Bell’s Brewery – Family Brewed by: Steph Doan
Up from the boils of its 15-gallon soup kettle, one northern brewery has bubbled over in popularity since its establishment in 1985.
Bell’s is a family-owned and operated brewery, located in the cozy town of Kalamazoo, Michigan. Larry Bell first tinkered with homebrewing in 1983 and later opened a homebrew supply store. He began the brewery by self-distributing his fine crafts with his nine employees.
In the early days, Larry’s tools were plastic garbage bins for fermenting, a 15-gallon stockpot, a copper coil in a bucket and a jump rope to help visitors keep warm in the 50-60 degree temperatures.
Bell’s is a strong part of Michigan’s history. Larry and a lawmaker were the first to push for allowing state breweries to serve pints to the public, and they succeeded. The brewery keeps the community and locals on their toes by always staying on the cutting edge of developing creative crafts.
Throughout its 27 years of operation, the brewery has seen mass expansion, growth and success. Bell’s began with a production of 135 barrels in the first year, and the brewery now pumps out over 200,000 barrels. There have been numerous builds and expansions as far as space goes, and Larry’s daughter Laura says the progress has no end.
“It’s a constant thing,” says Laura, who works as Marketing Director, making Bell’s a family affair.
“We work hard together, we play hard,” Laura joked. “We don’t always get along, but we make up!”
And they also make one fine craft beer.
There are now 200 employees who maintain the new brewery, the old brewery, and the Eccentric Café, which has a music venue next door. However rapidly growing the team is, they always put the environment first. Bell’s stresses sustainability by taking responsibility for their impact on the environment.
They reduce, reuse, and recycle by cutting waste, using safe farming techniques, seeking out green products and even architecture. The roof of their warehouse is an extensive sedum green roof that extends the life of waterproofing – they really have built their brewery around protecting our planet.
For such a big production, Bell’s makes to sure every batch has the best ingredients. Pursuing the finest quality of beers keeps them on their toes.
“You gotta have great input to make great output,” Laura said.
The workers go to the hop farms to pick out the best crops. Also, Bell’s owns a 2-row barley farm and uses what they sow in their Midwestern Pale Ale, Christmas Ale and Harvest Ale. All crops are non-genetically modified organism, and fertilizer is spoon-fed for better control.
Bell’s sticks to transparency, “…so that we can make the best possible product.”
Jam, Tour and Drink Good Beer
How well does a cold beer pair with warm, smoked meat? Drive up to the Kalmazoo café and find out. You definitely will not be disappointed. Besides food, the café also has an attached music venue located next door. The venue keeps busy with great local and traveling artists.
Not so fast, though: swing by the newer brewery first! Laura said she likes visitors to tour it before the older location because it drives home the difference in space size. The humble downtown brewery is ‘whoa’ worthy once the huge, decked-out brewery has been visited.
Free tours are offered on weekends. If you can’t make the trip, there are virtual tours available online. www.bellsbrewery.com
With such a friendly family operating it, Laura ensures us that all three – the new brewery, the old brewery and the café – are family-friendly.
“And it’s fun!” Laura said. “You know, beer’s a blast!”
For a full calendar of events and tour times, check out the website and like them on Facebook.
Perfect for the cold days ahead – snuggle up with this year-round stout! It’s black in color and full of all good, yummy black tastes. Coffee, bitter chocolate, dark fruit and rich caramel fulfill the dark body of this craft. It pours as thick and creamy as it tastes. And, unlike many stouts, it is only six percent alcohol so you can enjoy more than one by the fireplace.
A great tasting beer best described by its grainy taste, but is relatively golden in color with no corn used at all, which is a real point of pride for Bell’s. The darker colored beer impacts taste buds with loaves of bread and corn.
A slight sweetness picks up with a hint of citrus. Think a Blue Moon, but enhanced with better craft. It has a 5.8 percent alcohol level, so go ahead and enjoy a few. This beer is not a year-round, however. Laura said it is best enjoyed opening day through the World Series. One sip and drinkers won’t be just fair-weather fans of this beer – it’s tasty.
Two Hearted Ale
My all-time favorite craft beer! Its flavors and aromas are out of this world. It has made its way into my heart forever. The deep orange color holds aromas of pineapple and bread, both well balanced. Its taste is pine, earth, citrus and malt all blended into one smooth-bodied beer. It has a mid-level alcohol percentage at seven.
Midwestern Pale Ale
Delicious and light, this beer hits notes of grass and flowers. It is a tasty Pale Ale that leaves an impression. The taste is yeasty but well balanced with fresh flavors and malts. Its best quality is the drinkability. It has an alcohol percentage of 5.2.
Smitten Golden Rye Ale
Debuting this month, this new spring seasonal tastes as cute as the label looks. Smitten is an earthy, golden rye that brightens up even the gloomiest winter days, according to Laura. It is included in an entire series of ryes. The rustic overtones of this beer craft a perfect pair with the rye malt used. It has a six percent alcohol content. Look for this new release on shelves now … your Valentine will thank you. Smitten Golden Rye Ale is included in the pubs entire series of ryes and is one of Bell’s oldest rye beer recipes.