thanksgiving

Despite what some of you may think, there are those of us around Thanksgiving that are not daydreaming about wolfing down turkey for the feast. Some of us are looking for an alternative to the traditional centerpiece and main course, and I figure it’s only fitting that we get some beer to pair with our new entrees as well. Thankfully, Michigan provides some killer beers for us to pair it with.

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I wanted you all to know that, yes, there is such a thing as stuffing stuffed pork chops. It’s exactly what it sounds like—in that our beloved stuffing is in fact jammed right into your juicy chops for an extra level of enjoyment. The pork lends its meaty flavors to the stuffing, while the stuffing itself creates an almost “inside-out” sandwich like effect. I’m thinking that we’ll want a beer to resonate with, or connect matching flavors in both the food and beer, for this dish. Cedar Springs Brewing Company offers up the Küsterer Munich Dunkel, and I think it would be the perfect accompaniment. The bready and slightly nutty flavors along with the subtle chocolate aromatics of the beer will match with the obvious “breadiness” of the stuffing. The clean and balanced profile of the beer, as well as its carbonation, can cut through some of the fats from the pork. This creates a balanced back and forth between both the beer and food, because the beer acts as an extension of the stuffing flavors to connect the pairing. Though the beer is not bottled or canned, be sure to grab yourself a growler of it on tap at the brewery or from local bars carrying their product.

thanksgivingHoney glazed ham is a personal favorite of mine, and it finds quite the companionship when paired with beer. Because of its sweeter flavor, and its powerful salty and savory deliciousness, we’ll need a beer that matches in intensity. I’m proposing Odd Side Ales’ Barrel Aged Sweet Potato Souffle Rye. It’s big, bold, boozy, and—quite literally—a sweet potato pie tasting beer. When lining up its sweetness (though not cloying in any manner) with the honey sweetness of the ham, you find a tasty similarity. Even the honey and the sweet potatoes will find harmony together! The rye and spice characters from the beer are then highlighted by the sweetness and create the added layer of difference or complexity to the pairing. The alcohol warmth will cut through the fat, meld with the sweetness, and make your insides feel hot and happy. I mean, hey, this isn’t the first time we’ve heard of booze and ham having a relationship together (rum ham anyone?) so let’s see what the delicious fuss is about. This is one of those pairings that can create a lot of interesting flavor combinations, so sip slowly, savor every bite, and enjoy the layers.

thanksgivingSausage stuffed butternut squash is a new one for my list, and of course it sounds oh so perfect for beer. With the combination of potential herbs and spices in the sausage, and the sweetness of the squash, this portion of the meal would be quite happy with Stormcloud Brewing Company’s 228 Tripel. It’s a Belgian Tripel, built ‘to style’, that would tackle just about any combination of sausage or squash types that one would want for this dish. Squashes tend to lend a subtle sweetness that can be whisked away with the drier, more highly attenuated and more highly carbonated body from the Tripel. It can also contrast and create layers with the various spices and herbs that are in the sausage, depending on which variety you choose. Pepper, sage, garlic, and beyond, the Tripel’s yeast and their resulting phenols and esters will highlight and enhance the spices you encounter. The Tripel is a beer lover’s ultimate pairing tool, especially when a multitude of flavors are present. In this situation, with a couple of unknown creative opportunities with the recipe (again, type of sausage and squash), all you have to worry about is cracking it open and enjoying it, because this beer will be able to stand up to the job regardless.

thanksgiving

Though we see this next dish on many occasions, it can make a seamless transition into your Thanksgiving meal as well. Beef short ribs are savory little niblets of awesome that can be absolutely crushed and enjoyed thoroughly with the Penetration Porter from Kuhnhenn Brewing Company. We’re once again encountering salty and savory characteristics in our entree, so let’s take a new route and join it with the roasty, toasty, citrusy, and bitter brew that is the Penetration Porter. The roasty bitterness of the beer will cut through the meat’s fats, as the toasty bits will gain a friend along the charred and crispy edges of our beef. Add that layer of citrus to gain a roast and orange citrus tasting blend, and the meal has officially transformed.

