According to my Twitter feed over the past week, a lot of us spend the last days before the college football season starts watching old games and getting hyped for the beginning of the most exciting time of year. As I type this, the 2000 K-State vs. Nebraska game is playing on my television. K-State stalled on the first drive, then Nebraska blocked the punt and ran it back for a touchdown. Not a good start, but if you know your history then you know why I’ll be sticking around for the end.

Another part of my preseason ritual is preparing for tailgating. Last weekend I pulled out all the equipment to give it a quick check. Just seeing that purple canopy standing on the lawn was almost as inspiring as watching “Rudy.” Tailgate like a champion today.


My kind of family reunion.

The first tailgate of the year is hard to spoil. Most of us are so happy to be out there on the lot that you could hand us a plain hot dog and a marginally cold Natty Light and we would be unfazed while we are shaking hands with purple-clad strangers and debating whether or not we’ll see more than the first page of the playbook.

You could do that, and if Natty Light is your thing I say go for it, but with a little planning, you won’t have to find out whether or not the excitement of game day can overcome a poor effort when it comes to food and drinks. I’m not saying you have to have something fancy. Being a snob about these things is not our style. Save that for the wine and cheese crowd down the river. Eat and drink what you like, and don’t be afraid to try to expand the list.

Many alumni (like me) see the first tailgate as a long-awaited reconnection with our favorite place on Earth. We miss Manhattan. We want to get in touch with the places we remember, and also to get a feel for what has changed. In that spirit, and with an understanding that it’s usually pretty hot for the first couple of tailgates, I recommended hero sandwiches and a good ol’ summer beer in the style of Rock-A-Belly Deli. This year I’m feeling similarly inspired, but I’ll change things up a little.

In honor of our Hall of Fame coach and his occasional habit of having a Taco Bell “fourth meal” as his first and only meal, I’m thinking taco bar. Get yourself a good-sized skillet capable of browning enough hamburger to make taco meat for everyone in your party plus one. You never know when Robert Lipson might drop by. Just set the skillet right on the grill. Tacos work well for a tailgate because most of the food can be prepared ahead of time. You can even pre-make the taco meat and reheat it on the grill if you want to speed things up. Shredded cheese, lettuce,

Double deckers will keep your food off of the parking lot.

Double deckers will keep your food off of the parking lot.

tomatoes, sour cream, taco shells, tortillas… They are all easy to toss in the cooler and lay out on a table in bowls and on plates. Not only that, but there are tons of extra options that you can add to the menu. Seven layer dip, chili con queso, and even simple chips and salsa are great additions. If you really want to get fancy and go for the MHK connection, check out the menu at Taco Lucha for ingredient inspiration. Some grilled chicken can be a nice change.

If you’re worried about things falling apart in your hands while you’re standing in a parking lot, go double-decker by wrapping the taco shell in a tortilla lined with refried beans. Problem solved.

Now, when it comes to drinks, the number of good options seems to grow by the day. If microbreweries were emerging in the 90’s, they’re absolutely exploding with new offerings these days. It will be hard, but I’ll resist the temptation to list ten or fifteen different options each time. If you want recommendations beyond what’s here, or just to talk food and beer, put something in the comments or drop Mark and I a line on Twitter. We love conversations like that.

The Nancy

The Nancy

As I mentioned, last year I posted a recipe for Rock-A-Belly’s summer beer. This year I’m tipping my cap (or my stadium cup) to another Aggieville staple. This one comes from our friends at So Long Saloon. Yep, I’m talking about the Nancy. If the summer beer is simple, the Nancy is even simpler. There are two ingredients, Old Milwaukee and pineapple juice. See, I told you I’m not a beer snob. Given the five hours many people spend at the tailgate, it’s not always a bad thing to take the strength of your drink down a few notches. It also works fine with pretty much any lawnmower beer, so if there’s something else you have on hand like PBR, it’ll do the job. For the folks at So Long Saloon, though, it’s strictly Old Mil.

If you’re looking for something new that tastes awfully good on a hot day and will hold up to some spicy Mexican food, give Boulevard’s Heavy Lifting a try. Call it a nod to our new state of the art weight room in Vanier. It’s a new offering from Boulevard that has become my go-to this summer. It’s a really solid IPA that weighs in at a full 80 IBU, 6.2% ABV, and comes in bright green cans so the parking lot staff won’t get on your case for having glass. It started its life as the Mid-Coast IPA, a “Tasting Room” beer in the Boulevard sampler 12-pack that tipped the bitterness scales at over 100 IBU. After pursuing another monster IPA called The Calling, they toned down the Mid-Coast to a more universally appealing but still hop-head approved bitterness and gave it a new name and a year-round place of its own in canned six packs.

This was my official beer of summer. Big, bold hops and packaged for the parking lot.

This was my official beer of summer. Big, bold hops and packaged for the parking lot.

I hope you found something you can use here. Please let us know if you use any of the ideas offered here, and what you think of our recommendations. As I finish this post, on my television a heavy snow is beginning to fall on Wagner Field. Kansas State has fallen behind by five points with only 3:18 left to play in the game. With a Big 12 North title on the line, K-State is 12 yards from pay dirt, and Quincy Morgan is lining up wide to the right.

We’ll see you on the lot.

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