Title tilt a brewin’

Like a lot of people, I like to sit back and enjoy the Super Bowl with some salty snacks and a cold drink. Not so good for the arteries, but oh so tasty.

But a trip to the store to find a drink with which to enjoy the game presents so many possibilities. There are countless choices to consider, and it’s going to be hard to decide. But I know this: Few drinks go better with football than beer.

So, after thinking about this for a couple of days, I’ve decided Missouri will be represented at my Super Bowl event.  How can that be, when the Rams and Chiefs struggled through forgettable seasons?

The answer is quite simple: Missouri-made beer. The Show-Me State is home to the largest brewer in America in Anheuser-Busch InBev, and it has a strong reputation among craft breweries, thanks in large part to the success of Boulevard Brewing Company in Kansas City and Schlafly Beer in Maplewood.

Deciding which brand of beer goes best with the big game is no easy task. So, I did a little research on each brew and talked directly to some of the people who work with the product every day.

For example, Boulevard is one of the largest craft breweries in the United States (ranked No. 8 in 2009). The company sold the equivalent of about 42 million 12-ounce bottles of beer last year.

So, what makes Boulevard, which features seven year-round and five seasonal brews, along with another 10 to 12 in its Smokestack Series, a success?

“One of the big things that makes us unique is we bottle-condition our beers,” says John McDonald, Boulevard’s president. “We go to the trouble to re-ferment the beer in the bottle before we send it out to retail.”

This extra step requires the beer be stored in a temperature-controlled environment for a couple of extra weeks, and it does involve some extra costs, but McDonald says it’s worth the time and effort.

“We think it makes the beer stay fresher longer,” he says. “And it just gives it better flavor characteristics than non-bottled conditioned beer.”

Another key to being successful, McDonald says, is attention to detail.

“Ingredients are important,” he says, “but at the end of the day, if the brewer isn’t paying attention to what he’s doing, the beer won’t be great … There are hundreds of little things that go into making a great glass of beer. It’s easy not to do them all perfectly. It’s that attention to detail; the brewer has to want to make a fantastic bottle of beer.”

Across Missouri, outside of downtown St. Louis, Schlafly Beer focuses on a smaller market, with roughly 90 percent of its sales happening in the St. Louis Metro Area. But the company does has a presence in six states – anywhere it can deliver its product within three to four hours (to help keep the beer fresh) – and it sold the equivalent of more than 9.2 million 12-ounce bottles last year.

Dan Kopman, vice president at Schlafly, says there are several factors associated with making a great beer.

“A well-made beer is based on quality ingredients, clean, modern equipment, passionate brewers and personal preference,” Kopman says of Schlafly, which makes seven year-round brews and seven seasonals, along with an assortment of special release, bottle-conditioned and barrel-aged beers.

Schlafly’s unique processes, Kopman said, include brewing in smaller batches and personally selecting ingredients from great farmers.  “And we dry-hop (which adds aroma) using whole flower hops,” he added.

If that isn’t enough, Kopman says Schlafly offers the greatest variety of beer styles over the course of the year.

And as a final argument, he notes, “It is all bottled with love.”

As for the King of Beers, really, what’s left to be said? The Anheuser-Busch InBev brewery in St. Louis produces the iconic Budweiser and Bud Light brands, along with brews in the Michelob and Busch lines. Overall, A-B InBev produces about 60 beers, with Bud Light and Budweiser ranking No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in beer sales in America.

So, after all this, I’m pretty much right back where I started. There are wonderful choices to consider. I’m glad I’ve got a couple of days before the game.

As a side note, the three breweries mentioned here offer tours of their facilities and provide samples for those guests who are age 21 and over and have a valid ID. For tour information on Anheuser Busch in St. Louis, visit www.BudweiserTours.com/toursSTL.htm; for Boulevard Brewing, log on to www.BlvdBeer.com/tours/; and for Schlafly Beer, check out www.Schlafly.com/tours.shtml.

Enjoy the game and please, if you do drink, drink responsibly.

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