thanksgivingGoing on the ‘gamey’ realm, duck can make for a delicious alternative bird to the traditional turkey. I recommend doing a roast duck with a cranberry glaze, and pairing it with Greyline Brewing Company’s Schadenfreude German Wheat. The soft and pillowy mouthfeel from the wheat is going to coat the duck and embrace it. The cherry glaze is going to find a home in that wheat and allow itself to be highlighted by it. Those roasted, caramelized edges on the duck will contrast beautifully with the sweet cherries, and the higher carbonation from the beer is going to absolutely clear our palate between each bite so we can keep diving into more food and never stop because it’s Thanksgiving and we must press on. Be sure to grab the Schadenfreude from Greyline Brewing’s taproom, which offers 32oz sealed crowlers of their beers as they are not in bottles and cans for distribution.

You see? Turkey isn’t the end all be all for Thanksgiving. Go a different route if you are so inclined, and we’ll just keep providing ways in which you can enjoy it thoroughly with our favorite beverage. For this day of thanks, I just want to be sure you all have some suggestions for imbibing on those fine hours of gluttony. It seems to only make sense.

Cheers and Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

halloween

Are you about to eat some of the worst Halloween candy? Do you have kids who gave you all the crap they don’t want after pillaging the neighborhood? Are your pockets filled with terrible treats you drunkenly took from that bowl at the party? Did you encounter old people who insisted you not leave until you’ve taken a piece with you? Are you worried about what to do next with your undesirable treats?

MittenBrew’s got your back. Just pair the worst Halloween candy with beer!

halloweencandy-4I think we all know this first culprit: candy corn. This last resort in a candy dish is this unenticing looking kernel, whose only credibility stands on the fact that if you stack up all the kernels, it looks like an ear of corn. When pairing it with beer, the best way to choke your way through it is with Tapistry Brewing Company’s Mr. Orange, their Witbier brewed with blood oranges, chamomile, and rose hips. The soft nature from the wheat malt in the beer will coax out the slight marshmallow like quality of the candy corn. Now that this base of mallow sweetness is established, the chamomile and rose hips can be featured and shine through, thus enhancing the experience and creating more complexity. Starting to feel fancy yet?

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You remember that Bazooka Bubble gum and how it loses flavor within 15 seconds of chewing it?
No problem for us. The best thing to pair with something that loses its flavor entirely, is yet another thing that has next to no flavor—Natty Light anyone? No, in all seriousness, just spit the damn thing out and take a big step up and drink
Our Brewing Company’s Vienna Lager as you cheers to Bazooka Joe instead. Maybe buy him a beer too, because his wrapper comics blow (get it?) just as much as his bubble gum so he probably needs it.

halloweencandy-5Circus Peanuts have a weird, marshmallow banana flavor and soft texture that I think can only be tamed by coating it with Roak’s Devil Dog Oatmeal Stout. The banana flavor finds companionship in the beer’s roasty bitterness and bready burnt toast notes, making it almost taste like some sort of chocolatey banana baked dessert. Plus, part of the proceeds for the beer go towards a local VA hospital in Detroit. Now you can genuinely feel good about eating this candy, so long as you steer clear of eating it on its own…

halloweencandy-1I know this one is rated low on Halloween candy lists, but I personally love this stuff, besides the fact that I feel like I might choke to death every time I have one. Those hard Butterscotch Candies that make you feel like you’re at your grandma’s house create a fun pairing with the Cranker’s Coconut Porter. There’s just something about chocolate, butterscotch, and coconut that really make the palate sing.

Black Jelly Bhalloweencandy-3eans are ominous looking. More of an acquired taste, it’s not exactly a crowd pleaser amidst all the super sugary, waxy chocolate covered, non-complex candies out there. Perhaps Short’s would resurrect their Black Licorice Lager for it? But in the meantime, I’ll settle for pairing these unfavorable beans with an appropriately spice-forward Grand Pumpkin from Harmony Brewing. It’s brewed with pumpkin, chai tea spices, ginger root, cinnamon bark, darjeeling tea, cardamom pods, nutmeg, clove, and vanilla beans. The multitude of spices and herbs together can now combine with the black licorice notes of the jelly beans to create a sweeter, more harmonized pairing with plenty of complexity.

(P.S. I recommend bringing your unwanted Good & Plenty to this anise party too.)

