This is a time of the year when traditionally we remember our many blessings. Besides our family, friends and the gifts of joy and abundance that we enjoy, there are particular gifts that we enjoy as Michiganders. We are all privileged to live in a state that is uniquely endowed with abundance in opportunity, diversity and people. Many in our state have created world class businesses among them a wonderful diversity of award winning craft beers and wines. Everywhere you go in Michigan one can find local and diverse products made in Michigan and readily available selections of wines and beers local, regional, made in the United States and international. Another blessing is the great variety and abundance of nature throughout our state. We are rich in natural resources. These things, in part make Michigan a place that draws people from around the world to visit, live and work in Michigan.
This is the time of the year when many of our residents and visitors enjoy the abundance of our natural resources. In this state of plenty, craft brewing, winemaking and natural resources meld with common sense regulation and protection leading to abundance and rich variety. Here are some thoughts on seasonal foods and pairing suggestions to create great meals using both our natural resources and the variety of beer and wine styles to make special meals more memorable and enjoyable.
November is not just a time of football, fall weather and holidays. For many of our residents and visitors this is deer season. We have over half a million deer hunters. The lucky and skilled will bag 400,000 deer by archery, muzzleloaders and firearms. This bounty not only graces hunter’s tables but also provides significant food stuffs for Food Banks. Venison is a rich and sustainable game meat. For the lucky, it is common on tables around the state in this season.
The taste of venison varies depending on harvest location, cut of meat and preparation. A prime cut is Venison loin. This calls for a fuller body wine or beer. A rich Burgundy or a fruity Bordeaux (or blended red wine) support and enhance the rich flavors of Venison loin. For beer pairings, darker beers like a German Doppelbock, a British or American Porter or Brown Ale are great pairings too.
Conditions in Michigan continually provide an environment for increased populations of waterfowl especially ducks and geese. These two are popular with hunters and widely available for tables throughout our great state with over 250,000 ducks harvested last year alone. Hunting license fees collected for waterfowl, turkey and deer contribute over 90% of the funds used to maintain the vast state recreation areas in Michigan.
Pairings for waterfowl are similar to those of Venison. For wines, Pinot Noir, Malbec and, in a festive setting, Rose’ Sparkling wines are great choices. For beer, depending on preparation, Belgian Dubbel, Framboise and IPA are fine pairings.
Of course, we cannot think of Michigan without thinking of our greatest natural resource, access to the Great Lakes and the thousands of inland lakes and rivers everywhere in our state. We literally live in one of the world’s greatest fisheries. Fresh fish is abundant and everywhere. Michigan issues over 1.1 million fishing licenses a year. For me, the epitome of fresh fish here is salmon. Freshly prepared, salmon is a true delicacy. Salmon is a rich fish with substantial oil content that makes it moist. This calls for a full bodied white wine pairing like oak aged Chardonnay; surprisingly though a white or red Burgundy and even a Pinot Noir work well with salmon.
For beer lovers wheat beers are a great choice, whether we call it a German Weissbier, a Belgian Witbier, or an American Wheat. If flavored with fruits, the beer can complement your sauce and marinade used in preparation. Here again an IPA can add a spicy punch to the delicate fish.
In any pairing guide it really boils down to your taste and what you enjoy. There is no right or wrong answer – it’s about complimenting a great meal with a beverage. There are many fine examples in the general styles I have suggested here. Any reputable retailer, winemaker or craft brewer can help suggest specific brands in the styles outlined and offer personal suggestions. I hope we can all take time to celebrate this wonderful season over a meal with our family or friends and enjoy responsibly the bounty of beverages and natural resources that we all are blessed with in our state.