Try These Michigan Wine and Beer Pairings for Your Holiday Meal

Let’s face it. Not everyone enjoys the same beverage choices, and when you’re trying to please a diverse group of friends and family gathered around the dinner table, it can be overwhelming. Michigan is home to more than 450 craft beverage producers. With so many different flavors present in a traditional holiday feast, you can have some fun and select a variety of Michigan craft beverages to complement your meal.

Appetizer Course

Willow Vineyards in the Fall | Photo Courtesy of Rosie Betancourt

The holidays are all about celebration, so greet your guests with bubbles! Choose a sparkling wine or cider that’s slightly sweet to please most palates. You can also create a refreshing craft cocktail to get them in the holiday spirit.
Aurora Cellars Brut received Best of Class Sparkling honors at the 2014 competition. It’s crisp with lovely aromatics of toasted brioche and roasted nuts. A bright, dry finish makes this the perfect way to start the celebration.

The Main Meal

Fall Beer | Photo Courtesy of Craft Brewing Systems

With traditional roast turkey and stuffing, the go-to choice is a dry Riesling. Try semi-dry Rieslings from Gill’s Pier Vineyard and Winery or White Pine Winery, and Gewurztraminer from Peninsula Cellars or Tabor Hill Winery. For a fun alternative, try a Traminette – an offspring of Gewurz – from Sandhill Crane Vineyards or 12 Corners Vineyards.
A soft, flavorful pinot noir also pairs beautifully with duck or goose. Try first-rate examples from Brys Estate Vineyard and Winery or Round Barn Winery. Delight your guests with a variety they might not be familiar with, like Chateau Grand Traverse Gamay Noir; or try one of the many delicious red blends made in Michigan, like “Sole di Sera” from Northern Sun Winery, and Lawton Ridge Winery’s “Two-Handed Red.” Harvest ales, like Founders Brewing Co.’s annual harvest ale, accent herb and floral components of the dressing. Fruit-driven hard ciders pair especially well with the roast turkey.
Pinot Grigio also makes a fun pairing. Many Michigan wineries produce these varieties. Try Blustone Vineyards or Fenn Valley Vineyards and Wine Cellar for Riesling; Boathouse Vineyards or St. Julian Winery for Pinot Grigio.
Sweet potatoes and roasted vegetables are autumnal favorites, and with Michigan’s amazing agricultural bounty, they are a staple at many holiday tables. To complement the sweet and savory notes, try a brown ale or barrel-aged cider. Both of these will showcase the buttery, caramel notes of the dish. A spicy, semi-dry gewurztraminer will also pair perfectly with the sweet spiciness of these traditional sides.
There’s a reason fresh Michigan cranberries are served alongside roast turkey. They’re a perfect pairing! Play up this tart, fruity component with a Michigan cranberry wine, or try a hard cider infused with cranberry, cherry or other Michigan red fruit.

Dessert Drinks

Wine Toast in Empire | Photo Courtesy of Ashley Clark

Last, but certainly not least … dessert. Serve pumpkin or pecan pie with a glass of hard cider, like one of Blake’s Hard Cider Co.’s famous ciders, or seasonal pumpkin ale – both are often made with the same spices used in these traditional treats. You can also try a sweeter wine like ice wine, or Black Star Farms’ Arcturos Winter Harvest Riesling. For a real treat, try “Snow Moon” – a delicious, decadent Vidal Blanc ice wine from Lemon Creek Winery (makes an incredible gift, too).
Find your favorite libations at Michigan’s craft beverage producers located across the state. From the Lake Michigan shore to the Sunrise Side, downtown Detroit to Copper Harbor, you’re sure to find the perfect pairings for your holiday feast.
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About the Author: Karel Bush is Executive Director for the Michigan Craft Beverage Council, a program within the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.