I choose Dots candy with Jolly Pumpkin’s La Roja for our next pairing. Partly because this candy is fruity, and partly because this beer is sour, but mostly because this candy tastes awful and I need a powerful, funky, tart cherry, balsamic-like, Flanders sour to wash it down. You’re welcome.

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Candy buttons. They confusingly don’t look like candy, their flavor is lackluster, and each button comes with a piece of paper stuck on it. What’s not to love, right? Love it even harder, as you pair this sheet of sadness with Latitude 42’s very own Nectar of the Goddess, which is a blood orange and passion fruit, honey-infused wheat beer. Just pop in a button, take a sip of beer, pop another button, take another sip of beer…and soon enough you’ve got an inebriated sugar buzz to prepare you for handing out candy to strangers. The softness from the wheat, and the sweetness from the honey align with the sweet candy, while the passion fruit and blood orange characteristics resonate with the artificial “fruitiness” of these bizarre buttons.

halloweencandy-6Taffy candy never really reveals its flavor due to the opaque wrapper, but insteads shrouds itself in mystery by only revealing its Halloween themed wrapping. What’s inside? Untrustworthy taffy candy of course! What better beer to pair with an unknown, chalky, chewy, kind of fruitiness than Rockford Brewing’s Michigan Weisse! Their take on a German style Berliner Weisse, lends tasting notes of banana, pear, and clove, that combined with its slightly tart character, will quell any further disappointment caused by dear, sweet mystery taffy.

Mints. Do you think I just came back from dinner or are you simply trying to tell me something? These “candies” make such a heartbreaking “thunk” when dropped into the candy bucket, but at least you’ll have something to aid your foul beer breath before you unleash it on the person you were about to talk to. However, since this is a place for pairing, do the traditional ‘mint and chocolate’ route by eating these with Dark Horse’s Plead The 5th Imperial Stout to cap off your night.

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Beer pairs with all, so don’t underestimate the power of boozy goodness on top of sugary, sweet sadness to make a perfectly palatable night. It can change a meal, make or break a pairing, and can now officially resurrect your Halloween. Eating copious amounts of sugar for no real reason never felt so good!

butchery

Harmony Hall, the companion to the flagship Harmony Brewing Company in Eastown, Grand Rapids, knows a thing or two about craft.

A smaller brewery in our saturated beer city, Harmony recognized right away the need to produce quality product, and that went beyond just the beer. From the beginning, it was about sourcing locally and providing craft food to compliment the craft beer. In the instance of the Eastown locale, it was about the pizza — fresh toppings, local farms, and a wood fired oven.

For the Westside location, Harmony Brewing dug into neighborhood roots and drew inspiration from the building itself. Harmony Hall is the former Rauser Quality Sausage Co., built in 1908. German, Polish, and Irish immigrants defined the vibe of the Westside of Grand Rapids, and brought cultural heritage as well as plenty of delicious food options, including locally made sausage.

Talking with Gabe Araujo, head Chef at Harmony Hall, he reiterates this point. “Anyone who knows Harmony [Brewing Company] know they have always been very adamant about using sustainable resources and keeping everything local and fresh.” Sausage and beer? Well, that just makes sense.

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Beyond the revitalization of the past and nod to the architecture of the building, Harmony Hall chooses not to just serve sausage, but to source its own product, butchering its pigs in-house and making all their sausages from scratch.

“All of the pigs come from local farms.” says Araujo, “currently Heffron Farms, and we’ll be working with Rakowski Family Farms as well soon. We’re in contact with Provision Family Farms, which raise all heritage hogs like red wattle. They are adorable and delicious.”

There is a renaissance beyond just the craft nature of the beer, and more and more places are realizing that the quality of the food they offer needs to stand with and compliment the quality of beer they provide. Harmony Hall is one of these early influencers, recognizing that the consumer who chooses craft over mass market probably isn’t one who will settle for frozen french fries and something dipped in ranch.

There’s a beauty in butchery, and it’s easy to see. We’ll just let these pictures speak for themselves.

Photography: Steph Harding

GRAND RAPIDS – I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream.  Not just your average ice cream though – ice cream beer.

