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Best drinks for ‘Beer Bowl’

Hey sports fans it’s “Beer Bowl” time and just as db did last year for the 49ers vs. Ravens game, here’s a rundown of the teams and what you should be drinking during Super Bowl XLVIII.

Craft beer map of the US

The AFC champions the Denver Broncos are lining up against the NFC’s Seattle Seahawks in this year’s Super Bowl, now just a week away.

Both teams have their own style of football but it’s a match-up of different American cultures too.

Solid, mid-western Denver, where the buffalo roam, men are men, go to rodeos and wear Stetsons and West (Left) coast Seattle with its tech-savvy hipsters, wearing skinny jeans and toques (beanies), grinding their own coffee and hanging out in the latest pop-up bistro.

At first glance they couldn’t be more different but, if there’s one thing Washington and Colorado have in common it’s craft brewing.

Both states have some of the highest levels of craft brewing in the country with over 20 craft breweries per million people.

Colorado is ranked 4th in the US for breweries per capita and Washington 8th with 139 and 146 craft breweries respectively (Washington’s population is larger).

The game is set to be a veritable clash of the titans when the two teams meet at the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey next weekend.

Denver is fielding the best offensive line in the league against Seattle’s top-rated defence and it’s the match-up everyone is talking about.

It’s set to be a game of firsts too. Denver’s quarterback, Peyton Manning, is a legend of the game looking for his second Super Bowl win.

Already a Super Bowl winner with the Indianapolis Colts he has battled back from serious neck surgery and is now looking to take another franchise to NFL glory – a feat never accomplished before – and all at the tender age of 37.

Time is running out though for Manning to win that coveted second ring and he knows it.

For the Seahawks it would be the first Super Bowl win in the franchise’s history. Founded in 1976 and with a successful record in, without doubt, the toughest division in the NFC, the “Hawks” have only ever made it to one big game where they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Their young quarterback, Russell Wilson, has a glittering career ahead of him after just two regular seasons in the NFL.

Which of them is hungrier to get their hands on the Vince Lombardi trophy?

Whatever the result, this promises to be one of the most exciting Super Bowls of recent times as irresistible force meets immovable object – it’s going to be a cracker.

The Seahawks’ Russell Wilson (l) and Boncos’ Peyton Manning – who wants it more?

But enough of all this football talk, back to the drinks, AB InBev usually has the beer rights wound up tight when it comes to Super Bowl advertising and it is estimated that 50 million cases of beer are drunk on Super Bowl Sunday – 94% of which is Bud Light, Budweiser, Miller Lite and Coors Light.

That the big breweries have a monopoly on beer rights is no surprise. A 30-second advert during the Super Bowl this year costs a record-breaking $4m a pop.

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 west coast and mid-west are the craft brewing bastions of America.

Whether you’re a Bronco, a “12th Man” or perhaps just plain curious about what this whole “football” thing is, over the following pages you’ll find a brief lowdown on the teams, the best drinks with which to display your allegiance and a rudimentary “bluffer’s guide” to the game.

Kick off is on Sunday 2 February at 6.25pm Eastern Standard Time on Fox and around 11pm here in the UK where the game is being aired by Channel 4.

Full stats and coverage from every possible angle can be found here on

Seattle Seahawks

Running back Marshawn Lynch in “beast mode” making Swiss cheese of the Dallas Cowboys’ “D”

Coach: Pete Carroll
Quarterback: Russell Wilson
Key players: Marshawn Lynch, Percy Harvin, Golden Tate, Richard Sherman, Bobby Wagner

The “away” team for the big game and the most formidable defense in the NFL at the moment, their secondary, known as the “Legion of Boom”, gave up just 231 points in the entire season.

Look out in particular for cornerback Richard Sherman who has quite a reputation, both for his playing prowess and his on-field trash talk. He stirred up a media storm recently when he referred to himself as the “greatest” cornerback in the game and San Francisco wide receiver Michael Crabtree as “sorry”.

He can back up his words with actions though and it was his play in the dying moments of the NFC Championship game against the 49ers that led to a turnover and Seattle’s trip to New Jersey.

When it comes of offense, the Seattle Seahawks have a fearsome run game thanks to powerful back Marshawn Lynch but are not as pass oriented as some teams.

They don’t have to be though when Lynch is the top running back in the league with 301 carries for over 3,000 yards and 12 touchdowns. When he begins running he’s very difficult to stop and is said to be in “beast mode” when he pounds the turf.

On the other hand, the Broncos and Seahawks’ defensive lines allow just 101.6 rushing yards per game on average, bad news for the run-heavy Hawks. Then again, Denver gives up far more passing yards so Wilson may have to switch to his receivers.

It’s good news then that star receiver Percy Harvin has been medically cleared for the match.

During the regular season the Hawks won their division and were the first seed in the NFC with a 13-3 regular season, with losses to the 49ers, Cardinals and Colts.

Quarterback Wilson is part of what is generally termed a “new breed” of QBs, that is to say he’s as happy running the ball himself as sitting back to play a pass or a rush.

