Heather's Hangout

Sharing the people, places & little moments that make a difference.

Exploring our nation’s capitol June 14, 2017

washingtonmonumentLast week, I was in Washington DC for the One Voice Against Cancer lobby day to meet with my legislators regarding funding for cancer research and prevention programs. I was honored to be selected by LIVESTRONG to attend this event with more than 100 other advocates from across the nation.

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The experience was awesome and my meetings were positive and hopeful (read about the experience). And I do love being in Washington, DC. I love the history of our nation, watching American and foreign tourists learn about and remember the past (hoping not to repeat some of it). I love the excitement and energy that drifts through the town. I love exploring the different neighborhoods and cultures. I love meeting with our legislators and their staff to work together to change the tide for people touched by cancer.

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After a whirlwind of meetings, I decided to stay an extra day for a bit of sightseeing and fun. It was a bright, sunny, cool day in DC. After breakfast at Bob & Edith’s Diner, we started our exploration by heading toward the National Mall.

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No matter how many times I visit Washington, DC, I love touring the national monuments, museums and memorials. I’m always a little in awe of how large these monuments are….large and impressive in their architecture, construction and meaning. I get reflective, motivated, and emotional thinking of the situations that stirred such thoughts and speeches from these historical figures. So many of the quotes are as meaningful and relevant to the world today as they were when spoken decades ago. I would love to know that our current elected officials walk through these memorials at least once a year, but alas, I truly wonder how many of them have never visited. I think it would be a good reminder of the honor, and major responsibility, of representing the American people.

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The Washington Monument greeted us, standing tall with blue skies above and American flags surrounding it. We walked around toward Thomas Jefferson’s Memorial, overlooking a tidal basin from the Potomac River. People relaxed on the steps, enjoying the breeze, while others were on paddle boats and kayaks in the basin. We then walked to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, which leads you through the historic years of his terms. FDR’s memorial leads to inspiring and memorable quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr and a large statue of the man.

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It never fails that I get emotional walking through the Korean War Memorial, with the statues of soldiers ‘walking’ through the greenery and the images of men and women engraved on the wall. I can’t help but touch these images, wondering who they represent, who came home, who didn’t. No matter how many times I walk through the memorial, tears always fill my eyes and my heart beats in gratitude for all those who served to protect us and also sadness for those lost. The emotions continue through the Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, and World War II Memorial. This is one of my favorites as I love standing near the center, looking around at the wreaths representing every state, knowing all of these make up our great country. As we wandered through the memorials, veterans of all ages from many of our wars also toured each memorial. I can’t begin to imagine their thoughts or memories. I can only be grateful for their service and sacrifices.

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Mainelobsterroll_beerWe stopped at Luke’s Lobster in Penn Quarter for lunch where I enjoyed my first Maine lobsterroll and poppyseed coleslaw, along with my first Allagash craft beer from Maine. It was all delicious!

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I really enjoyed wandering Dupont Circle. I liked the small businesses, homes, ambiance of the neighborhoods. It was busy and hip, yet still resembled a quiet, historic neighborhood. We discovered two neat record stores, filled with albums that brought back many fond memories of listening to great music with my parents. We enjoyed drinks and deviled eggs on the outside back deck at Exiles Bar. They were smoking some great smelling meat. We unfortunately made a quick exit when a woman lit a cigarette near us and we realized the outdoor deck is also a smoking area (so glad that Michigan doesn’t allow smoking outside when food is also served).

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We took the Metro (underground subway system) back to Crystal City where OVAC lobby day was hosted at the Marriott. It was fun riding the Metro many times while in DC. It gets so busy at certain times of the day (especially work day mornings!). Michigan does not have good public transportation, certainly nothing like the Metro, and I wish we did. I finally felt like I was getting the Metro down by the time I had to head home….well, okay, I sort of felt like I was getting the Metro down! I might have gotten on one (or two) wrong trains had my friend not nicely asked where I was going (when everyone else was headed the other way). Well, I would have figured it out eventually. And if nothing else, there’s adventure in exploring the places you didn’t plan on visiting!

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We ended the trip with final drinks at Highline (above McCormick’s & Schmick), which has a great open bar with live acoustic music and plenty of space to relax and socialize. I can picture many fun happy hours occurring in this space.

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It was a great day of exploring new areas and stepping into the past for reminders of all we’ve been through as a country. And just like I’m confident in our ability to make great strides in our fight against cancer, I’m also confident in our ability as citizens to find our way back to a country of kindness, good leadership and smart decisions that help many, not just a special few.

