I’ll admit it, I’m a little jealous. North Carolina State University has its own beer, and my alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, doesn’t. I decided to try one to see if I am missing anything other than another piece of memorabilia for my collection.
NC State is one of almost a dozen universities nationwide that have licensed their trademarks to breweries. For NCSU, this has resulted in a partnership with New Belgium Brewing Company, which has a production facility in North Carolina four hours to the west in Asheville. That partnership has given birth to Old Tuffy Premium Lager, a light, crisp lager that seems like it was specifically designed for sweltering Saturday afternoon tailgating in the parking lot of Carter-Finley Stadium.
Fans of State’s local rivals, North Carolina and Duke, don’t have beers of their own. Local brewery Aviator in Fuquay Varina has offered its Blue Blood Rivalry as a tribute to those two schools, but there’s just something about having a can decked out in your teams colors and mascots. I’m sure cans of Old Tuffy are now sitting proudly on shelves across the state keeping company with dusty commemorative Coke bottles celebrating State’s 1983 men’s basketball national championship. And beer-drinking fans also have the satisfaction of knowing that part of the profits from the beer go to support the NCSU fermentation science program.
Is Old Tuffy Any Good?
Well, yeah, it is. This is a very pleasant, easy-drinking beer that should have a wide appeal. It would be an easy enough upgrade from Bud Lite for those who might consider something like that to be their go-to tailgating beer. The light straw-colored beer forms a thin white head, which quickly settles down to a thin layer after you fill your glass. Bringing it up to your nose reveals a light, bready, floral aroma that is a good indicator of what’s to come.
The level of carbonation is just right, nice and crisp without burning or foaming. Old Tuffy has a very light but complex flavor. New Belgium used four kinds of hops and two malts so it definitely has more going on in the flavor department than the Big Beer American lagers. It’s slightly sweet and little bitter and finishes very cleanly. Once you swallow it, you’re done tasting this beer. I thought there were notes of bread and corn, as well as a bit of honey. New Belgium describes Old Tuffy as also tasting of pear, citrus and white wine along with “slight-moderate flinty sulfur.” I don’t know what that last bit means, but I’m kinda glad I couldn’t taste it.
Old Tuffy weighs in at 141 calories and 4.7% alcohol by volume, which is in line with most mass produced lagers. so it shouldn’t affect your waistline or state of inebriation any differently. Choosing this beer as you don your red and white game-day togs will let you show your Wolfpack spirit both inside and out. If like me you don’t have any Wolfpack spirit, well, there are plenty of other beers out there. But if a State fan hands you an Old Tuffy, I don’t think you’ll regret taking it.
What Does Old Tuffy Mean?
We can see how this could cause some confusion, especially with the younger generation of Pack fans. The Struttin’ Wolf mascot on the can is also known as Tuffy. The costumed mascots you see running around basketball and football games are Mr. Wuf and Mrs. Wuf. Apparently, one of the game mascots in the 1980s made his own costume and just decided to sew Mr. Wuf on the back as its name, and it stuck. Simpler times. The Wolfpack has also had canine mascots on the sidelines, and they were named Tuffy, too. Thanks to the folks at PackInsider.com for clearing that up.