Two completely different products, both delivered in a pint, combined forces to support one common goal: to protect our winters against climate change.  New Belgium Brewing Company and Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream collaborated to make both of their pints pair together to make a Salted Caramel Brownie two ways.  One being a new delicious flavor packaged in an ice cream pint for Ben & Jerry’s, called Salted Caramel Brown-ie Ale, while the other is constructed into a beer, called Salted Caramel Brownie Brown Ale, delivered in a pint glass for New Belgium.  

This past Monday, New Belgium and the West Michigan Environmental Council (WMEAC) put the pints together. Asher Attick, Michigan Field Marketing Manager for New Belgium and Nicholas Occhipinti, Director of Policy and Community Activism for WMEAC, served up pour overs, or beer floats, at an event called “Pour Over Climate Sessions.”  

A sweet beer seems to be the beer of choice for the float.  Yet one ends up with a double sweet overload. This mistake does not happen with The Salted Caramel Brownie Brown Ale.  It has enough of the sweet notes subtly peeking through, but it doesn’t overpower the delicious sweetness we all love from Ben and Jerry’s. The perfect sweet success story.

Success also comes through Attick’s duty in Michigan to work with local nonprofits and community outreach, tying it into the regional and national programs that New Belgium is running as a whole.

“We always feel at the size we are, when we go into a new state, it is going to make an impact. And the last thing we ever want to see is a negative impact.  Beer is a competitive business––that is never going to change. We feel it is important going into communities and lending a helping hand to make positive change.  Especially when it is something we strongly believe in as a brewery, like climate change,” stated Attick.

The two brands together with their pints are encouraging communities to write letters to their Governors about the importance of  climate change––not only what may become of our climate in the future, but how it is impacting each and every one of us today.

“Right now in Michigan, there is major climate legislation that is about to come to the forefront, and the only way the politicians care is if you tell them they care. The Fruit Ridge in Michigan was devastated two years ago, and Michigan has already had six 1,000 year floods in the last several years,” Occhipinti said.

With a climate continuing to have patterns of freeze, thaw, freeze, thaw, our crops will suffer.  That means there could be no hops, there could be no apples and there could be no grapes for the libations we love dearly.  As much as we may all love mild winters and dry summers, our crops do not.  No crops means no beer.  No beer means lots of unhappy locals.

Monday night’s event held letter stations, where people were encouraged to fill out a Mad Lib-styled letters to send to Governor Snyder about what is important to them about climate change and the issues that matter specifically to Michigan. At the end of the program, Attick is taking the handwritten letters and mailing them to the Governor Snyder.  Right now there are over 200 letters that will be mailed and end up on the desk of Governor Snyder.  

The donations from the event went directly to benefit WMEAC but from a national standpoint, for every pint of ice cream sold and every 6-pack, a dollar from each benefit #ProtectOurWinters. Buy both to make some beer floats at home and protect our four seasons!

Sponsored by New Belgium – Michigan

Pairing beer with a Thanksgiving day meal can be tougher than one may expect. As I think back to previous experiences of bringing bottles of English Brown Ales, Hefeweizens, and even a three-liter “Jéroboam” Chimay Grand Reserve, I remember how unmanageable it was to pair the beer with all of the dishes that were actually on the table. With so much variety in flavors and textures and styles, how can you choose what will work with your selection and what won’t?

I’d like to help you navigate those beers this upcoming Thanksgiving. I tested out five completely unique Michigan brewery beers that I know will pair well with all the components of your meal during different stages of the day.

Number One: The “I’m-ready-to-party-and-my-palate-is-fresh-as-a-newborn-baby” phase.

All right, you’ve just walked in the door and are greeted by family and friends, which means one thing: you need a drink. It’s going to be a very long day of consumption, so how about we start off with something subtle with lower alcohol content? I’d suggest popping open a bottle of Odd Side Ales Fig Brewton.

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The Fig Brewton is their version of an English Pale Ale brewed with figs. At 4% ABV this aromatic-forward brew is your ticket to beginning your light buzz on an empty stomach, because why would you eat something before the party? This dark amber and cloudy concoction is full of sweet fig aromatics, notes of brown sugar, light toffee and an earthy/dry fall leaf character. The flavor is very, very subtle. It contains a faint hint at fig and the earthiness with a balancing hop bitterness.

