|Headquarters||8938 Krum Ave
|Production output||250,000 Barrels (as of 2013) |
Bell's Brewery, Inc. is a brewing company based in Kalamazoo, Michigan, with a second facility in Comstock, Michigan. Bell's Brewery produces the Bell's brand of beers. Bell's also has a brewpub called the Eccentric Cafe.
Larry Bell incorporated The Kalamazoo Brewing Company, Inc., in 1983 as a home-brewing supply shop. In 1985, it began to sell its own beer, producing 135 barrels in its first year. These first batches of beer were brewed in a 15-US-gallon (57 L) soup kettle and fermented in open fermenters covered with plastic wrap.
The brewery today consists of two separate brewing facilities, the original Kalamazoo Avenue facility, and the state-of-the-art Krum Avenue Plant, in Comstock, Michigan, which opened in 2003. The Kalamazoo Avenue brewery contains an attached pub—Bell's Eccentric Cafe—and a store which sells Bell's beer and apparel, as well as homebrewing supplies.
In 1998, Bell's changed the name of its flagship summer beer from Solsun to Oberon as a result of legal action by the Mexican brewing company Cerveceria Cuauhtemoc Moctezuma, makers of a beer with a similar name: El Sol (The Sun).
As of 2005, Kalamazoo Brewing Company changed their name to Bell's Brewery, Inc., reflecting the name by which most people refer to the brewery; it was formally reincorporated as Bell's Brewery, Inc., in 2006.
Ground was broken in April 2011 as construction began for a new production facility in Comstock, Michigan. The facility opened in May, 2012 and increased the company's brewing capacity from 180,000 barrels to 500,000 barrels per year. The new facility is equipped with state of the art brewing technology, including an expanded grain-handling system and a 200 barrel brewing system. The grain system allows brewers to mill 2,000 lbs of grain in approximately 4 minutes, versus the old system which took an hour to mill the same amount.
In 2011, the American Homebrewers Association rated Bell's Brewery's Two Hearted Ale (an India Pale Ale) the second-best beer in the United States. The AHA publishes an annual list of 50 ranking beers in its magazine, Zymurgy. Two Hearted Ale is an India pale ale named for Two Hearted River in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
While Midwestern Pale Ale, Porter, Kalamazoo Stout, Third Coast Beer, Oarsman, Amber Ale and Two Hearted Ale are available year round, the majority of Bell's beers are seasonal. For example, Oberon Ale is available from late March through August, Best Brown Ale for September and October, Winter White for November and December, and Smitten Golden Rye Ale from January through late March. The Stouts are available throughout the winter months. Others like the Consecrator Doppelbock, Sparkling Ale and Hopslam are single batches released once a year. Bell's also releases one time only 'millennial' brews to commemorate each of its successive 1000 batches. The upcoming availability of these beers can be relatively predicted by the batch number of the Bell's products currently available, printed on every bottle of Bell's beer.
Bell's beer is currently distributed through a nineteen state region, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The states included in the region are Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Missouri, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Carolina, North Dakota, Florida, Virginia, Arizona, Georgia, Alabama, Iowa, South Carolina, and New York. Distribution to Virginia and North Carolina were added on November 1, 2006. Distribution to Iowa was added in late 2006/early 2007, although on a smaller scale due to Iowa's restrictive liquor laws. Distribution to Florida was added in 2007 and to South Carolina & Georgia in 2009.
Bell's was pulled from the market in Illinois on October 12, 2006. In accordance with a 1982 Illinois law which protects the interests of beer distributors (the Beer Industry Fair Dealing Act), the Chicago distributor (Union Beverage) attempted to sell its Bell's distribution rights to a competitor, Chicago Beverage Systems (CBS). In meeting with CBS executives, owner Larry Bell became concerned that his full product line would not be adequately represented by CBS. Having no legal ability to prevent Union from selling its distribution rights, Bell chose what he saw as his only recourse—to pull his products from the entire Illinois market, which represented over USD $1.3 million per year for Bell's Brewery. Due to the vagueness of the law, which does not specify a "lapse period," it was thought likely that if Bell's ever attempted to return to Illinois distribution, Union Beverage's parent company (National Wine and Spirits) would have the right to demand substantial compensation from the distributor. However, beginning in late 2007, Bell's beer began its return to Illinois via two new distributors by creating two new beer brands, Kalamazoo Royal Amber Ale and Kalamazoo Hopsoulution. This was done for legal reasons: since each beer avoided the use of the "Bell's" name and logo, and used a different recipe from previous Bell's brands, Bell contended that these were not the same beers assigned to his former distributor. Nevertheless, Bell said he "expects to be sued by his former distributor, National Wine & Spirits." Initially, only the Royal Amber Ale was made available, in draft only, at about a dozen Chicago-area locations. In August 2008, Bell's was able to return its primary brands to the Chicago area, due to former distributor National Wine & Spirits' exit from Illinois.
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- Liberty, John (June 30, 2011). "Bell's Brewery Inc.'s Two Hearted Ale named second best beer in the country, Founders ties at No. 3". MLive.com. Retrieved November 29, 2013.
- Greg Kitsock (January 17, 2011). "Beer: Retailers are slammed over Hopslam Ale". The Washington Post. Retrieved 13 January 2014.
- Emily Smith and Justin Lear (February 7, 2013). "Hopslam or Hypeslam? Big buzz behind limited edition beer". CNN.com. Retrieved 13 January 2014.
- Jon Watson (February 1, 2013). "Drink this now: Bell's Hopslam". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved 13 January 2014.
- Day, Nicholas (2006-12-15). "Bye-Bye Bell's — How Illinois beer distribution laws, fiercely protected by a powerful industry, drove away one of Chicago’s favorite small brewers.". Chicago Reader. Retrieved 2012-09-04.
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- Hughlett, Mike (2008-08-01). "Bell’s brings beer back to area". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2012-09-04.