He’s over a decade younger and nimbler than Broncos QB Peyton Manning as evidenced by the 531 rushing yards he’s managed to pick up against Manning’s -31.

In the playoffs they had homefield advantage and saw off the New Orleans Saints and their bitter divisional rivals the San Francisco 49ers in one of the closest games in playoff history.

Earthquake machine – the 12th man in action (picture:

The Seahawks have lost just once at their home stadium, CenturyLink Field, in two years and their fans, known as the “12th Man”, are the noisiest in the league.

The 12th Man gained headlines around the world when the Hawks played the New Orleans Saints back in December when they caused a small earthquake with their jumping and shouting.

Their cheers were registered at 137.6 decibels during the match – a pneumatic drill is around 55 decibels.

The Seahawks will be without the 12th Man advantage this time out but will have to hope enough fans will cross the country to cheer them on MetLife Stadium.

This is the first time the Seahawks have been to the Super Bowl since 2005 when the team lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers and no current Seahawks player has experience of such a big game.

As sports fans will know, ignorance of such an environment can be either a blessing or a curse.


Washington is one of the craft beer capitals of the US, “Beervana” some call it, and one of the first “brewpubs” in the US opened in Seattle in 1982.

Top local producers include Pyramid Brewery which is located just a block away from CenturyLink Field, try its hefeweizen or imperial IPA.

Redhook Brewery has an “Audible Ale” which is appropriate considering Seattle’s fans and the beer was made with sports watching in mind.

Even more suitable but probably only available to anyone in Seattle is a new beer brewed especially for fans by Hilliards called (wait for it), “The 12th Can“.

There is also, confusingly, a “12th Man” pale ale made by Dick’s Brewing Company in partnership with former Seahawks kicker Norm Johnson.

The beer went on sale last December and is widely available around the Puget Sound area.

Other notable Washington breweries to consider are Pike Brewing, Hale’s Ales, Big Al Brewing, Elysian Brewing and Georgetown Brewing are all good bets and wealth of further suggestions can be found here.

From IPAs to stouts, pilsners, witbiers, amber ales and German-style Helles, Washington has it covered.

Any Seahawks fans in neighbouring Oregon or even over the border in British Columbia also have a wealth of local ales to try.

Portland residents live in a state which is 3rd in the US for breweries per capita and can also tuck into Pyramid beers as the brewery has an outlet there but if you’re after Oregon-brewed and bred why not try Hopworks Urban Brewery?

See Portland Beer for more info

Vancouverites can turn to Red Racer, Red Truck, Steamworks and Main Street Brewing. See Craft Beer Market Vancouver for more suggestions and a Big Game-themed event

Denver Broncos

The Broncos walloped last year’s champs the Baltimore Ravens in the first game of the season immediately marking them as Super Bowl contenders.

Coach: John Fox
Quarterback: Peyton Manning
Key players:
Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, Wes Welker, Knowshon Moreno, Terrance Knighton

Compared to the Seahawks the Broncos appear a slightly more rounded team even if it’s more offensively minded.

The Broncos offensive season was all about breaking records. Headed by (has to be) future Hall-of-Famer Peyton Manning, the Broncos likewise enjoyed a 13-3 regular season (losses to the Colts, Patriots and Chargers) but won their division and secured the first seed in the AFC.

Manning threw an NFL record of 55 touchdowns during the regular season for over 5,000 yards – he threw the NFL record of seven touchdown passes in the first game of the season against last year’s champions the Baltimore Ravens the game finishing 49-27.

The Broncos too had homefield advantage for the playoffs and saw off the Chargers and Patriots when it mattered, handing Tom Brady’s Pats a particularly sharp defeat in the AFC Championship game.

The Broncos offense is listed number one in the NFL and with Manning at the helm they are pass heavy and have the receivers to make the catches too.

Look out for Julian and Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Eric Decker in the passing game.

“Pot Roast” sacks Redskins’ QB Robert Griffin III

The defense is a little weaker but tightened up later in the season and into the playoffs and has been a lot stingier with both points and yards allowed. The cornerstone (literally) of Denver’s defense is Terrance Knighton, a 6 foot 3, 335lb defensive tackle with 31 tackles and three sacks under his belt who’s affectionately known as “Pot Roast” (above).

The Broncos will be many people’s favourites because of the experience of Manning but is there too much pressure on him? He knows this could his last throw of the dice to get another win and cement his legend, will that be weighing on his mind more than the game?


Colorado, where, as Lloyd declares in “Dumb and Dumber”, “beer flows like wine”.

The state is one of the top beer producers in the US, largely due to Budweiser and other big breweries having sites in the state but it’s one of the leading craft producers too and is sometimes referred to as the “Napa Valley of beer“.

Colorado beers have graced the pages of db and other sites recently especially as Manning declared after the Chargers game he was looking for a Bud Light.

As Colorado has one of the largest and proudest craft brewing traditions in the country (the first permanent structure is said to have been a saloon), the good brewers of Denver, Boulder and thereabouts decided he needed a little re-education in what being a loyal citizen of the Centennial State means.