It’s happened. You’ve finally sucked down your first beer of the day and are probably feeling a tingly happiness in your belly. Ready to eat? Good, because we have a great beer for the first round.

Normally at this point there are a few lighter snacky dishes. Dishes such as layered salads, roasted pumpkin seeds, deviled eggs, polish roses, roast squash, and plenty of other food options are offered to the guests. You begin telling stories, gossiping with cousins, updating everyone about your kids, sharing photos and creating that base of food in your belly that you will regret later once you’re in a food coma.

At this pivotal point in the day, we are opening up our palate to various flavors. Pungent onion, bright salads, salty spreads, and so many other flavors are being introduced to our willing bellies. Because we’re in the initial phase of sharing, it’s time to break out a 750mL bottle of Rockford Brewing Company’s Country Ale. It’s a 7.3% ABV Saison that is hazy and a beautiful orange/honey color. The aroma is complex and layered with notes of lemon, white pepper, grape nuts cereal and just a touch of overripe strawberry. It tastes quite similar, but the flavor is more subtle than the robust bouquet. I found that this beer is all about aromatics and mouthfeel.

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The Country Ale is quite bright with balancing acidity and a touch of alcohol warmth and some spice-forward heat and bitterness. It has a soft feel on the tongue with a dry finish. The beer is excellent as it warms up and will be exceptional with all of the brighter but varied flavors of the first round of Thanksgiving food. Use the spritzy carbonation, the pungent spices, and the bright acidity to scrape and lift off fatty foods and sweet flavors. The peppery notes will resonate with spices on the various dishes, while the lemon notes will resonate with vinaigrettes on salads and contrast with fattier foods like egg. Above all, the beer will rinse away any light to medium food flavor so you won’t feel quite as palate fatigued. I mean, come on. You aren’t allowed to get full right away!

The table has finally been set, the children have been wrangled, and your family and friends are now gathered around the table to tuck into the best meal of the year. There are so many dishes on the table that you’re drooling into! Turkey, honey baked ham, green bean casserole, mashed and sweet potatoes, the cranberry sauce, stuffing and gravy. For you vegetarians out there, perhaps there are delicious treats such as a mushroom and farro pie, pumpkin orzo with sage or perhaps a butternut squash, kale, and cheddar bread pudding. All in all, we have a literal feast in front of us that is just teeming with savory, salty and sweet flavors. Here comes the most important role for beer all day. We need beers to pair with everything that has been set before us.

My suggestion? Grab two completely different beers and pour them in separate glasses and drink them BOTH during the meal. This time around, I have chosen Pepper in the Rye from Brewery Vivant and the Leroy Brown from Big Lake Brewing.

Pepper in the Rye is a Rye Ale brewed with green peppercorns that comes in at 6.3% ABV. It’s a pretty amber brew that comes in a one-pint can. The aroma gives notes of strong orange peel, a light touch of lemon, some light barnyard funk, a big dose of those green peppercorns that actually make me feel heat in my nostrils, a bit of spicy rye, and bread crust or biscuit notes.

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The beer tastes pretty much the same as it smells. Bright spice notes of the green peppercorn are present, especially as it warms up. I detect cracker-like notes from the malt, and the earthy hops hang out way underneath the more robust characteristics. The Pepper in the Rye is a tart and brisk brew with spice forward bitterness to balance it all out. Alcohol warmth is present and smacks my tongue around just a little. Tartness ensues into the finish to create an overlapping effect to the other mouthfeel-oriented sensations.

It’s well balanced yet quite complex. The Pepper in the Rye is going to use its alcohol warmth, its tart character and its spice-forward bitterness to cut fat and sweet flavors just like what we experienced with the Country Ale. The tartness will balance out yet accentuate saltiness. Try pairing this beer specifically with your stuffing, vegetable casserole dishes like green bean casserole, and ANY of those vegetarian dishes I mentioned. Pumpkin orzo with sage paired with Pepper in the Rye? Forget about it!

We need some malt to sooth salt and resonate with savory meat flavors and sweeter dishes such as sweet potato casserole. Let’s keep it easy-going, malty and delicious with the Leroy Brown from Big Lake Brewing.