MLKquote

One of my favorite quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

20 of my favorite activities May 28, 2017

Filed under: Life Lessons — Heather @ 12:56 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,
trails

Ready to explore?

One of my favorite pieces of the start of spring and summer weather is the opportunity to sit outside on the deck, at the park, or anywhere outdoors and enjoy good conversations with family and friends. I’ve been doing that recently and several of our conversations have drifted to what we’d do if we didn’t have to be at the office every day, whether we won the Lotto, retired or some other plan arose to keep us financially independent. It makes me think about all the activities that I would love to do more regularly if I had more time. I don’t think I would get bored!

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Here are 20 of my favorite activities (in no particular order):

    1. Hike
    2. Bike
    3. Read
    4. Garden
    5. Dance
    6. Sing
    7. Write
    8. Make candles
    9. Photography
    10. Geocache
    11. Camp
    12. Wine tasting
    13. DIY craft projects
    14. Relaxing with good people
    15. Beer tasting
    16. Puzzles
    17. Golf
    18. Volunteer
    19. Try new food recipes
    20. Road trips
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What activities keep you busy? What would you try if you had more free time?

 

When I fell in love with San Francisco April 26, 2017

downtownSF 42017

View from our room!

One of my big goals this year, in keeping with my “Best Year Ever” theme, is to get back into traveling more often. Whether weekend road trips to northern Michigan, longer getaways to somewhere in the U.S. or extended adventures around the world. Or all of the above!

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In keeping with that theme, I was super excited when my friend and I decided on a whim to book a trip to San Francisco and Napa Valley. I explored northern California years ago through the Redwood Forest but hadn’t made it to San Francisco, which I’ve been anxious to visit. So many people love the city and the destinations north of the busy city.

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We were able to book our flights with airline miles (bonus!) so that started the trip on the right path. We found a great deal on car rental, then hotels. My friend is a wine club member at some of the Napa Valley vineyards, which provided free tastings. Needless to say, I was pretty giddy by the time our plane landed in San Francisco (who doesn’t love the opportunity to explore new places and experience new adventures??).

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We easily picked up our car rental and headed to the Marriott Marquis in the South of Market (or SOMA) District of downtown San Francisco. The Marriott has 39 floors, with the top floor a restaurant/bar called The View, aptly named for the amazing 360-degree views of the city and beyond. Our room was on the 23rd floor, also providing outstanding views. We did a quick peek out the windows of The View, appreciating the stunning views of the busy city and mountains beyond. Then we headed to explore that bustling city.

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The weather was perfect with temperatures in the high 60s and sunshine. We were

SFsealion

A talkative sea lion.

already hungry when we left the hotel so headed to The Grove. The funky, fun décor matched perfectly with the fresh food choices. We split a delicious salad and hummus tray and ordered our first drinks to toast the adventure. After re-energizing ourselves, we set off to simply explore. We window shopped, people watched and took in the sights of the district and surrounding areas. We eventually made it to Fisherman’s Wharf, where we came across a small market of artists, fresh flower stands, fresh fruit and vegetables and more near the Ferry Building. I love talking to local residents when I travel so enjoyed meeting so many people at the market. Then we made it to the pier (where we walked some more!). It was awesome to take in the beauty of the water, mountains, sailboats and more. I felt the stress of everyday life falling off as I walked and the fresh air and sunshine breathed new energy into me. This is why I love to travel.

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We continued to Pier 39 where we came across a very busy, definitely tourist area of Fisherman’s Wharf. Souvenir shops, restaurants, wine tasting, fishing boats, bike rentals and more populate this area. Despite it being a popular tourist area, I loved the energy, things to see, food to smell, activities to watch, and scenery to soak in. So we decided to be tourists and visit Wines of California wine bar overlooking the marina. We did a wee bit of shopping after our drinks, then we rounded a corner and I spotted the Golden Gate Bridge. I had two tourist items on my San Francisco bucket list – see the Golden Gate Bridge and ride a trolley. So I was definitely ‘that tourist’ who did a little hand clap when the bridge came into view on our walk (the trolley ride was another day so stay tuned). You can also see Alcatraz Island from the pier (and tour the facility).

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SFchurch

Loved this church in the city.

As we walked, I heard the noise. The sea lions! The sea lions first arrived at Pier 39 K-Dock in 1990 after an earthquake in 1989. While marina tenants at first didn’t like the sea lions taking up so much space, there wasn’t much that could be done as sea lions are protected by the Federal Marine Mammal Protection Act. Plus the sea lions were attracting crowds of people (which increases revenue for surrounding businesses). At one point, more than 1,000 sea lions “docked” at Fisherman’s Wharf! Now the mammals are a regular feature of people’s visit to the area.

