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‘Beer Bowl’ 2017: Boston vs Atlanta

At the end of what has been an up and down sort of season, the NFL has rolled into Houston in preparation for Super Bowl LI on Sunday.

The New England Patriots will square up to the Atlanta Falcons for what should be an explosive, high tempo game with both teams making sporting history should they win.

The favourites, the team everyone loves to hate, are the Patriots. Coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady are aiming to lift a record fifth trophy in what is already a record seventh appearance in the big game. It’s a team full of veterans, many with at least one prior Super Bowl experience under their belts.

Despite losing a few key players to injury during the season such as the man mountain that is Rob Gronkowski, this is a team that has continued to crush opponents with the most brutal of ease.

Up against them are quarterback Matt Ryan and his explosive Atlanta Falcons making only their second ever trip to the Super Bowl (the last being in 1999) and still looking for the first trophy for a bare looking cabinet.

The dark horses of the NFC, the Falcons have leaned heavily on star wide receiver Julio Jones to rack up a string of impressive victories and have a mean defensive team with which to harass Brady and knock him off his stride.

Will they choke when it comes to the crunch or rise to the occasion and knock the Patriots from their perch?

Key to the Super Bowl experience is large amounts of food and drink and the game is a good way to sample a few craft brews from the opposing states.

AB InBev is the official beer sponsor of the NFL and has spent a whopping US$30 million on just three minutes of advertising that will be aired during the game – as well as being the only supplier of beer inside the stadium.

As ever though, in the comfort of your own home (or your friend’s) there’s nothing stopping you from having whatever you want.

Patriots fans might already be stocking the fridge with Sam Adams Boston lager and Falcons fans putting the SweetWater IPA in the cool box but if you’re undecided as to which team you should throw your support behind then allow us to provide some advice in the shape of beer.

Kick-off is on Sunday 5 February at 6.30pm Eastern Standard Time on Fox and 11.30pm in the UK where the game is being aired by the BBC and Sky Sports.

New England Patriots

Coach: Bill Belichick
Quarterback: Tom Brady
Key Players: Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Martellus Bennett, Patrick Chung, LeGarette Blount

With Tom Brady suspended for the first four games of the season following the ‘Deflategate’ incident in 2015, hopes were high that the dominant Patriots would struggle a little throughout 2016.

Those hopes soon withered as back-up quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett ably steered the team to three wins leaving them nicely through positioned at 3-1 when Brady returned.

‘Maybe he’ll be rusty?’; ‘maybe he’s too old?’ were the next lines trotted out by opposing fans of the now 39-year-old superstar who promptly put up yet another series of incredible statistics that shame quarterbacks over 10 years his junior.

A lynchpin of the offense, Rob Gronkowski, then suffered (yet another) season ending injury. ‘Well, now they’re toast,’ was the cry, only for little known players like Chris Hogan, who was traded from the Buffalo Bills where he’d spent a quiet couple of years, to step up and make important plays when it counted.

‘Die Mannschaft’ of the NFL world, if you applied Gary Lineker’s pithy comment about the German soccer team to American football your punch line would be, “and at the end, the Patriots always win.”

(And I really, really, really hope they lose. Gad, Brady is just so talented and handsome too.)


The beer:

Massachusetts is not a craft brewing heaven in the mould of Washington or Colorado but it is the home of the brewery often credited with kickstarting the whole movement in the US.

Boston was the home of the American Revolution, cradle of the constitution and literal cradle of such historical figures as John Hancock, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and, of course, Samuel Adams.

By tradition a brewer himself, the name of the Revolutionary hero was picked by the Boston Brewing Company for its flagship beer when it launched in 1984 and the brand today is much better known than the brewery’s actual name.

Considered one of the pioneers of US craft brewing, Boston Brewing/Samuel Adams is now ranked as the biggest craft brewer in the country though with a production of around 2.5m barrels a year compared to Budweiser’s 16m, Sam Adams is hardly “big beer”.

An icon of American brewing and of great importance to the craft brewing movement, “Boston Lager” should be the beer of all true Patriots fans come Super Bowl Sunday.

There are other Massachusetts brews to consider of course and this wouldn’t be much of a guide if it didn’t address them.

Highly rated breweries include: Harpoon, Clown Shoes, Portico, Westfield, Tree House and Naukabout to name but a few.

Atlanta Falcons

Coach: Dan Quinn
Quarterback: Matt Ryan
Key players: Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman, Vic Beasley, Alex Mack

For years the Falcons have hinted at the fact that they could be a great team, that they could challenge for a Super Bowl and yet, time and again, they’ve fallen short.

This is only the franchise’s second trip to the Super Bowl in the game’s 50 year history and the first since 1999 when a Falcons team went to Super Bowl XXXIII – and lost, 34-19, to the Denver Broncos.

The 2016 season saw the team get back to winning ways, topping their division for the first time since 2012 and setting an 11-5 winning record, an improvement on 8-8 in 2015.

Quarterback Matt Ryan and star wide receiver have put up sensational statistics and Ryan now holds multiple franchise records including for passing yards and touchdowns.

In the playoffs the Falcons got their revenge on the Seattle Seahawks (who beat them in a close gam during the regular season) and in the NFC Championship game they torched the Green Bay Packers 44-21 in an offensive masterclass.

Surely, if anyone can beat the Patriots it’s them? Please.


The beer:

Being part of the American south and the infamous Bible Belt, you might expect Georgia to have a somewhat patchy record when it comes to alcohol production and consumption.

You would be wrong. In fact the state has absolutely no counties that are entirely ‘dry’ – although it does have a few counties where there are prohibitions on the sale of spirits in the on- or off-trade but none at all on beer or wine.

The Brewers Association reports that as of 2015 there were 45 craft breweries in Georgia (ranked 28th in the country) producing around 365,015 barrels a year.

If there’s a craft brewery that counts as a standard bearer for Georgia-brewing than it has to be SweetWater, which was founded in 1997 by two guys who’s formative brewing years were spent in California and Colorado – and it’s in Atlanta too.

Stock up on its IPAs and Georgia Brown to toast the downfall of the mighty Patriots come Monday morning (UK time).

Other good breweries include: Monday Night Brewing, Three Taverns Brewery, Jekyll Brewing, Orpheus Brewing, Red Brick Brewing, Wild Heaven and Terrapin.

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