There’s nothing quite like football season in Michigan.
Hope springs eternal in the fall for football fans across the state, and while our allegiances may clash when it comes to collegiate pigskin, the Detroit Lions unite us in a common objective: commiseration.
Sure, the Lions have caused their fans a fair share of heartbreak, unhinged anger, and downright sorrow, but that certainly doesn’t keep them from showing up to each game, hopeful that this will be the week things finally take a turn for their rooting interest.
Another thing Lions fans know how to do is throw a party. On game day, thousands of fans gather downtown to various parking lots surrounding Ford Field to get the party started before kickoff, but even more are getting themselves situated in the comfort of their own homes, ready to partake in the three-and-a-half hour roller coaster of emotions.
Let’s recount the ways you can bring the Lions tailgating experience into your home—”homegating,” if you will.
Pizza or wings—or both?
No need to be hangry when the Lions’ defense is doing everything it can to ruin your afternoon! If you’re trying to feed a bunch of people, consider the following staples of Detroit cuisine.
Jet’s or Buddy’s pizza
You can’t go wrong with either of these popular and affordable pizzerias. Jet’s has a bunch of specialty pizzas—including their iconic BBQ chicken—that can hit the spot if you’re looking for something off the beaten path. If you’re going with Jet’s, don’t be afraid to dress up that crust: go with the Turbo crust to get the most bang for your buck. In Buddy’s, you have another establishment—along with Jet’s—that does the Detroit deep-dish justice. It’s a square pizza with cheesy, crispy corners that pack a crunch. Add the Old World pepperoni to create a pizza that has all the familiar elements, but is elevated and layered to create a whole new experience. Many consider Buddy’s to be the original deep-dish pizza in Detroit, and USA Today called their pizza “pilgrimage-worthy.” So yeah, it’s pretty good.
Sweetwater Tavern wings
There’s nothing you can count on like a chicken wing from Sweetwater. Here’s a description of their wings straight from the horse’s mouth:
“Chicken wings are what we do best. Marinated 24 hours, our wings are full of flavor without too much flavor... We sell 15,000 lbs. weekly between four locations and our food truck so we are not alone in liking them.”
There’s just one sauce they marinate their wings in, so it’s impossible for you to make the wrong decision or get stuck with some gimmick sauce that tastes like straight sugar from Buffalo Wild Wings. A smoky, full-flavored wing with just the right amount of heat is perfect for everyone to enjoy.
Michigan is one of the premier beer states in the
country world. With well known breweries like Bell’s, Short’s, Founders, and many more, you don’t have to stray far from a local corner store’s beer cave to find a better brew to wash down your wings and pizza. Even if you’re out of state, some offerings from the breweries above are likely available in your local grocery store.
Of course, you’ll want to have a nice assortment of tasty treats to keep your thirst quenched for four quarters. I’m going to compile the ultimate six-pack of Michigan beers to give you not only a solid assortment of tastes and flavor profiles, but something that can keep you buzzing like the Lions offense.
Breakfast Stout - Founders Brewing Co.
If you’re drinking before noon, why not transition smoothly from breakfast? This oatmeal stout is brewed with flaked oats, various bitter and imported chocolates, and both Sumatra and Kona coffee to provide a heavy, fresh-roasted flavor. It packs a punch with an 8.5 percent ABV, but one of these is enough to kick off your afternoon of football.
Ichabod Pumpkin Ale - New Holland Brewing Co.
Pumpkin beers crop up in the fall, and while they’re a good change of pace, you likely don’t want more than one or two. New Holland’s Ichabod pumpkin ale, a staple of the fall season for 20 years, is made with real pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg spices. As their website aptly states, Ichabod is an “approachable and enjoyable beer” considering its ABV of 4.5 percent.
Official Hazy IPA - Bell’s Brewery
Our own Erik Schlitt is a big fan of the hazy IPAs and I can’t think of a better way to acclimate your taste buds to the unique and acquired taste required to enjoy them than Bell’s Official. At 6.4 percent ABV it is certainly more high-octane than your average beer, so enjoy responsibly, but Bell’s Official eases you in with complex peach, stone fruit, and tropical notes to deliver a beer with a dry finish that’s not very bitter compared to other IPAs.
Honey Lav American Wheat - Blackrocks Brewery
Blackrocks is most likely my favorite brewery in Michigan and Honey Lav is a big reason why. It might be a little tough to find this in October because they only brew it May-August, but if you can get your hands on a six-pack, it’s the perfect bonfire beer. Brewed with Michigan honey and full lavender flowers, it has a fresh and flavorful earthiness to it, and at 5.2 percent ABV, it’s not too heavy.
Two Hearted IPA - Founders Brewing Co.
Let your hair down with this Michigan staple: Bell’s Two Hearted is a recognizable brew across the country that really takes you in. If you’re not big on IPAs, a beer like this is probably why, but if you are someone who does enjoy them, there isn’t a better IPA you’ll find from a Michigan brewery.
Local’s Light American Lager - Short’s Brewing Co.
Short’s calls it “beer in its simplest form” and that’s just about the perfect way to describe it. It’s a crisp, yellow lager that carries 5.2 percent ABV, so if you’re looking for something to keep coming back to after your first personal sixer, this is an easy-drinking beer that can take you home.
Watching the Game
Some folding tables for your spread of pizza and/or wings, a couple of coolers to keep your drinks on ice, and you’re almost at the finish line of throwing the best Lions watch party, but there’s one missing ingredient: the actual game itself.
Truthfully, there’s nothing better than sweater weather during the fall in Michigan, so an extension cord and a garage is the ideal way to catch the game. You can always spruce it up by using a projector to blow up the game on a clean surface if you’re hosting a bigger event, but a regular ol’ store-bought TV will do just fine. For those Lions fans who are outside of the local television market, you’ll have to grab a subscription for NFL Sunday Ticket to stay up on the action—and it’s not a bad idea to have a subscription to NFL Red Zone in case things go sideways for the Leos.
When you have the food, drink, and the game, and you’re surrounded by the kind of people you can tolerate being around for three hours while the Lions try to find a new way to crush your heart into a million little Honolulu blue pieces, you’re all set for the best homegating experience you can have.