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After watching and laughing at the antics of the sea lions, we headed back toward the hotel for a brief rest and relaxation before the evening fun. We checked out the views of Yerba Buena Gardens from Samovar Tea Lounge….it was a trendy, fun crowd hanging outside this place. I loved the perfect view of a pretty church residing in the midst of a bustling, tall city. It was a reminder to me that you can find peace and calmness anywhere in your life if you simply pay attention.

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On a recommendation, we found Anchor & Hope restaurant. And I say found because it took a little bit of looking to find the restaurant that is tucked away on Minna street (it looks like you’re walking down an alley). Admittedly, we may have passed the street twice because I was absorbing everything else around me! It was worth the search effort. It was still happy hour so we sat at the bar, which turned out to be a great place. The bartender and staff were so nice. We enjoyed drinks and delicious salmon cakes.

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Enjoying views from Fisherman’s Wharf.

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When we left Anchor & Hope, we passed Thirsty Bear Brewing Company so decided to check out the local craft beer scene. Thirsty Bear is San Francisco’s only organic craft brewery. (To be honest, I had no idea what that meant and I couldn’t tell the difference in the beers, but I’ve since learned it means that the beers are made with all organic ingredients.) We once again sat at the bar and once again met some great people. The beer was good and the tapas awesome.

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Our final destination of the day was back at The View at the Marriott. By then, the sun had set and the lights of the city were on, providing another great view. Luck was with us as we snagged a spot by the windows to enjoy the views, our drinks and conversations with other patrons.

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It was a great, busy, first day in San Francisco! We were fortunate for the beautiful weather. I loved meeting many friendly people and seeing so many sites. I definitely went to bed a tired, happy girl, ready for our next day’s adventure (stay tuned).

 

Jolly time visiting downtown Detroit February 24, 2017

Filed under: Life Lessons — Heather @ 4:35 pm
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detroitriverDetroit has been blessed with some beautiful warm, sunny weather days. Great reasons to head downtown to explore the city.

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On a recent exploration, a friend and I first stopped at the river walk to wander along the Detroit River, wave to our Canadian neighbors in Windsor (okay, maybe I’m the only one who does this!) and learn a little history while we soaked up some much needed vitamin D. There were several others with the same idea – I love seeing people getting outdoors to enjoy the downtown area.

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After a nice walk in the fresh air, we headed north on Woodward Avenue. We checked out the progress on the new Little Caesars Arena where the Detroit Red Wings and Pistons will soon play. As we neared Wayne State University, we stopped on Canfield Street to explore some more. And we did a little daydreaming as we wandered through the Shinola store. This Detroit-based company makes me pause beside soft leather handbags, awesome custom built bicycles, fun accessories and of course cool watches. I admit that I eyed a watch (or two) before willpower kicked in and made my wallet stay tucked inside of my purse (for now).

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jollypumpkinWe next wandered into Third Man Records, offering great selections of music. Originally founded by Detroit-native Jack White (of The White Stripes), the store showcases an array of vinyl records from amazing artists, record players, accessories and more. A listening booth, record booth, stage, and lounge were highlights for me. I love the eclectic vibe of this store.

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Next door to Third Man Records is Jolly Pumpkin Brewery. We of course needed refreshments after all the wandering! I love visiting Jolly Pumpkin on Old Mission Peninsula in Traverse City, and have also dined at the Ann Arbor location. This was my first visit to the Detroit location. Jolly Pumpkin serves their own craft beer plus North Peak Brewing Company. They also have a variety of spirits. Oh and food. I enjoy both Michigan-based brands of craft beer, plus the relaxed atmosphere at all of their locations. I will definitely return.

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It was fun to check out the Michigan companies and enjoy the great weather with great company. All in all it was another fun adventure in downtown Detroit. Get there when you have the chance to explore, eat, drink and have fun!

 

A few of my favorite Michigan products December 11, 2016

miwines

So many good Michigan wines to drink!

If you’re still looking for some holiday gift ideas for family, friends, or yourself (no judgement here!), consider shopping local. I love to support local and state-based companies as often as I can. Thankfully, Michigan is full of great companies providing food, beverages, clothing and more. And for my out of state readers, most of these companies ship their products!

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This list only scratches the surface of the variety of food, drinks and other products made in Michigan. This is just enough to whet your palate!

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Traverse City cherries. I LOVE summer time in Traverse City, one of my favorite cities in the northern Lower Peninsula. I also love eating fresh cherries from this beautiful area, and admit there have been many times I’ve earned a terrible stomachache after eating a bag of cherries on the way home. But it’s been so good!

