It's that glorious time of year again. The weather cools off, the kids go back to school and football, glorious football, is back in our lives. And where there’s football, there’s fantasy football. No longer a secret hobby to be kept from your partner, fantasy sports has burst into the mainstream. Also bursting with popularity? Craft beer, of course.
Can we draw any links between the concurrent growing interest in both craft beer and fantasy football? In general, beer and football have been popular for a long time, but adding the 'craft' and 'fantasy' monikers have been part of a more recent surge. Perhaps we want to feel like we have control over a part of our lives, like we are truly independent actors able to pick from a variety of menus and build whatever we want à la carte – that's something we want whether we're filling our shopping cart or starting lineup.
If we get tired of the same old American lagers we have seen on television for years, we can choose to try something new and different from a brewery down the street. Likewise, my long-suffering Detroit Lions fan friend – who is tired of watching that franchise pick the wrong players year-in and year-out – can now own a fantasy football team where he is the decision-maker. As we all seek out just a little bit more ownership over our lives, and especially in our hobbies, we can all use a little help balancing out the two loves of our life.
Consider this a guide of how to think about what beers you will drink at your fantasy draft. A strategy guide, for beer.
After all, your fantasy football draft is the rare time where you can have some control of your football love and savor some great beers, without compromising either.
You don't always get to enjoy both craft beer and regular football together, after all. Going to a game often means swallowing your pride along with a $12 Big Gulp-sized macro lager. And I would never ask my favorite craft beer bar to put on a football game out of fear that all the people there would hipster-shame me about possibly turning off the 1970s kung fu movie marathon.
But for this one shining night, craft beer and fantasy football come together, and you are in charge. I want to help fantasy football owners think about what beers they will bring to their draft, since they have so many other important things occupying their mind, like which players they are actually going to draft.
Dogfish Head’s India Brown Ale is also a great beer to start with, just like drafting Le’Veon Bell first makes anyone look smart.”
There are a couple of fantasy football draft strategies to look at. Let's see how to incorporate one’s beer tastes into each approach.
A common plan for a fantasy football draft is to target players in the first few rounds of your draft that are low-risk or have a high floor. You don’t want the player you picked first to sink your season, so you find a reliable player that, at their worst-case scenario, will still be somewhat productive. Selecting Antonio Brown or LeSean McCoy in the first round is safe, anyone with an iota of football knowledge trusts that guys like that will play at a high level.
Now, as the draft progresses towards the later rounds, that’s when you may start to essentially play the lottery by looking for higher-risk, boom-or-bust players. Those later draft picks are not as valuable to you, so that’s where you can take a chance on a rookie or a veteran coming back from an injury. Dalvin Cook is uber-talented and was highly productive in college, but will the Vikings coaches trust a rookie enough to give him plenty of carries?
Let’s apply that same philosophy of low-risk early, high-risk late to the beers you should drink. I finally had my first Dragon’s Milk from New Holland Brewing and it definitely lived up to the hype. You taste just enough of the bourbon barrel to mellow out the stout without getting any alcohol heat. Dragon’s Milk has been well-respected for years and would be a safe, if not spectacular, beer to drink for the first round or two of your draft.
Dogfish Head’s India Brown Ale is also a great beer to start with, just like drafting Le’Veon Bell first makes anyone look smart. Are you unsure if you want your first beer to be something hoppy or something middle of the road? Do you draft a running back or a receiver first? It turns out, a hoppy brown might satisfy your every need, just like Bell could rack up yards on the ground as well as through the air.
If that approach is not for you, have no fear. There are as many ways to approach drinking at your draft as there are IPAs at Stone Brewing’s taproom.
You can choose something sessionable at first, especially since drafts can take hours, but then celebrate with a big old Russian Imperial Stout when the draft is done. Bell’s Oberon is a classic Wheat Ale and comes in at under 6% alcohol by volume, making it a nice way to start off your draft. If you’re in a sharing mood, you can even occasionally find a mini-keg of Oberon and be a hero to all your friends.
Or perhaps you want to celebrate the start of football season with some fall seasonals. I’m already tired of pumpkin beers, but I’ll reach for Southern Tier’s Warlock Imperial Stout any day. It tastes like a piece of pumpkin pie that was dipped in a chocolate fountain, and a bomber of this is a great way to build camaraderie in between all the trash-talking at your draft. If Warlock’s 10% ABV is a bit too rich, consider Victory Brewing’s Festbier, an Oktoberfest style beer with just the right amount of toasty malt goodness.
Fantasy football is best if you treat it with the same attitude you have towards beer.”
You don't need me to tell you about all the benefits of drinking local beers, but the draft is a good chance to pull out some beers that represent your favorite team or college town.
As a Giants fan, I like to drink what I consider New York’s finest beer; Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Chocolate Stout. It's an easy sipper, full of rich chocolate, and serves as a great reminder of a crisp autumn night in the city. I went to Florida State University in Tallahassee in the 1990s, and Abita Brewing out of New Orleans was one of the first craft breweries to distribute there. To this day, I am happy to show up for my draft with a six-pack of their Turbodog brown ale or raspberry-infused Purple Haze wheat beer.
If you live in certain parts of the country, you can even drink a beer that a football player helped brew.
Arizona Cardinals offensive tackle (and home brewer) Jared Veldheer collaborated with Arizona Wilderness on a Pale Ale. You could toast Walter Payton, one of the all-time great running backs, with Swheatness, a wheat ale made by his son, Jarrett. Even punters get in on the action, as former Pro Bowler Brandon Fields is opening his own brewery after working with Funky Buddha Brewery on developing their Double IPA recipe.
You can even further bring together craft beer and fantasy football by holding your draft party at a local brewery. Several breweries are holding special events designed specifically for fantasy drafts, like the aforementioned Funky Buddha in Fort Lauderdale, Saint Arnold Brewing Company in Houston, MadTree Brewing in Cincinnati, and Dry Dock Brewing in Colorado.
No matter what your approach to draft night is, fantasy football is best if you treat it with the same attitude you have towards beer. Unless you do it professionally, beer and football should not be taken too seriously.
Just remember to stop and celebrate your own independence, whether it comes from drafting your own team or savoring your favorite craft beer. Or both.