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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!

Saugatuck Starburst Wheat

Style: Hoppy Wheat Beer
ABV: 4.5%
Glassware: Nonic Pint

Appearance: Another hazy wheat beer sits before me. The head is one inch thick and is off white in color with just a touch of yellow. The beer itself is an orange forward light amber.

Aroma: This fills my nostrils with a chalky and mineral quality, as well as light banana, grainy malt, light lemon esters, melon and a very light acidic character.

Flavor: Doughy malt, chalky, bitter hops with a nice earthy and grassy flavor. I am interpreting the esters from the yeast as being grape, a little strawberry and melon.

Mouthfeel: Medium to high carbonation levels. Effervescent and medium bodied on the tongue, it has a relatively robust overall mouthfeel for a wheat beer, primarily because of the more highly hopped character than one would find in a traditional wheat beer.

Aftertaste: Mild hop bitterness and chalky wheat flavor. I detect those grassy and tropical fruit forward hops, as well as light banana esters before it settles into its lingering finish of bitter hoppiness.

Currently Enjoying With: No food is in front of me unfortunately. What I would recommend though is any traditional American sandwich. It’s a strange combination, putting together hoppy notes and complicated wheat yeast, but use that wheat beer quality to cut your food and meld itself with a variety of sandwich options. The hops also have cutting power and should be utilized as well.

Think medium intensity meaty sandwiches that have mild savory and fatty flavors. You can also stack up on veggies and sauces, which will play nicely with the fruit forward and grassy hops as well as the fruit from the yeast. Right now I am thinking of eating a cranberry chicken salad sandwich with this beer. The creaminess of the meal and the savory chicken could be cut using the strong yeast and the bitterness. The cranberry from the food would talk to the esters in our beer and the tropical notes from our hops. The bread would work nicely with the very subtle bready malt character in our beer.

Overall: A sessionable beer for those of us who can’t decide between being a hop head or slugging down a yeasty and effervescent brew. This is a relatively new concept and I’m learning to navigate myself with these hoppy wheat beers, but I find this to be a decent example of one. I look forward to learning more about pairing with this kind of beer and to drinking more on late summer days with friends.

BATTLE CREEK — The herds keep growing at Bonteboktoberfest. This year a record-breaking crowd attended the beer tasting and fundraising event at Binder Park Zoo. In many corners of the venue, it was standing room only — but that just made for a better view of the animals.

Beer, cider, wine and even mead were offered at 17 different watering holes. In between tastings, carnivores could feast at the burger and brat buffet and then migrate to the big tent and groove to the sounds of Funktion.

All the big cats were there — Founders, Bell’s, Short’s — but patrons seemed to flock in the greatest numbers to sample brews from rarer, more exotic species like Boatyard Brewing, Latitude 42 Brewing and Griffin Claw Brewing. B. Nektar also created a buzz with the four meads they had on tap.

The featured beers ran the gamut from light to dark. Most breweries had at least a couple summer beers on hand — an IPA or two and maybe a fruity wheat ale — which were fitting on a humid night which felt more like August than October.

Every booth, though, had something a little darker for fall or winter. There were plenty of pumpkin ales and oktoberfests, along with some browns like the smoky, malty Bonfire Brown from Saugatuck Brewing Co.

For those who couldn’t, er, “bear” the summer and were looking forward to hibernation, there was the 4 Elf Winter Warmer from Dark Horse. This was one of the darkest and most interesting beers on hand, being creamy with a thick cocoa-colored head and not much carbonation. In the nose and mouth it offers a deep and wide palate of Christmasy spices like cinnamon. You’ll probably want a few of these on your shelf for December.

You should also keep an eye out for Arcadia’s Bonteboktoberfest beer (though we’re not sure how many can be seen in the wild). This is a special edition brewed for the event, a deep amber beer with a mild, pleasant scent of vanilla and spice. It’s smooth in the mouth with notes of caramel and malt that turn a little on the tongue and down the throat.

With a bottle of this on the way out the door, and a wider acquaintance with local beer and not-so-local wildlife, it’s safe to say that all the party animals at Bonteboktoberfest this year had a wildly good time.

7% ABV, Bottle

Appearance: Gold with some brown hues; no head.
Aroma: Immediate hop scent. Some floral as well.
Taste: Bitterness throughout, but not over the top. Maltiness helps level it out.
Mouthfeel: Crisp yet creamy. Light to medium bodied.

Singapore is slightly less hoppy when compared to most IPAs — the malts help create excellent balance. Its sweet aftertaste is carried by the malty balance, making for an enjoyable yet flavorful IPA.

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