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The Leroy Brown is an almost clear and medium to light brown brew with pretty ruby highlights. It’s aromatics lend notes of chocolate, nutella, nuts, and soft breadiness. The flavor gives me notes of toasted biscuit, nuts, and milk chocolate, all on a layer of delicious bread notes. Mouthfeel with this beer is one of the best parts. Quite smooth, approachable, and simple. I feel that many Brown Ales these days tend to roam into porter category or have higher alcohol levels than I’d like, but this one hits the mark. Pair this lovely number with your turkey, mashed potatoes, dinner rolls, glazed carrots, gravy, or your mushroom and farro pie.

It’s that time. Your belly aches from too much food and so you’re sitting far away from everyone so you can groan and fart in peace. Perhaps you’ve taken a nap at this point and aren’t sure if you want to go home to finish passing out or keep up your buzz and drink more beer.

For those of you who are willing to rally and end your day with a bit of dessert, look no further than pairing your pumpkin pie with Griffin Claw Brewing Company’s Three Scrooges Winter Ale brewed with orange peel, honey, and spices.

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The Three Scrooges comes in at a manageable 6.5% ABV. It’s a hazy and dark amber beer with strong spice and orange peel aromatics. Get notes of sweet bread, caramel, nutella, cinnamon and raisin? Me too.

It seems to be a trend with the chosen beers, but the flavor is not as punchy as the aroma. It’s subtle but still quite pleasant. I pick out flavors of toast, milk chocolate, light marshmallow, orange peel, and a honey/toffee character.

The Winter Ale is smooth as hell with a tight and dry finish and a touch of alcohol warming. Pumpkin pie, for me, is too often paired with more pumpkin or sweet allspice forward beers. I’d wager that this traditional dessert will pair quite well with the Three Scrooges Winter Ale because of its subtle sweetness and little pop of bitterness and acidity from the orange peel. It’s subtle enough to highlight your pumpkin pie without sweetening the ensemble up too much that you can’t finish the last bite. Layered and lovely, I think these two will get along just fine.

So there you have it. A Thanksgiving meal and a few beers to help you along your journey of palate happiness. Should you feel the need, as I expect you will, to cap off the evening with one last beer, please grab yourself a snifter and pull out your big and bold brews. English Barleywines, Wee Heavys, Imperial Stouts and a variety of beers brewed with fruit truly shine in these moments.

Michigan’s own Madonna once sang that “some boys kiss me, some boys hug me, I think they’re okay…” She went on to divulge that Mr. Right was always that man with the cold hard cash. Money is great, but I want to tweak those lyrics a little to say that the man with the beer is (usually) Mr. Right. And he is even more likely to be the right one if he comes to you on Valentine’s Day bearing beer and candy. To help out those wannabe Mr. and Ms. Rights, I offer the following suggestions for Valentine’s gifts.

Life is like a box of chocolates…

Ah, those lovely heart shaped boxes full of chocolate goodies! Unless you cheat and get the Whitman’s Samplers, you are in for a lovely surprise with each chocolate that you pick. Here are some of my personal favorite pieces that can be paired with a delicious Michigan beer!

Vanilla in the middle: Whenever my dad would get my mom a box of candy, I would always insist on getting the ones with the vanilla cream in the center. This often meant that I would bite into or at least poke a few pieces before finding what I wanted. Ah, youth! Nowadays, I would still really love that vanilla cream interior, but I would pair it with Saugatuck Brewing Companys’s Neapolitan Stout. You could also use this beer if you accidentally grab the strawberry cream interior, as well. The beer is quite versatile.

Caramel: I’ve always had a problem with caramel — specifically, it sticks to my teeth and will not come off unless I pry it off with a chisel. Fortunately, I can use Odd Side Ales Granny’s Apple Pie to wash it down with! The apple flavor in this beer is not overpowering, and just tart enough to balance the caramel’s sugar.

Toffee crunch: The long, flat candies in the box tend to be the toffee crunch ones. I love any food that makes noise, so I usually go for these after I find my vanilla ones. A good winter warmer would balance out that sugary crunch — Arbor Brewing Company’s Jackhammer Old Ale would complement the taste of toffee perfectly.

Chocolate in the middle: Every once in a while, you will grab what I call the “chocolate chocolate” piece. You know, that one with the pure chocolate inside and out? If that happens, just go whole hog and grab a Detroit Beer Company’s Sanders Chocolate Stout. It is made with Sanders chocolate and what better way to honor the cocoa bean?

