of the strongest defensive units in the league. In the postseason they saw off the Green Bay Packers 45-31 and the Atlanta Falcons 28-24.

Drinks: Steam Anchor Brewery, Napa Valley reds

It’s all things Californian for supporters of the San Francisco 49ers.

Blessed with the warmth of continental America and the cooling influence of the Pacific Ocean, California is home to Hollywood glamour, exquisite beaches, beautiful people, one of the world’s greatest wine regions and some of the US’s best craft breweries.

As the designated “home” team, the 49ers will be playing in their traditional red jerseys.

Napa Valley lies just to the north of San Francisco and is home to Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Pinot Noir.

Those with deeper pockets may celebrate a 49ers win with one of the region’s 100-point winners.

However, for those not able to get their hands on Screaming Eagle or Harlan Estate there are plenty of affordable Californian wines to try instead.

Ravenswood is widely available for those seeking the thrill of Zinfandel. Stretching into £20 or £30 a bottle will reward Cabernet and Pinot fans with the likes of Frog’s Leap and Au Bon Climat.

Those wishing to stick to the Superbowl’s beer traditions will find a wealth of beers to choose from.

Several appeared in our recent round up of the 10 best US craft breweries, including the Lagunitas Brewing Company and Sierra Nevada

For those wishing to support San Francisco to the limit though then the Steam Anchor Brewing Company, which has been brewing in the city since 1896, is the one for you.

More of California’s craft brewers can be found at the Californian Craft Brewers Association website, here.


Baltimore Ravens

Coach: John Harbaugh

Quarterback: Joe Flacco

Form: The Ravens only just missed out reaching last year’s Superbowl after a 12-4 season, losing out to the New England Patriots post-season.

John Harbaugh is in his fifth season with the team. Quarterback Joe Flacco threw 3,817 passing yards in 2012 and 22 touchdowns with 10 interceptions.

The Ravens defence is also strong, with defensive end Haloti Ngata making 51 tackles and five sacks throughout the season.

The Ravens had to contend with three opponents postseason. First was the wildcard Indianapolis Colts who they beat 24-9.

Second were the Denver Broncos (38-35) and then up against their old nemesis the Patriots, who this time they trounced 28-13.

Drinks: Flying Dog Brewery; Maryland Chardonnay, Finger Lakes Riesling

Baltimore (Bowlermore) is a beer drinking city and Maryland a beer drinking state (alongside whiskey of course as fans of The Wire will know).

Best of all, it’s home to the infamous Flying Dog brewery with its Ralph Steadman designed labels – try the classic pale ale or Gonzo imperial porter for extra clout.

The Brewers Association of Maryland website lists other brewers of note, Clipper City Brewing Company, DOG Brewing Company and Union Craft Brewers are a good place to start.

As ever with the US it is easy to forget that it is not just California that makes wine.

Let’s party: Flying Dog’s Gonzo Imperial Porter

Maryland has boasted a winemaking tradition since 1945 and apparently grows everything from Albariño to Zinfandel.

However, the east coast is gaining more fame and praise for its whites than its reds and as the Ravens will be playing in white jerseys on Sunday, supporters are advised to find themselves a Chardonnay or Pinot Gris from the main growing area known as Piedmont Plateau.

The Maryland Wineries Association website can help out with producer suggestions.

Ravens fans in the UK may find access to Maryland wine quite difficult so as a substitute (and sticking to the east coast) why not try and track down some Finger Lakes Riesling  from neighbouring New York state (if the Giants and Jets fans will let you have it of course).


A bluffer’s guide to American football

The teams: the basic NFL team is made up of two 11-man squads, one “offensive” the other “defensive”.

The quarterback, generally considered the star of the team, is the key player in the offensive line-up.

One side’s offense will face the other’s defense at each “down” as shown in the picture (above).

There are additional specialist players who come on to make kicks and run the ball to where the first line of scrimmage will take place.

The pitch: the pitch is 100 yards long and divided into 10-yard segments. Each end has an additional 10-yard “end zone”, (see picture, right) with goal posts.

Timings: The game is divided into four quarters of 15 minutes each. There are short breaks between the change-over of each play, each quarter and a slightly longer one at half time so while the game in theory lasts an hour it does in fact last much longer.

Gameplay: After the coin toss, a designated team will kick the ball down the field to the receiving side.

They then run the ball up the field until tackled. The spot they are tackled is where the first line of scrimmage will take place.

the line of scrimmage, NY Giants left, New England Patriots right

The receiving team’s offensive side then come out and face-off against the other side’s defense.

Pinging the ball back from the centre player to the quarterback is known as a “snap”.

Football is based on plays, set-piece actions that are constantly rehearsed. When the quarterback is heard yelling something like “23,38,42!” he is telling his side the play they are about to go through with.

This includes informing his receivers which of them is to get the ball and which is to make a dummy run etc.

Alternatively he may decide to hand the ball to one of his running backs rather than throw (pass) it upfield.

The aim of each play is to advance 10 yards. The offensive team has four attempts in which to accomplish this before it must hand the ball over to the other team’s offense.

Washington Redskins quarterback, Robert Griffin III (left) handing the ball to a half back

The defensive team is obviously trying to stop them and do so by tackling the ball carrier or breaking through to reach the quarterback and either tackling him, forcing him to throw a rushed pass which his receiver cannot catch or making him throw the ball out of play.

When the offense makes 10 yards they get another four throws to repeat the process and so advance up the pitch to the end-zone.

At the fourth down, if the team is struggling to make 10 yards the offense will usually bring on a placekicker to punt the ball downfield and ensure that the opposition’s offense have further to advance.

The first down is referred to as the “first and 10”. If the team only goes four yards then the next down will be the “second and six”, and so on until 10 yards are made or not.

The offense and defense are cycled through as often as necessary throughout the game.

Turnovers: The ball can be turned over if the quarterback throws an interception, that is to say his pass is caught by a member of the opposition.

He will then run the ball until tackled and his offensive team will come out for a new down.

If a player drops the ball (called a fumble) it can be picked up by the opposition with similar consequences.


Scoring: A touchdown (the equivalent of a try in rugby) is accomplished when a ball carrier crosses into the end zone or catches a pass from the quarterback in the end zone.

If a ball carrier is being tackled while attempting a touchdown, as long as one foot is connected to the ground he only has to pass the ball over the end zone area to get the touchdown.

A touchdown is worth six points and a conversion a further one point. A field goal is worth three points

As in all sports, the team with the most points at the final whistle has won and, in this case, is crowned Superbowl champion.


Eli Manning, quarterback for the 2012 champions the New York Giants


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