Tailgating culture is as integral to the Wisconsin experience as dairy farms, the polka, or saying “ope” when you accidentally bump into someone. The fact that the Green Bay Packers are the only fan-owned pro sports team in North America only adds to the event atmosphere that surrounds each and every Packers game, something that extends beyond the parking lots of Lambeau Field and into the living rooms of Cheeseheads across the United States and the world.
Indeed, most Packers fans (including a majority of us here at Acme Packing Company) are not season ticket holders and are not even residents of the state of Wisconsin. However, bringing the Lambeau Field experience into your own home is a time-honored tradition, and we’re here to help you plan your home tailgating — let’s use the term “homegating” — parties for the 2022 season.
Surrounding yourself with Packers fans is often the easy part. We’re here to make sure that you make some great calls in terms of food and drink, as well as how to set up your viewing experience.
Look, let’s not overthink this. The significance of German heritage across the state of Wisconsin means that bratwursts are without a doubt the essential main dish for any Packers homegate. Outside of Wisconsin, the Johnsonville brand (based in Sheboygan) can be found in nearly any major grocery store. In-state, however, this Packers fan recommends looking a little more closely to find Usinger’s. Top them off with sauerkraut or not, but don’t judge those who don’t partake in that particular condiment (and yes, this writer is simply saying this to avoid judgment).
Brats aren’t for everyone, so if you’re hosting a bigger event, it’s never a bad idea to have some burgers, hot dogs, chicken, or veggie patties. But bratwursts are the essential grill food — and don’t forget a good spicy brown mustard to go with them.
Buffalo chicken dip is great. Chips and salsa or guacamole are a nice touch. But the best call of them all for true Wisconsin-inspired sides is to make sure you have cheese curds on hand.
Any good Wisconsinite knows that curds are delicious raw — that slight squeak against your teeth is the sign of a curd being just right — but with an air fryer you can make your own fried curds at home to simulate the hot, gooey nuggets you would find at concession stands or restaurants across the state.
Here’s a great recipe from the Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin for making your own at home. Note, however, that these curds will be breaded, not battered, which can sometimes be a point of contention among curd connoisseurs (this one prefers battered, but will never turn down a curd no matter how it’s prepared). However, in a home air fryer, breading instead of battering is the better option, as it keeps the mess to a minimum while still coming out crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside. Serve with regular ranch or half-ranch/half-buffalo sauce for a bit of a zing.
No Wisconsin sports tailgate or homegate party is complete without two things: Wisconsin beer and a brandy Old Fashioned.
On the beer front, the flagship local Wisconsin craft beer is Spotted Cow from New Glarus Brewery. Spotted Cow is a great call for the warmer weather early in the season when you need a crisp, cold beer to quench your thirst. Then, as the season goes along and the weather starts to turn cool, we recommend swapping it out for Moon Man pale ale (if you’re a hops fan) or Staghorn Octoberfest. Of course, keep in mind that New Glarus beer is only sold in the state of Wisconsin, so if you live out of state, you’ll need to stock up on a visit or get a hookup from an in-state resident.
Another recommended option — both because of the name and the brewery’s location — is Packerland Pilsner from Hinterland Brewery in Ashwaubenon. A light-bodied lager, it’s perfect to pair with all of the foods discussed above without weighing down the drinker.
For the full Wisconsin experience, of course, a brandy Old Fashioned is critical. Start with a base of Korbel brandy — after all, Wisconsin is responsible for over half of the sales of that product in the entire country, making it the brandy of choice for bars and home liquor cabinets across the state. The process for making the cocktail is fairly simple, but the keys are to muddle the fruit and sugar together at the start and to not forget the bitters.
Finally, if you’re not one to go for alcoholic beverages, the ideal alternate is a bottle of root beer, specifically from Milwaukee-based Sprecher Brewing. Sprecher’s soft drinks are available across most of the country and also include excellent cream soda, cola, and orange cream varieties. A nice, cold Coca-Cola is a great option, too, even though it’s not specifically connected to Wisconsin or the Packers.
How to Watch the Game
Early in the season, an outdoor game watch (especially for an early afternoon game) is an excellent way to enjoy the last few weeks of pleasant Midwestern weather. Setting up a TV in a shady area of your backyard or garage would work well, minimizing the glare on the screen and keeping you close to your grill and cooler. Alternately, a projector on a large screen will make you feel closer to the action — just be sure that you have a cable or streaming box or other method for getting the signal to your projector.
The outdoor viewing also allows for you and your friends to get in a little competition of your own with some yard games. After all, the time in between plays is a perfect opportunity to throw a couple of beanbags and beat your friends in a few rounds of cornhole.
Of course, when the weather starts to turn, moving inside is inevitable. At that point, a critical factor to hosting a watch party is to either prepare the food in advance and lay the spread out inside or to have a good television setup near the door closest to the grill. If you’re tight on prep time, the latter will at least help to minimize the number of plays you would have to miss when tending to the food.
As for getting the games on TV, in-state viewers have it easy, of course, as all of the Packers’ games will be on local television. The Packers will have no shortage of nationally broadcast games in 2022 either, with seven games guaranteed to be available in every household in the USA (five in prime time, plus the London and Christmas Day games) and five others slated to be the primary late-afternoon game for much of the country. But for fans of the team who are outside of the local television market, consider an NFL Sunday Ticket streaming subscription (if you are eligible) to ensure that you don’t miss a minute of even the less-exciting matchups on the schedule.
Of course, the biggest factor to a good homegating experience is the people — sharing in your love of the Packers with your fellow Cheeseheads. Once you have that, the rest of the part should fall into place nicely.