7% ABV

Appearance: Very dark brown, with a medium cream-colored head that dissipates quickly.
Aroma: Lots of chocolate and vanilla
Taste: Chocolate is immediately present, with some molasses and vanilla. Very rich. Some roasted malt as well.
Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with some decent carbonation.

Arcadia’s Cocoa Loco may be one of my favorite chocolate stouts on the market today. The chocolate flavor is present throughout, even lingering after each sip. Other than chocolate, this brew contains molasses, caramel, vanilla and roasted malt flavors which only add to the already rich chocolate flavor.

The rich, sweet flavors, matched with some bitterness made for a very enjoyable brew that serves its purpose as a dessert beer. For a stout, it had more carbonation than I expected, but it doesn’t take away from the depth of this brew.

6.2% ABV

Appearance: Clear burnt orange, with small head that quickly dissipates.
Aroma: Lots of orange comes through, with some floral accents as well.
Taste: Orange and coriander; I also get some honey up front. Wheat is very prevalent on the back of the tongue. Some spice comes through as well.
Mouthfeel: Slightly carbonated, with a slightly medium body. Crisp and very easy to drink.

Arcadia’s Whitsun Ale is what I’d best describe as a beefed-up Bells’ Oberon. The brew features strong orange flavors, with some coriander, honey and some wheat on the backend. There’s also a bit of a spice to it — making it slightly less balanced than most wheat ales — but still very enjoyable.

The brew pours a clear burnt orange, and has a small head that does not linger. It’s a very easy to drink, medium-bodied ale, with a bit of a crispness coming from the slight carbonation of it.

BATTLE CREEK — Arcadia Brewing Company has announced it will bottle and release B-Craft Black (8.5% ABV), a Double IPA or Cascadian Ale this April.

Combining malt with a generous amount of hops, Arcadia describes the brew as featuring complex flavors with a citrusy hop aroma. It highlights roasted malt flavors of chocolate and coffee, and has an impressive hop bitterness.

B-Craft Black will be available on draft and in 12-ounce four packs beginning April 17.

GRAND RAPIDS — In a warm up for February’s Winter Beer Festival held in nearby Comstock Park, the DeltaPlex invited crowds out to its fourth annual Great Fox Brew Ha Ha over the weekend, celebrating both comedy and beer from around the Great Lakes.

Breweries from across the Midwest showcased their beers for the public — many of which were from Michigan. While most breweries chose to bring bottled brews to the event, some (like Greenbush Brewing Co. and Hideout Brewing Company) brought specialty ales as well.

Not having tried Greenbush beers before, that was a good start for me. The brewery, which opened in June 2011, brewed about 1,300 barrels of beer in 2011, with expectations to get to 2,400 in 2011, according to Greenbush representative Justin Heckathorn.

The brewery’s Apathy Oatmeal Stout (6.7% ABV) contained minor hops in what was a heavily carbonated, but mighty tasty brew. The nearly black beer had some coffee and chocolate tones. Overall this was a very drinkable beer, and a great one to start the day with.

Arbor Brewing Company’s Olde Number 22 (5.5% ABV) continued along the dark trend of what I tried, featuring a minimal head with a dark brown color. Hops were more present here, but not over the top. The one flavor that stuck out the most was its nuttiness, and the brew’s light carbonation gave way to this amazing flavor. I could also taste a little vanilla. While the flavors might have been too over the top for some, this struck a chord with me.

But perhaps the two beers I remember the most were from Arcadia Ales and Hideout Brewing Company. Arcadia’s Loch Down Scotch Ale (8% ABV) was well-balanced. The alcohol wasn’t overpowering, and there was very little carbonation. The drink was very refreshing, pouring a brown color with minimal head and highlighting a malty flavor.

My favorite of the event? Hideout’s Spiced Chocolate Rye (5.5% ABV). Surprisingly well-balanced, this brew smelled like cinnamon throughout. It wasn’t over spiced – just enough for that “kick” — and contained hints of chocolate. And while I’m all one for sweets, the lack of chocolate dominance was very well received.

