ROYAL OAK — What better way to prepare for Michigan Craft Beer Month than to spend a night sampling flavors from mitten powerhouse Bell’s Brewery?

Back for the third year at the Royal Oak Farmers Market, BRU Fest paired Bell’s craft brews with Buffalo Wild Wings boneless wings, Bagger Dave’s burgers and Treat Dreams ice cream.

Taking advantage of the (new to 2013) VIP ticket package, we arrived an hour before general admission, which (along with getting us some great extras, i.e. bigger souvenier cups, Bell’s sunglasses, BRU Fest t-shirts, etc.), allowed us ample time to try some of Bell’s more rare brews before the crowd arrived.

Of the 22 varieties that Bell’s brought to BRU Fest this year, I was able to sample the Bourbon Barrel Aged Cherry Stout (along with their 2011 Cherry Stout), Le Pianiste, Raspberry Ale, Oarsman, Amber Ale, Sparkling Ale and, of course, have a glass of a couple classics (Two-Hearted Ale and Oberon).

While I loved the dry, light taste of Le Pianiste, and was also an enormous fan of the Midwestern Pale Ale, it was a creative suggestion from Bell’s field sales representative Monica Mooney that ended up being my favorite of the night.

I had already tried the deliciously sweet Raspberry Ale (which was true to it’s name with an intense raspberry character) when I started chatting with Monica. After hearing I’d liked the Raspberry, she clued me into one of her summer go-to mixes: Half Raspberry Ale, half Oarsman. The combination yielded a light, incredibly refreshing, slightly tart brew that would be nothing less than ideal for the hot days of summer.

As in years past, Ferndale-based Treat Dreams brought its creative flair, with unique ice cream flavors and toppings made using Bell’s beer (salted caramel ice cream and a stout-based chocolate sauce for me). And, of course, just as Bell’s is the brewery-staple of the event, it just wouldn’t be BRU Fest without Buffalo Wild Wings and Bagger Dave’s Legendary Burger Tavern rounding out the fare.

Most importantly, all of the proceeds from the event went to benefit the Children’s Leukemia Foundation of Michigan. I had the opportunity to chat with Brandon Chesnutt, the Social Media Director for Identity PR, who said that not many people realize that 100 percent of the funds are donated to the organization.

The event seemed to be much more accessible, with a younger crowd compared to other events for the foundation. Chesnutt agreed, saying that that was very much the idea behind BRU Fest. Quoting foundation president Bill Seklar, “An event doesn’t have to be black tie to make a big impact.”

Apparently not, as the turnout at BRU Fest suggests you just can’t go wrong with great food, beer and a cause like the Children’s Leukemia Foundation of Michigan.