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Michigan wines: While Michigan may be considered ‘young’ when it comes to wine-making, our wineries have been holding their own at competitions as they create some great tasting beverages. Some of my latest favorites include Black Star Farm Riesling, Chateau Fontaine cherry wine, Peninsula Cellars Homework and Detention, and Verterra Winery’s Chaos Red Cuvee. I recently became a wine club member at the Michigan By The Bottle tasting room, which partners with Michigan wineries to serve and sell a variety of wines in metro Detroit (there are three locations). This has been a great way to try many new wines.

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Better Made chocolate covered potato chips: ‘Tis the season for Better Made to release their tin of potato chips covered in milk or dark chocolate (both are good but I prefer and love dark chocolate). It’s a perfect balance of salty and sweet. And fairly addictive so beware. (Note: Sanders also makes chocolate covered potato chips, which are also delicious.)

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bettermadetins

So delicious!

Michigan Awesome: If you’re looking for cool shirts, mugs, pint glasses, or fun gift ideas with a Michigan theme, check out this Holland-based company. Their products can be purchased online and at various stores throughout the state.

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Craft beer. We’re fortunate to have some fabulous breweries right here in Michigan. Enough that I can’t list just one. Some of my favorite beers brewed in my home state include (keep in mind my favorites lean toward wheats and Belgian Ales): Kuhnhenn’s White Devil, Black Lotus Apricot Wheat, Short’s Brewery Anniversary Ale and Power of Love, Griffin Claw Brewing Screamin’ Pumpkin Ale, Founders Rubeaus, and North Peak’s Archangel.

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McClure’s bloody mary mix: McClure’s uses their pickle brine, dill, garlic, black pepper and a bit more to make a bold bloody mary mix with a kick. Their popular pickles and kettle chips are great snacks.

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Cherry Republic Hiker’s Mix and dark chocolate covered cherries. If you’ve visited one of these stores, you know to come a little hungry as the array of samples is…..well, delicious. I like to make my own trail mix for hiking, biking and simple snacking, but this trail mix pulls me in with the mix of dried cherries, cranberries, roasted peanuts, raw pumpkin seeds and more! And mixing dried cherries and dark chocolate? Yes, please.

 

10 fun things about Mackinaw City, Michigan July 25, 2016

MackBridge

The “Mighty Mac” bridge connects Michigan’s lower and upper peninsulas

Every summer, my family and I plan a getaway to a location in our great state of Michigan. Family vacation is something that we all look forward to very much as we love family time and vacations! We’ve been north, south, east and west throughout our state. We chose to head north for this summer’s adventure – to Mackinaw City and Mackinac Island.

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Located approximately four hours north of metro Detroit, Mackinaw City is at the northern tip of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula on the Straits of Mackinac. During the summer, the town is packed with tourists staying or stopping through on the way to the Upper Peninsula or Mackinac Island (it’s often listed by AAA as the most popular tourist city in Michigan!).

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Some years we have relaxing vacations where we simply hang out, unwind and make no plans. We were more on the go this year as we explored the area and enjoyed various activities. It was a fun time filled with laughs and, like every year, we wished for ‘one more day.’ We had a great time exploring the city and the island (more on the island in my next blog post). Here are some items that stuck out in my mind:

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  1. Mackinac Old Time Trolley tour: After a snafu with our suite, the manager offered to comp our entire group on the evening trolley tour so we said yes! The 1.5 hours trip took us along the water to learn about Colonial Michilimackinac, the city, bridge and more. Then we crossed the Mackinac Bridge to St. Ignace on the Upper Peninsula during sunset (gorgeous!). The tour driver was very informational and the views were beautiful.
  2. Last stop before the Mackinac Bridge: Known as the “Mighty Mac,” this five-mile suspension bridge is the only connection between Michigan’s lower and upper peninsulas. It’s the longest bridge in the western hemisphere, and was built to withstand 400 mph winds!
  3. Pier at Straits State Harbor: At 1,200 feet long, this pier is one of the longest
    MackCity

    Pier in the morning.

    barrier-free piers in the state. It has a 500-foot long fishing pier with benches, railings and lights. I took some walks in the morning and evening to the end of the pier, which offers beautiful views of Mackinac Bridge and Island.