Left Hand Brewing dutifully sent three cases of its beers to Sports Authority Field at Mile High explaining in a letter it was a “better play call”.

West Flanders then got into a little trouble with the famously litigious NFL for using certain “marks” in a beer it brewed in honour of the Broncos/Patriots game.

It quickly changed the “Brett on the Broncos” name to “Omaha! Omaha! Brett!” – a reference to a play call Manning has been using a lot this season (is it a run play? Is it a pass play? What does it mean?).

Thanks Peyton

So there are two candidates right there. Left Hand’s Milk Stout was recommended by the Denver Post as one of its beers of the year and it was one of the cases sent to Manning, the other two being the Polestar Pilsner and Sawtooth Ale.

Unless West Flanders decides to rebrew “Omaha” for the Super Bowl it’ll be difficult to get hold of and its draft only. Try instead its Hoffmeister Pilsner, Lion Hear Stout or Belgian inspired Angry Monk.

Other good Colorado breweries include: Great Divide, Denver Brewing Co, Oskar Blues, Odell and Wit’s End.

A bluffer’s guide to American football

It’s easy, all you’ve got to do is tackle

Newcomers to the NFL may initially wonder what on earth is going on but rejoice! It is not as complicated as it first appears and the basics are easy to pick up.

Like all sport the object is to take a ball from one end of the field to another, as long as you see that happening you have at least some idea of what’s going on.

American Football, or gridiron as it sometimes known, is about fast, explosive plays and has its roots in rugby.

They might pass the ball forward but it is egg-shaped and it’s a contact sport.

Think of the line of scrimmage as a cross between a lineout and a scrum, the quarterback’s the scrum half crossed with the hooker, the defensive line are forwards the offense backs and we’re rolling.

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, below) with goal posts at either end.

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 (below), although they can vary their positions.

There are also “special teams” made up of the faster players in either the defense or offense who come on to make kicks and run the ball to where the first line of scrimmage will take place.

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.

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

If the ball bounces out of the back of the field or if a player catches the ball and takes a knee then play will continue from the 20-yard line, the equivalent of a 22-metre drop-out. A player can also call for a fair catch if he thinks his position advantageous enough – again, similar to calling “mark” in rugby.

Giants and Patriots at the line of scrimmage

The receiving team’s offensive side then come out and face-off against the other side’s defense and they line up at what is known as the line of scrimmage (above) which is relatively well known even to casual observers of the sport.

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 he is telling his side the play they are about to go through with or making amendments to it if the defense have lined up in a manner he thinks will hamper the original play.

Alternatively his calls may be meaningless and designed to fool the opposition. As already mentioned, Peyton Manning has been getting a lot of attention for yelling out the name of a town in Nebraska a lot lately.

What will Manning say next?…and what does it mean?

When the ball is snapped, the quarterback can do several things.

The most well-known play is to throw (pass) the ball up field to a wide receiver (a pass play).

Alternatively he may decide to hand the ball to one of his running backs (a run play) and if there is no other option he may run the ball himself and try and make yardage.

Eli Manning hands the ball to running back David Wilson

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.

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 (known as a “sack”), forcing him to throw a rushed pass which his receiver cannot catch or making him throw the ball out of play in order to avoid the sack.

If and when the offense makes 10 yards or more they get another four downs to repeat the process and so advance up the pitch to the end-zone.

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

If they are within range of the goalposts but think it unlikely they will break through the defense then they can try for a field goal.

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 and fumbles: 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.

Penalties: There are quite a few penalties in gridiron and they result in loss of yards and occasionally downs as well.

An example of pass interference. Play the ball not the man

The most common are “holding” and “pass interference”. Although players are allowed to tackle other players off the ball and otherwise impede their progress they can only do so at certain times.

“Holding” refers to physically holding onto someone to prevent them getting to the ball carrier. If you stand in front of them and get in the way or push them over, fine but you can’t hold them.

“Pass interference” is a classic case of playing the man not the ball and is when the ball is in the air heading for a wide receiver and the player covering him appears more interested in deliberately making sure he won’t get it rather than trying to compete for it himself and force either an interception or incomplete pass.

Other penalties include “unsportsmanlike conduct”, “unnecessary roughness” (both of which are charmingly antiquated) as well as “hands to the face” and “roughing the passer” (both of which fall under the unnecessary roughness tag).

A penalty will result in the loss of five, 10 or 15 yards and occasionally loss of a down depending on the severity of the foul.

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.


The ball has only to break the line of the end-zone to be ruled a touchdown so a play can seemingly be stopped on the line yet still be a legitimate score.

A touchdown is worth six points and a conversion a further one point. A field goal is worth three points just like a penalty or drop goal in rugby. Drop goals do not happen in the NFL.

A team can opt for a two point conversion where, in place of a kicker, the quarterback will attempt to rush or pass the ball into the end-zone as they did to score the touchdown.

Similarly if a ball carrier is tackled in his own end-zone that is known as a “safety” and is worth two points to the opposition.

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

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