Joel McHale has many talents. You may know him best as a comedian—star of the hit show Community, which ran from 2009 through 2016. Or, more recently, Animal Control, which was just renewed for a second season on Fox. He’s also a former college football player for the University of Washington, a member of a team that made it to the Rose Bowl in 1993. His passion for the sport actually extends beyond what’s happening on the field to include the sacred ritual that occurs just outside the stadium.
We’re talking about tailgating, of course. And McHale, it turns out, is an expert at the art. Which is why Dos Equis, the enduringly popular Mexican Lager, has tapped the actor and adult beverage enthusiast to be a judge for its first ever College Football Tailgate Throwdown. The promotion gives three lucky sports fans the chance to “turn their tailgate dreams into a reality,” according to a press release from the beer company.
What does that entail, exactly? Well, we talked to McHale directly to find out. Below he explains the partnership along with some musings on life, lager, and his favorite Los Angeles bars.
The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
When did you develop a love for Mexican lager?
Joel McHale: “We live in possibly the greatest time ever for food and beverage. The standards and the quality are really high and I think that Mexican lagers perfected lagers. They have this wonderful balance between bitterness and hops and malt. And Dos Equis is one of the more balanced beers out there—which I may or may not be consuming right now.”
And it also seems like the kind of beer which you can enjoy, sessionably, throughout game day.
JM: “Right. And it pairs extremely well with a wide spectrum of different foods.”
Which brings us to tailgating. What makes the ritual so sacred to you?
JM: “I do think that tailgate parties at college football stadiums—they’ve been around longer than NFL football—are a real slice of Americana. There’s no other place on the planet where a college team has a 100,000 seat stadium. And it’s such an ancient tradition, it probably goes back to maybe even Roman times.”
Oh, so you’re one of these guys who thinks about the Roman Empire all day?
JM: “Oh no, I was talking about Rome, Georgia.
And how does Dos Equis tie into all of this?
JM: “So, imagine someone saying ‘the sky’s the limit…’ Imagine anything you want for your tailgate party and that’s what Dos Equis is doing here.”
What are the criteria by which you’ll be selecting the ultimate tailgaters for this contest?
JM: “Just, what is your dream tailgate. It’s a good, beautiful simple idea. They chose me and Jeff Hoppe, who is slowly taking over Dallas—the unofficial chef of the Cowboys. And then Mark Ingram II who won the Heisman Trophy in 2009—a very decorated, storied player. Then fans just started submitting whatever they could imagine as the most creative tailgate set up. And we’ve narrowed it down to just a few. I chose this guy named Max, his tailgate seemed like a lot of fun. Even though he was a UCLA fan—I’ll forgive him for that.”
Who would be your preferred celebrity friend to tailgate with, and why?
JM: “This might be a cheat, but I’m going to say Curtis Stone. He’s a Michelin star chef and he’s Australian so he likes having a good time. We host Crime Scene Kitchen together so you could get some pretty rare desserts. Or Anthony Anderson. That guy, wherever he goes, it’s a good time.”
More than just the drink itself, you seem to appreciate the setting in which you’re enjoying it. What are some favorite bars that you want to shout out?
JM: “Get ready for the list. I think Black Market Liquor in Studio City is really good. Salazar is also terrific, it continues to be wonderful. L’Antica in Hollywood has a great bar and it also has some of the best Italian food you’ve ever had. You’ll have a Negroni that’ll knock your socks off. In Seattle, Matt’s In The Market is terrific. I think May’s Thai Food on Vashon Island is outstanding.”
You were just up there this weekend to see your alma mater in action, right?
JM: “This Saturday’s win against Oregon was one of the most exciting football games I have ever seen—and I saw the Seahawks win the Super Bowl, in person. The energy coming out of that stadium. Even Kirk Herbstreit of ESPN was like, ‘I commentate on NFL football all the time but you cannot get an experience like this.’ We won in the last second and I was screaming at my 15-year-old, ‘Do you understand what’s happening?! This is the greatest!’ Everyone tailgated before the game and then everybody was so happy that everybody tailgated after. It was just this huge Seattle party. Man, I love this sport.”
And the town was awash in Dos Equis?
JM: “Dos Equis was everywhere. There was signage. I had t-shirts, I had the patches. I had the temporary tattoos. I laid down that night and I was like, ‘That was one of the better days I’ve ever had.’ The dark days I’ve had—there were a lot of rough seasons with the Huskies and a lot of rough seasons with the Seahawks. And, boy, when it is good, it is GOOD. It is good times. If we lost every game for the rest of the season—which we’re not going to—I would still say, that memory was just perfect.”