Raspberry in the middle: I mentioned above that I would often get to my mom’s chocolate box first. She was okay with this, so long as I left the raspberry creams for her. Raspberry was and is my mom’s favorite flavor, and I was a nice enough kid to share her own chocolates with her! Given the sweetness and sometimes overpowering taste of raspberry, I would suggest pairing these candies with the best chocolate beer out there, Atwater Brewery’s Decadent Dark Chocolate Ale. The beer has the pure taste of chocolate, but isn’t overly sweet and doesn’t have any coffee or oatmeal undertones.

Chocolate covered cherries: How cool would it be to pair with these gooey, fun candies than a beer actually made with cherries? Fortunately, we have just such a beer that is made right here in Michigan: North Peak’s Archangel! This nicely hopped, well balanced beer will wash down the tasty chocolate.

Other Valentine’s Day treats

Marketers love dying things red, white and pink and calling them Valentine’s Day treats. I have absolutely no problem with this, and to celebrate that creativity, I suggest the following beers be paired with these fun Valentine’s Day treats.

M&Ms Dark Chocolate with New Holland Brewing’s Dragon’s Milk with Raspberries: This creamy stout with its touch of raspberries makes for a nice combination with M&M’s Dark Chocolate (or any dark chocolate, for that matter).

Reese’s Peanut Butter Hearts with Tri City Brewing Company’s Giant Slayer: The strong peanut butter taste will need an equally strong beer, and there are few better than this imperial stout from Tri City Brewing.

Hershey’s Chocolate Kisses with Dark Horse Brewing Company’s Tres Blueberry: It’s a pity that chocolate covered blueberries aren’t more of a thing, because the two tastes really taste great together. Until the candies become more common, make your own with the classic Kisses paired with a tasty blueberry beer.

Conversation Hearts (Kiss me! Love me! Text me!) with a lager from Wolverine State Brewing Company: Nobody does lagers better than this Ann Arbor based brewery, and a nice, crispy lager will balance out the sugary fun of these chatty hearts.

Red Hots and Bell’s Two Hearted Ale: Traditionally, IPAs have been paired with hot foods. Thus, I think that the spiciest of candies will pair nicely with one of Michigan’s finest IPAs. (In a perfect world, there would be another batch of Red Hot beer brewed at the Arbor Microbrewery!)

Peeps with Jolly Pumpkin’s La Roja: Peeps aren’t just for Easter anymore, and thank goodness for that! If you are going to ingest these gelatinous globs of sugar, just go for it! Balls to the wall! Eat the sugar, drink the sour and let the tastes mingle in your mouth.

These 12 beer and candy pairings should win your way into anyone’s heart. Happy Valentine’s Day!

All Hallows Eve. As children, we relished in the yearly ritual where we were able to dress in costume, knock on our neighbor’s doors and fill our buckets with candy. As adults, we might still dress up. The majority of us will most likely consume the candy we did as children. But some things change. As craft beer enthusiasts, the time for pairing that candy with our favorite Michigan brews is now. Here’s a list of recommended pairings to liven up your Halloween weekend.

The “Angry Pumpkin”

Autumn in Michigan means cooling temps and a slew of fall and pumpkin themed beers. Before the holiday big brother Christmas swoops in and takes over, be sure to pair your favorite pumpkin beer with a spicy form of candy to kick things up a notch.

The “Milk on Milk”

Milk chocolate candy is a time-honored tradition in the candy world. And if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! Just add to it with some of Michigan’s finest milk stouts. Cavity City, here we come.

The “Sweet and Savory”

You know the type of candy that gets stuck in your teeth? The kind that will pull your fillings out? That’s what we’re talking about here. We’re also talking about rich and malty brews with the same level of sweetness. Grab an old ale to rinse that toffee out of your teeth, kids.

  • Candy: Heath Bar, Toblerone, Wether’s Original, Toffee Chews
  • Beer: Kuhnhenn 4D (or BB4D if you’re feeling frisky), Founders Curmudgeon Old Ale, Bell’s Third Coast Ale, Arcadia Big Dick’s Old Ale

The “Grown and Sexy”

Oh yeah, you know what this is about. No, it’s not Valentine’s Day. It’s Halloween and you’re an adult. Grab yourself some dark chocolate for you and your significant other, pour up one of these liquid sweet tarts.

