Bell's Brewery

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Bell's Brewery, Inc.
Location 8938 Krum Ave
Comstock, Michigan
United States
Coordinates 42°17′02″N 85°27′14″W / 42.284°N 85.454°W / 42.284; -85.454Coordinates: 42°17′02″N 85°27′14″W / 42.284°N 85.454°W / 42.284; -85.454
Opened 1983
Annual production volume 310,000 US beer barrels (360,000 hL) in 2014[1]

Bell's Brewery, Inc.[2] is a brewing company based in Kalamazoo, Michigan, with a second brewery 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.[3] 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 brewery, in Comstock, Michigan, which opened in 2003. The Kalamazoo Avenue brewery is adjacent to its pub—Bell's Eccentric Cafe—and a General 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.[4]

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.[5] 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.[6]

In 2015, Citing current use of the word "Innovation" in marketing materials, Bell's filed a federal trademark opposition against Innovation Brewing, located in Sylva, North Carolina.[7]

Later, in 2012 Bell's announced plans to open a new sister brewery based in Escanaba, Michigan, called Upper Hand Brewery[citation needed], which subsequently opened in 2014.[8] In February 2017, Laura Bell was appointed CEO of Bell's Brewery, Inc.; Laura Bell is the daughter of founder Larry Bell.[9]


From 2010 to 2016, 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.[10] It was ranked the best beer in the United States in 2017.[11] Two Hearted Ale is an India pale ale named for the Two Hearted River in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. In 2017, Two Hearted Ale was awarded the best beer in the United States[12], taking the award for the first time after seven straight years at second.

Another Bell's beer, Hopslam, a double IPA, is very popular among craft beer drinkers and sparks a backlog of demand at its yearly seasonal release.[13][14][15]


While Oatsmobile Pale Ale, Porter, Kalamazoo Stout, Third Coast Beer, Oarsman, Lager of the Lakes, 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 (except in southern California, Florida, Arizona and Puerto Rico where it is available year-round), Best Brown Ale for August and September, Winter White for November and December, and Smitten Golden Rye Ale from January through late March. Specialty stouts like Expedition Stout and Special Double Cream Stout, are released in the fall. Others like Consecrator Doppelbock and Roundhouse India Red Ale, are released once a year.

Bell's beer is currently distributed through a thirty state region, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The states include Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Missouri, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Carolina, North Dakota, Florida, Virginia, Arizona, Georgia, Alabama, Iowa, South Carolina, New York, and Tennessee. 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. Distribution to Tennessee was added in November 2015.

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 $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.[16] 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."[17] Initially, only the Royal Amber Ale was made available, in draft only, at about a dozen Chicago-area locations.[18] 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.[19]


  1. ^ "Bell's Brewery, Inc. History". n.d. Retrieved 2015-10-29. ...the company has grown remarkably from its production of 135 barrels (1 barrel = 31 gallons) in 1986 to over 310,000 barrels in 2014. 
  2. ^ "Corporate Entity Details: Bell's Brewery, Inc". Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. Retrieved 27 March 2014. 
  3. ^ "Articles of Incorporation-The Kalamazoo Brewing Co., Inc". Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. Retrieved 27 March 2014. 
  4. ^ "Restated Articles of Incorporation - Profit-Bell's Brewery, Inc". Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. Retrieved 28 March 2014. 
  5. ^ Kjos, Ashley T. "Brewing Sustainably | Green Building and Design". Retrieved 2012-11-08. 
  6. ^ "Bell's Brewery, Inc. :: 200-barrel Brewhouse/Expansion". Retrieved 2012-11-08. 
  7. ^ "Bell's Brewery Provides Further Clarification on Trademark Dispute With Innovation Brewing". The Full Pint. 13 March 2015. Retrieved 13 March 2015. 
  8. ^ Monacelli, Emily (10 Nov 2014). "Bell's Brewery Inc's Upper Hand Brewery opens in Escanaba". Michigan, USA. Retrieved 3 Feb 2017. 
  9. ^ Jones, Al (3 Feb 2017). "Bell's Brewery names Laura Bell CEO". Kalamazoo, MI, USA. Retrieved 4 Feb 2017. 
  10. ^ 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". Retrieved November 29, 2013. 
  11. ^ "2017 Best Beers in America Results - American Homebrewers Association". American Homebrewers Association. 2017-06-19. Retrieved 2017-08-28. 
  12. ^ "2017 Best Beers in America Results - American Homebrewers Association". American Homebrewers Association. 2017-06-19. Retrieved 2017-06-20. 
  13. ^ Greg Kitsock (January 17, 2011). "Beer: Retailers are slammed over Hopslam Ale". The Washington Post. Retrieved 13 January 2014. 
  14. ^ Emily Smith and Justin Lear (February 7, 2013). "Hopslam or Hypeslam? Big buzz behind limited edition beer". Archived from the original on 14 January 2014. Retrieved 13 January 2014. 
  15. ^ Jon Watson (February 1, 2013). "Drink this now: Bell's Hopslam". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Archived from the original on 14 January 2014. Retrieved 13 January 2014. 
  16. ^ 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. 
  17. ^ Loerzel, Robert (2007-11-19). "Bell's beer is coming back to Chicago". Crain's Chicago Business. Retrieved 2012-09-04. 
  18. ^ Klockars, Karl (2007-12-04). "Interview: Larry Bell, Bell's Brewery". Archived from the original on 2007-12-14. Retrieved 2012-09-04. 
  19. ^ Hughlett, Mike (2008-08-01). "Bell's brings beer back to area". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2012-09-04. 

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