Malt and hops are strong enough to stand up against the bold flavors wild game is known for. Plus, carbonation is a natural palate cleanser and few ingredients cut through fat like hops can.
What does all of this mean for the meat eater? The right beer just might be a better accompaniment to your fine, feral dining experience than just another glass of wine. Finding the best beer for wild game is a challenge because everyone’s tastes are different. However, a great selection of beers for venison dishes always needs a good starting point. Here are a few to consider.
Fruit for Fat — Rather than overpowering meaty meals with the hoppy punch of an IPA, beers with fruit flavors, especially those that present that perfect combination of tart and dry, complement rich dishes such as whole, roast duck. Belgian lambics are the perfect foil for fatty foods, and those of the kriek variety, with their base in sour cherries, are among the best. Lambics are also closer to sparkling wine than a fully carbonated beer, meaning the body is light, clean with a dry finish and they generally have a low ABV (alcohol by volume).
Reach for: Upland Brewery Cherry Lambic; Lindemans Kriek Lambic.
Ciders in Season — There’s a reason suckling pigs get their snouts stuffed with a bright, red apple, and it’s not just because traditionally pigs are taken during the fall, when apples are ripe (though that is part of the reason). It’s because the flavors work so well together — think clean, sweet and acidic vs. fatty, savory and succulent. Cider isn’t technically a beer, but the combination works so well it can’t be ignored. Look for something a little sweet and not too tart.
Reach for: Tandem Ciders Smackintosh; Angry Orchard Strawman.
Spice is Nice — When you bite into something that really burns, such as a spicy, Asian-inspired pheasant stir-fry, hit back with hops, but not too much. You still want to taste the food and too much hops can fire up the heat. Try to find a beer that treads the line between Pale Ale and IPA. They have just enough hops to temper the spice without amplifying it or overpowering the flavor of the dish. Try to find one with a citrusy tongue and drier finish that will help cut the oil of a stir-fried dish.
Reach for: Stone IPA; Red Hook Long Hammer.
’Merica — At the end of a hot day, when flipping venison burgers for the family, a big-bodied beer might as well be mud. For times such as these, you need cold, plentiful and light, but not too light. Time for an American lager. Your dad drank it, and his dad did, too, meaning you’re not too good for it. Sure, it sounds like its straight out of a beer commercial, but lagers are crisp and satisfying, with not so much carbonation that it slows you down.
Reach for: Oskar Blues Mama’s Little Yella Pils; Miller High Life
Here’s a top deer chili recipe to pair with your favorite brew:
David Rainer is an old pal, former newspaper outdoors editor in Mobile, and now works for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. We’ve chased a few fish and deer over the years and he’s pretty good in the kitchen, too.
Here’s one of Rainer’s favorite recipes for Venison Chili and, just like him, it’s straightforward and doesn’t come with fluff or pretense. Good stuff. Give it a try.
Big Dave’s Venison Chili
¼ cup olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, minced
4 large onions, chopped
2 large green peppers, chopped (optional)
4 pounds ground venison
3-4 cans diced tomatoes
2 6-ounce cans of tomato paste
4 16-ounce cans of kidney beans
1/4-1/3 cup chili powder
1-3 dashes of cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon liquid crab boil (my secret ingredient)
1 tablespoon salt
1-3 dashes of garlic salt
2-3 bay leaves
Heat olive oil in large stock pot with heavy bottom and sauté garlic, onions and pepper until tender. Add venison and brown for 10 minutes over medium heat. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, kidney beans, chili powder, cayenne pepper, crab boil and salt and garlic salt. Mix together and then add bay leaves. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 2-3 hours. Serves 10-12.
Get Your Kitchen Fired Up!
If you’re interested in more great venison recipes, you’ll darn sure want to have “The Sporting Chef’s Better Venison Cookbook” in your kitchen or deer camp. Wild game chef and hunter Scott Leysath has packed this 176-page book with great info, photos and more.
You’ll get his insights on venison preparation and recipes for everything from soups to roasts. It definitely should be in your collection, and would be a great Christmas gift, too! BUY IT HERE NOW