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Super Bowl spirits
Bear Boat Pinot Noir violates Tim's general "no animal labels" rule, but is a nice drinking Pinot.

It’s kinda cool to see a classic cold–weather team matchup in Super Bowl XLV. These are bad dudes, guys who work out in the bone–numbing chill of Green Bay and Pittsburgh.

Their pain is our gain. The parties, the friends, the rivalry, the snacks — I’m going to have my Super Bowl spread loaded with plenty of goodies. Of course, the bar bill has to be filled, and I’ve got some ideas.

Pre–game, the menu is likely gonna be chips, dips and salsa. Throw in some cheese (Go Packers!), some cured meats (for the Steeler fans) and you’ve got a great starting line up.

What to drink. Start off easy, grasshopper. I suggest sparkling wines. Champagnes, Cava or Prosecco. Cava, from Spain, and Prosecco, from Italy, both represent some great values. Good, refreshing examples are available for $10 or under – but certainly don’t spend more than $12. Mild sweetness will offset spicy and savory snacks — the effervescence will help cleanse the palate between courses that can butt against one another as aggressively as a pair of 325–pound linemen.

Ask your favorite retailer for the best ideas — no one knows their shelves better.

For beer lovers, this first course should also be a easygoing primer. Consider the spice of Allagash White, berry freshness of Sweetwater Blue, easy–drinking Mama’s Little Yella Pilsner from Oskar Blues or gentle strawberry tastes from Samuel Smith organic strawberry English Ale.

By the end of the first quarter, I’m thinking about something more substantial – to eat and drink. For me, this course is about pulled pork barbecue, grilled burgers and supreme pizza. Throw in some chicken wings for good measure, some tater skins and a simmering pot of chili — and you’ve the the makings of a premiere halftime show!

This is when you can reach for the big red wines. There’s no need to chuck out big money – go with bargains like Bonterra Zinfandel or Seven Deadly Zins. These two wines have plenty of body and nice smokiness to accompany grilled meats.

Shiraz is a good bet — this is a time when those inky dark purple Aussie wines can shine. Consider Robert Oatley Shiraz — or score one of the dozens of bargain priced down–under Shiraz that are flooding the shelves. Bear Boat Pinot Noir violates my general “no animal labels” rule, but is a nice drinking Pinot that’s turning up now on grocery store shelves.

Beer ya? Alrighty... hops rule with spicy food like chili and jalapeno topped pizza. Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA is king of the mountain right now – but any beer labeled IPA will cover your special teams’ needs. For smoother main course beers,

I’ll look down the bench for another Sweetwater brew — Sweet Georgia Brown — or call out Full Sail Amber, Highland Gaelic Ale and Bell’s Amber or, for more hops, Bell’s Two–Hearted Ale.

Big crowd? Consider box wines for cost–caving efficiency. Red Truck, The Green Box and any number of other box wines will fill the bill without a personal foul on the wallet.