by Julie Holt

There’s nothing better than getting into Fresh Pants or a Little Black Dress after hiking the gorgeous cliffs and valleys of the Obed region on the Cumberland plateau. In fact, at least half of the rock climbers, kayakers, hikers and campers winding down from a day in the great outdoors at Lillypad Hopyard and Brewery enjoyed more than one of these .

Little Black Dress, Del Scruggs’ signature porter, and Fresh Pants, an APA made with hops grown onsite, are two of several beers on tap in the front-yard brewery that is a gathering spot for outdoor enthusiasts from around the world. Del and his wife Marte, along with Monster, their one-dog welcoming committee, have met climbers from 140 countries.

“It’s amazing that people from everywhere from Ottawa to Poland have drunk my beer,” Del says.

It’s no surprise to learn that he’s bonded over beer with all of those visitors, as the brewery and campground sit on the property where Del and Marte live. Adjacent to their property is the Obed Wild and Scenic River, part of the National Park System. Climbers can make the short drive to a trailhead leading to Lilly Bluff, where routes such as Heresy and Spawn will challenge and thrill experienced climbers.

While enjoying the mellow, welcoming vibe around the fire pit at Lillypad, I learned that regardless of where these adventurers call home, they share a common love of community, craft beer and a deep respect for nature. The rivers, trails and bluffs, along with the native plant and animal life are of utmost concern for those who want to preserve and protect the natural resources they so enjoy.

Back in the comforts of civilization, Cameron Mitchell, Tennessee Wildlife Federation’s East Tennessee Field Manager, joined me for a pint to talk about conservation, giving back and shared his favorite recipe for pairing with a cold beer in the winter.

Community Through Conservation

“We really want all generations in the state to respect and appreciate what they have here in Tennessee. It’s one of the most ecologically diverse states in the country,” says Mitchell.

It is this cause that brings together outdoorsmen from all walks of life. From the hunters and fishers of rural west Tennessee to the mountain bikers of middle Tennessee and the whitewater rafters of east Tennessee, the land has been entrusted to all of us to protect.

As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Tennessee Wildlife Federation is known for its science-based conservancy work with dedicated efforts in three areas: stewardship, youth engagement and public policy. They work with everyone from individual supporters to businesses and organizations to legislators to conserve the natural resources of the state.

The public policy piece of the Federation’s work has proven beneficial to wildlife, habitats and people across the state. In 2010, after seeing efforts in other states to eliminate entire hunting seasons, they fought to preserve the right to hunt in Tennessee, eventually amending the state constitution in confirmation of that right, no easy feat.

Along with their avid guardianship of the laws and policies regarding our state’s great outdoors, Tennessee Wildlife Federation staff and volunteers encourage responsibility among the state’s residents to care for and conserve these resources. Following the North American Model, most notably endorsed and advanced in the early 1900s by Teddy Roosevelt, the Federation believes that our natural resources should be held in public trust. This means that because we (the public) own them, we must take care of them.

Anyone who enjoys outdoor activity has an obligation to maintain it. From packing your trash out on an overnight hike to obtaining proper hunting and fishing licenses and abiding by game limits, every person who enjoys the outdoors has an opportunity to maintain it.

Tennessee Wildlife Federation places a strong emphasis on stewarding youth into a conservation mindset as well. Through family events and programs, children and their parents have opportunities to learn about and participate in the Federation’s efforts. In fact, passing an understanding of and respect for our natural resources to the next generation is paramount to the cause.

Hunters For The Hungry

As charitable giving goes, none is more fulfilling than using your talents and renewable resources to provide for others in need. The Federation saw the opportunity 20 years ago to allow hunters to donate venison to local food banks.

The premise is simple, but the impact is huge: when a hunter harvests a deer, he or she delivers it to a processor who has been inspected and approved, the meat is processed, then delivered to a partner ministry, pantry or food bank and it is then distributed to those in need.

Since its inception in 1998, Hunters for the Hungry has received donations of over 1.5 million pounds of venison, providing around six million meals to the hungry. Cameron Mitchell’s background as a chef and lifelong love of hunting has been the perfect combination to help further the reach of this program to both hunters and those who simply want to help.

In the spirit of stewardship and inclusion younger generations, the Federation created a way for high school students, even those who are not hunters, to get involved.

Through the Hunger Challenge, high school students form teams and compete to raise funds to support Hunters for the Hungry. Even private schools in suburban areas participate, where students might not have longstanding family traditions in hunting.

Participants gain skills in leadership, club-building, humanitarianism and philanthropy. The teams compete at both regional and state levels for awards. Along with these benefits, students become more aware of the Federation’s broader goals of conservation and science-based approach.

Nature lovers and outdoorsmen of all interests can agree that conservation is a cause everyone can connect with. Even those burly hikers who love slipping into a Little Black Dress.

Read more about Tennessee Wildlife Federation and learn how to get involved at tnwf.org.

For more information about Lillypad Hopyard Brewery, visit their website at lillypadhopyardbrewery.com.

Venison Stew

Mitchell brings his love of cooking and well-stocked freezer together for a hearty winter stew just begging to be paired with a crisp cold brew.

Enjoy this Venison Stew recipe with The Black Abbey’s The Special, a Belgian Style Abbey Ale

The deep burgundy color and bready malt aroma with hints of zesty orange make this light bodied beer perfect for pairing with a rich, flavorful stew. The Special’s clean, dry finish complements the decadent vegetable sauce.

5 lbs  2”cubed/cleaned deer meat

All Purpose Flour

2 large yellow onions, diced

3 celery stalks, diced

3 T minced garlic

14 oz lima beans

14 oz corn kernels (or cut from 5 ears)

14 oz dark kidney beans

2 T beef base (“Better than Bouillon”)

1 qt. seasoned tomato sauce

14 oz diced tomato

4 oz Cabernet

olive oil

dry thyme

dry marjoram

Heat cast iron pot over medium heat and add olive oil, garlic, yellow onion and celery. Stir while cooking for 4-6 minutes.

In separate bowl, toss deer meat with flour. Mix until meat is evenly coated. Add more olive oil to stock pot if needed. Add deer meat to pot and stir constantly but gently. Once flour begins to cook and lightly brown, add 1 quart of your favorite tomato sauce, add red wine and 1 quart of water and dry herbs and stir all.

Turn heat down to medium, so that the stew “rolls,” but not a boil. Cover and cook for one hour. Add lima beans, kidney beans, corn and diced tomato. Continue to cook until meat is tender to touch. Remove the lid and allow to cook 20+ minutes or reduce to preferred consistency.

Serve over white short grain rice or oven baked potatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Yield 10-12 16 oz servings.