The fall is hunting season for Minnesota game animals such as deer, pheasant, duck, and-for lucky lottery winners-elk and bear. Some people love spending a weekend outdoors with friends, others love the skill involved, and many hunters have their own personal reasons for taking part in the sport. Even if you don’t hunt yourself, the fall months are the perfect opportunity to dive into what it really means to eat seasonally in Minnesota.
When you pair wine or beer with game meat, you have to consider that the meat is, well, gamey. It has a different texture because the animal uses its muscles more; it has a different smell. Oftentimes, the animals’ natural diet affects the taste, too.
Like all food and beverage pairings, the key is to know how to balance the fattiness, texture and flavors. With fattier meats such as duck, the hops and carbonation of beer can help take away the greasy feeling on your tongue, as can wine flavors like cherry or citrus. Venison can often be paired with drinks you would serve with beef-the main thing is to have a bold enough drink to complement the strong flavor and texture. Lighter meats such as rabbit go with lighter wines and beer, whereas denser meats like bear should pair with heavier drinks that have a rich finish, whether sweet or savory.
A near-universal pairing with any game protein is red burgundy, and here are some more pairing tips for delicious matches.
Bear: Merlot with dark cherry, chocolate, vanilla or cinnamon for a sweet finish; Mourvèdre for more of a savory pairing; grassy or hoppy beer such as an IPA can highlight that quality in the meat.
Duck: Red wine (Syrah, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon); beer with hops; and sharp fruit and fig flavors like a Belgian or brown ale.
Pheasant: Red wine (Bordeaux, Syrah, Hermitage, Côtes du Rhône, Pinot Noir if roasted) and beers (Stout, Dubbel, Bière de Garde).
Quail: Red wine (Pinot Noir, Beaujolais, Merlot); white (Chardonnay with oak undertones); hoppy and bitter beer (American Pale Ale, American Brown Ale); or strong pale ale with fruity and sweet flavors.
Rabbit: Light wines (reds could include Pinot Noir, Rhône, and good white choices are Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc) and beers that have more malt and less hops (Bière de Gardes and, Belgian Saisons). Because the meat is so light, factor in the sauces you use to not overpower the natural flavors.
Turkey: Red wine (Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhône, Zinfandel) and beers (Dubbel, Bière de Garde, Oktoberfest, Scotch Ale, Brown Ale).