  4. Mackinac Island Brewhouse: Tucked inside of the Mackinac Bay Trading Co. building on Huron Street is this beverage house. There are at least 10 micro beers on tap or you can purchase bottles from more than 350 craft breweries. Beer tastings are available.
  5. Mackinac Island Winery tasting room: If you’re checking out the beer options inside the Mackinac Bay Trading Co., you might as well taste some wine too. You get a souvenir wine glass with five samples. Lots of wine bottles from Michigan and beyond are also available for purchase. My choices were the Mackinac Red and Sweet White wines.
  6. Fudge options: There are so many fudge shops within walking distance of the hotels. It’s easy to eat your dessert simply from the free samples offered. I highly recommend Joann’s chocolate cherry fudge (made with cherries from Traverse City). Yum!
  7. Fort Michilimackinac: This historic fort was built by the French in 1714, where it became a colonial community until the British took it over. The fort was located to Fort Mackinac on Mackinac Island in 1780 and the remaining structures burnt to the ground. When Mackinaw City was formed in the 1860s, the area became a park until a replica was built in the 1930s. Reconstruction continues every summer, making this the longest running archeological dig in North America. Live demonstrations, programs and tours are available.
  8. U.S. Coast Guard Icebreaker Mackinaw: This ship was once known as the largest icebreaker on the Great Lakes. Decommissioned in 2006, she now is docked as a museum that the public can tour. You can see this impressive ship as you walk along Huron on the water. Very cool.
  9. Lodging options: Multiple hotels and motels line the main strip along the water. Most are easy walking distance to the shops, restaurants and activities. Parking gets crazy busy during peak summer season so it was great to be able to walk everywhere.
  10. Shopping options: From tourist t-shirt shops to Michigan-made products to collectibles, the shops offer something for most people. Mackinaw Crossings is a cute, well-maintained shopping area complete with evening entertainment, fountains and kids’ play activities.
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While I love exploring new cities, states and even countries around the world, I do love my home state. We’re lucky to have such beauty, history and natural wonders within hours of home. And, of course, sharing these adventures with family makes it that much more fun and memorable!

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Do you have a favorite destination in Michigan? Share with us!

 

5 Michigan craft beers for summer tasting July 18, 2016

Ah, summer in Michigan. It’s a good time to relax and unwind with a refreshing, cold beer (er, every season is possibly a good time to do this!). My home state is home to many great craft breweries, with many of these receiving national recognition for their beers. I know several people who share beers across the country and Michigan beers are often in demand.

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I like many of the summer seasonal beers that Michigan’s craft breweries offer since I like to drink a lighter beer. Wheat beer still reigns as my favorite craft beer choice, and in the summer I usually expand to fruit-forward beers (similar to my summer choices for wine).

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If you consider yourself a ‘craft beer snob’ and really into craft beer, you may not agree or like my choices (a lot of craft beer drinkers prefer stouts, etc – too heavy for me!). If you like a lighter choice of drink, you may enjoy trying some of my favorites.

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foundersbeer

Founders brews some delicious fruit beers.

Archangel, North Peak Brewing Company, Traverse City – This limited edition beer is only brewed during summer, which makes me a little crazy searching for it down state as it seems to disappear off of shelves much too quickly. It’s a great light wheat made with Traverse City cherries, giving it just a hint of fruity tartness. (Available in bottles)

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Rubaeus, Founders Brewing Company, Grand Rapids – Brewed year round, the raspberry-laced Rubaeus now comes in cans, making it even more perfect for summer outings! (Available in bottles and cans)

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White Devil, Kuhnhenn Brewing Co., Warren – I have enjoyed this beer for many years and it continues to be one of my local ‘go-to’ beers for a refreshing, light yet tasty liquid indulgence. This Imperial White Ale has a hint of coriander and hop (but it’s not ‘hoppy’ tasting). It’s available year-round in their taproom (on draft) and I heard rumors that bottles are coming soon. (Available on draft; maybe in bottles)

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Power of Love, Short’s Brewing Company, Bellaire – This newly released beer combines a raspberry and rosemary-brewed wheat with lemonade to create a sweet, yet tart taste. (Available in bottles)

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Sun-Ra American Wheat, Black Lotus Brewery, Clawson – This fun, refreshing wheat beer tastes awesome on the outdoor patio at Black Lotus while indulging in BBQ chicken nachos. Bonus: If you like fruit beers, as obviously I do, Black Lotus also offers a Cherry Poppin’ Wheat that goes down nicely. (Available only on draft)

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BONUS: Blushing Monk, Founders Brewing Company, Grand Rapids – Another shout out to Founders for a delicious, refreshing fruit beer. This raspberry-filled beer is part of Founders “Backstage Series” and was last brewed in 2015. (Available in bottles, where you can find it).

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What beers do you enjoy drinking during warm months?

 

 
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