  • Candy: Hershey’s, Dove and Ghirardelli dark chocolates
  • Beer: Dark Horse Raspberry Ale, Founders Rübæus, Short’s Soft Parade

The “Liquid Dinner”

Have you ever heard someone say they had to “chew” the beer they just had a sip of? Chances are, it was some form of a barrel-aged beer. Michigan has some of the best to offer in that category. Just be careful when pairing these brews with candy — you might end up with Wilford Brimley on his commercials.

  • Candy: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Snickers, Twix
  • Beer: Arcadia Barrel Aged Shipwreck Porter, Bell’s Black Note, Dark Horse Bourbon Barrel Plead the 5th, Founders KBS, New Holland Dragon’s Milk

The “Refreshing Chew”

Let’s face it, not everyone is a chocolate lover. For those who prefer the lighter side of things, this is your realm. Those of you who need that gelatin consistency in your life, don’t forget to wash it down with some of those fine Michigan hops to balance your palate out.

  • Candy: Sour Patch Kids, Starburst, Skittles, Gummy Bears
  • Beer: Odd Side Citra, Founders All Day IPA, Greenbush Closure, Kuhnhenn DRIPA

What about you? What are some of your favorite Halloween candy and Michigan beer pairings? Comment below and let us know what we should try!

Summer means salad time — the vegetable are at their peak, it’s hot out and you don’t want to heat up the kitchen. Salads just honestly hit the spot on a summer day, but we can tend to fall into a salad “rut”. Anyone else out there sick of iceberg, tomato, cheese and croutons? And don’t get me started with bottled dressings….unimaginative, full of corn syrup, and just downright lame.

This salad has several things going for it, including magical roasted beets and a homemade vinaigrette made with my favorite ingredient, BEER. By reducing the beer down to an almost syrupy consistency, you get all that great flavor in a concentrated form. Pick a malt-forward beer for this technique, as any bitter flavor the beer has will just be amplified by reducing it.

We don’t want to overwhelm the salad, we want a great balance of flavors. I picked Arcadia Ales’ Whitsun, which has a bit of orange and coriander in it, ingredients that you can amplify in the dressing, layering flavors.

With the slight bitterness of the beer offset by a bit of honey (for natural sweetness), we can get perfect balance. Add some zing by using frozen orange juice concentrate — its intense flavor won’t water down the salad. I keep a can in my freezer specifically for cooking, and use it in dressings and marinades all the time.

This dressing can be made up ahead of time, and will keep in a mason jar in the fridge for about two weeks.

Chefs talk about balance in a dish all the time, and home cooks should too. The roasted beets will provide sweetness and earthiness, contrasted by the crispness of the lettuce, crunchiness of the nuts, and creaminess of the goat cheese. When you toss the whole thing with a beer dressing, it’s the perfect summer salad.

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Whitsun Beet Salad

For the salad:
4-6 beets, trimmed
6 cups mixed greens
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint (optional)
1/4 cup chopped toasted pistachios
1/2 cup crumbled fresh goat cheese

For the dressing:
1 bottle wheat beer (like Arcadia Ales Whitsun)
1 shallot, minced
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon frozen orange juice concentrate
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon coriander
salt and pepper

For the salad: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash the beets, then wrap them up in foil, and place in a baking pan. Roast the beets until tender. Depending on the size of the beets, this could take up to 1 1/2 hours. When done, let cool, then peel the beets. Slice into wedges.

Meanwhile make the dressing, pour the beer in to a saucepan, and over medium heat, reduce down to 1/4 a cup. Whisk everything else together, except the oil. Slowly drizzle in the oil while whisking. The dressing should start to thicken up into an emulsion. Check the seasoning, and add salt and pepper if needed.

Toss the greens with the dressing and layout on a platter. Then toss the beets with some of the dressing and place them on top of the greens. Sprinkle on the mint if you are using it, the pistachios, and crumble the goat cheese all over. Add another couple grinds of pepper. Serve the salad right away, with another cold Whitsun to pair it with.