Tailgating immediately conjures images of beer, beer and more beer. How can tailgaters enjoy the time-honored tradition and still drink responsibly?


Visit the websites of most universities with a football team and buried somewhere in their policies you’ll find a responsible tailgating policy with rules that state you may bring portable outdoor furniture but not couches or other large furniture, or a tailgate space may not be claimed until noon the day immediately before a recognized campus sporting event.


In addition to rules like these that remind tailgaters to be considerate of others when partying in the parking lot before a sporting event, there are always rules about responsible alcohol consumption, too. Generally those rules cover underage drinking or the consequences of drunken behavior. But, given the fact that the focus of tailgating is often beer, beer and more beer (along with other types of alcohol), how can alcohol still be a part of tailgating without it becoming a problem? Here are a few tips to help keep the beer flowing before and after the game, just not too quickly.


Leave the drinking games at home. Beer pong, beer funnels and other games and devices that encourage drinking large quantities of alcohol in a short period of time may have their place, but it’s not at a tailgate where thousands of people are sharing the same space. Save the drinking games for another time and enjoy the alcohol at a slower pace.


Have plenty of food. Don’t skimp on the solid sustenance while tailgating. A stomach full of food will keep you from being tempted to have a stomach that’s full of only alcohol.


Have plenty of nonalcoholic beverages on hand. By having water, iced tea and other non-alcoholic beverages available, it’s easier to pace yourself. Tailgate food tends to be salty and spicy. Having other options besides beer, wine and liquor to wash it down with will go a long way in keeping you from over-imbibing. Try drinking one non-alcoholic drink in between each alcoholic choice.


Have a designated driver. Since tailgating often happens before and after a game, a designated driver can usually enjoy a drink or two (but not more) early on in the day. The driver should stop drinking several hours before the tailgating will end, however, to be completely sober for the drive home.


Properly dispose of your trash. Responsible alcohol consumption is about more than preventing over-imbibing. It’s also important to be responsible with the waste from your beverages. There are rarely recycling bins in tailgating areas, and if there are, many of them get used for both recycling and trash by thoughtless tailgaters. Make sure to bring bags or containers to take home your empties to put in your personal recycling bins. That way, they’ll be sure to get recycled. Also, clean up and properly dispose of all of the trash from your tailgating area.


Related drinking stories on MNN:

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Is responsible tailgating an oxymoron?
Pre-game gatherings and responsible drinking don't have to be mutually exclusive. Just take it easy on the alcohol and don't do anything stupid.