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Tastemakers: Michigan Culinary Tourism Initiative/Anchor‘s 2009 Christmas Sale

Rick Coates - December 7th, 2009
Michigan Culinary Tourism Initiative
The tourism industry in our part of Northern Michigan was built on the beaches, lakes, streams, ski hills and trails. While those components remain important today, the future of tourism in the region may look -- or should we say “taste” -- different. Just last week the Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA) announced the formation of the new Michigan Culinary Tourism Alliance.
“With agriculture and tourism as the state’s second and third largest industries, it makes sense to promote Michigan as a rewarding travel destination for educational, healthy and tasty food experiences,” said Don Koivisto, director of the MDA.
Changes in travel trends point to culinary and culture as strong attractors for today’s traveler. When the Epicurean Classic was held in Traverse City, it brought food and drink enthusiasts from all over the country to the area. The new Traverse City Wine Festival and the Traverse City Microbrew and Music Festival show promise of also attracting the traveler from down and out of state as they add local food components to their events. Businesses such as Cherry Republic in Glen Arbor attract busloads of visitors. Certainly, the wine industry in Northern Michigan has proven over the past 10 years (and even during the Great Recession of the past year) that they are a major draw for the traveling public.
MDA will develop the Michigan Culinary Tourism Alliance in partnership with the Michigan Restaurant Association and Travel Michigan. The project is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) with matching funds provided by MDA’s Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council.
The idea of the Culinary Tourism Alliance was developed by Linda Jones, executive director of the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council.
The focus in year one for the new Alliance will be to increase the number of Michigan food offerings on the menus of the restaurants in the state. In addition, the group will focus on promoting Michigan as a “destination for culinary travel experiences.”
Northern Michigan is perfectly situated to lead the way; hopefully local restaurateurs and agricultural leaders will jump quickly on this new initiative. Lets also hope that as organizers move forward they will add the cultural component to this initiative as well. For additional information contact Linda Jones at 517-373-9789. --Rick Coates

Anchor’s 2009 Christmas Ale
Fritz Maytag (great-grandson of Maytag Corporation founder Frederick Maytag) helped to establish the American craftbrew industry in 1965 when he bought the Anchor Brewing Company (Anchor Steam). The San Francisco-based brewery was on the verge of closing when Maytag took over. Not only did he energize his brewery, he served as a catalyst for the microbrew/brewpub industry that we have today.
Many a brewer sought out Maytag’s advice in the early days of the craftbrew industry and he gladly obliged, believing that the more breweries out there brewing great beer the better it would be for his business. He was right; today Anchor Steam remains popular in the crowded craftbrew field.
Maytag was among the first to brew an annual Christmas Ale. The 2009 version marks the 35 anniversary of their popular Christmas beer (available mid-November-January). Many have followed suit, but Anchor’s Christmas Ale remains the benchmark. Over the 35 years the label changes each year (see all 35 labels at their website) and so does the recipe. While Maytag has been willing to share brewing and business tips to his colleagues, his Christmas Ale recipe remains a closely guarded secret. If your taste buds are in working order you will pick up an array of Christmas baking flavors. Cardamon, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and a hint of mint all swirl around the palate.
This is a fun seasonal beer, it comes in 12 oz. bottles and on tap, but search around and score some magnums (equivalent to two wine bottles) and bring to the next holiday party you attend. Enjoy in a wine glass and be sure to nose this beer first before tasting. Anchor Christmas Ale pairs perfectly with a traditional New England Pot Roast dinner. It also goes great with Christmas cookies, so leave a bottle by the fireplace with the plate of cookies for Santa. Congratulations, Fritz Maytag and Anchor Brewing Company on not only the gift of this great brew but gift of the craftbrew industry. --Rick Coates

 
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