In addition to the beer tastings, the event featured a seminar stage, which brought local experts to discuss different aspects of beer, covering everything from home brewing to the history of beer. But overall, the fourth annual event just provided a great backdrop — music and comedy — to some great beers.

We sit down with founder and president Tim Suprise, of Arcadia Brewing Company, about the first 15 years of his brewery and expansion plans for the future.

Welcome to another fine Michigan summer! Pack accordingly, meaning on any given weekend you might need: Swimwear, sunscreen, bug spray, flip flops, sweat shirt, sweat pants, insulated rain coat, wool socks, parka.

But we love it, don’t we? The warm days and cool evenings by a fire pit. It’s what makes our Great Beer State so special. Of course, I am the type who will get a little peeved when faced with a Fourth of July weekend of rain and barely 60-degree temps. I feel entitled to a beautiful summer. It is my reward for surviving the winter of snow, ice, cold and grey skies from November through, oh, May.

But enough whining. Let’s talk about using this particular summer as a great excuse to expand your beer palate a bit. It’s a well-known and documented fact that Michigan is home to many quintessential summer beers. Bell’s has done an excellent job crafting an easy drinking summer wheat ale and an even better job positioning themselves all over the place with their stylish blue and orange colors. It belongs on any national top 10 beers of summer list (and has been on several I’ve seen).

Another Michigan-based brew I love in the summer is from Arcadia Ales. Whitsun, an unfiltered wheat from this Battle Creek brewery has just been added to the “Cans are Cool” craft beer trend. I had my first one from a can just yesterday. But pour it into a glass first…Whitsun is a lovely orange-hued brew that is a real thirst quencher.

In the interest of full disclosure let me reveal that I lived overseas for many years, and had friends who lived in Koln, Germany, home of the Kolsch beer. I had my fair share of this style in beer gardens, restaurants and friends’ patios. I’m fairly partial to it, especially on a hot summer day.

Right here in Michigan you can get a darn good version of the style from New Holland Brewing. Full Circle Kolsch is a beautiful bright yellow color, with just enough hops to avoid blandness. It’s a great addition to anyone’s beer fridge, and makes for a nice option for guests who want to drink beer (’cause it’s what we cool kids do’), but prefer something “lite” and you would just as soon toss them out on their ear than serve them anything that has “lite” in the name.

Founders Brewing has a limited release beer called Cerise that I tried last year and am eager to stock in my beer fridge . I love cherries. This beer is crafted by adding fresh cherries at several stages of fermentation, which gives it a perfect balance between pucker-up tart and “just enough fruit that I can still say I don’t drink fruit beer.”

And finally to the IPAs. The India Pale Ale variety of beer, in this gal’s humble opinion, can turn your average Michigan summer day into glowing, hoppy perfection, but I am an avowed hop head so…which one to choose? We all have our favorites.

From my own brewer’s delicious Insolent Mink, out to Marshall for the complex Crooked Tree, over to the Famous One in Kalamzoo (which is a staple I will tell you in my own summer beer cooler), back out to New Holland with the Mad Hatter and around to Founders with Centennial…my absolute favorite this summer is: Huma-Lupa-Licious from Short’s Brewing in Bellaire. The citrus makes me swoon.

And in the interest of further disclosure and absolute shameless promotion I will mention that my own beer: The Wench’s West Side Wheat will be a lovely addition to your Wolverine Tap Room visit. Crafted by myself, guided gently and more or less patiently by my brewer, this is one of our top sellers right now over on West Stadium in Ann Arbor.

So there you have it. Wench’s favorite summer brews.

And remember, it’s one reason we have such amazing, famous and well-known beers in this state: We gotta have them in order to ignore how much the weather is screwing us!

Bring the bug spray! I’ve got the beer cooler.

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