Super Bowl LIII: the off-trade needs to be all over it like a blood-thirsty tight-end on a procrastinating quarter-back

At the beginning of each year, industry observers like nothing more than blowing the dust off their crystal balls, peering into the spirit world (and beer and wine), and proudly predicting the next “big thing” we’ll all be selling over the following 12 months. 

Which is why, in the first few weeks of 2019, lifestyle pages and industry organs are bound to be filled with chatter about Armagnac and aquavit, vermouth and mezcal, spiced rum and – the predictor’s perennial favourite that never fails to not deliver – sherry. Oh, and according to all those super switched-on soothsayers out there, gin is going to be big too in 2019. Who knew?

For other booze scribes, trotting out half-baked prophecies is an easy way to hit your word count, pick up the pay cheque and get back to titting about on Twitter. But we’re better than that. We would never stoop to such lazy journalism. 

And, besides, we did it last year when we declared that King’s Ginger, French liqueurs, St. Austell’s Big Job (stop sniggering at the back) and Carlsberg were going to smash it in 2018. Turns out, those 797 words weren’t entirely accurate.  

So, this year, instead, we’re kicking off our 2019 column with some hard-nosed business building advice all the way from the US of A. Yee, and indeed, hah. On February 3, Super Bowl LIII will take place in Atlanta, Georgia – and, in our view, the off-trade needs to be all over it like a blood-thirsty tight-end on a procrastinating quarter-back.  

Like Thanksgiving, baby showers and Black Friday, the Super Bowl is an American custom that tends to polarise opinion in the UK. American football is a bewildering version of British bulldog played by grunting, grappling Goliaths in skin-tight leggings, shoulder pads, eye make-up and absurd names that goes on for hours. But gridiron’s got an absurdly dedicated UK following with tickets to last season’s games played in London selling out in hours and more than 24 million unique UK broadcast viewers tuning in to watch games and highlights every year – the highest outside the US and Canada.

Falling just days after the end of Dry January, it is an excellent opportunity to coax consumers gently off the wagon.  While the likes of Budweiser will be spending big bucks on advertisements, it might be cleverer to concentrate on the “craftier” options. 

We are massive fans of 12th of Never Pale Ale from Lagunitas. It’s effortlessly drinkable, fabulously fruity (like a grown-up Lilt) and with enough hop bitterness to deal with Buffalo wings, pizza, chips, dips and the other artery-clogging delights that go with the Super Bowl.

Beyond beer, why not batch together some bourbons and American whiskies alongside other spirits from the thriving micro-distilling movement in the US? We have been impressed by Smooth Ambler, Chicago’s Few Spirits, which does great barrel-aged stuff from bourbon to gin, and California’s St George Distillery which makes a great coffee liqueur, a potentially useful caffeine lift come the early hours.

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