Bell's Brewery

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Bell's Brewery, Inc.
Bell's Brewery Logo.svg
Location8938 Krum Ave, Comstock[1], Michigan, United States
Coordinates42°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
Annual production volume310,000 US beer barrels (360,000 hL) in 2014[2]
Owned byThe Bell family
Distribution39 states, and Puerto Rico
Active beers
Name Type
Amber Ale American Amber Ale
Hopsolution Ale Double IPA
Kalamazoo Stout American Stout
Lager of the Lakes Bohemian Style Pilsner
Official Hazy IPA
Porter Robust Porter
Two Hearted Ale American IPA
Seasonal beers
Name Type
Best Brown Ale Brown Ale
Oberon Ale American Wheat Ale
Winter White Ale Belgian Wheat Ale

Bell's Brewery, Inc.[3] is a family-owned[4] brewing company with operations in Comstock and Kalamazoo, Michigan. Bell's brews acclaimed beers such as Hopslam Ale, Oberon Ale, and Two-Hearted Ale. It operates a brewpub and a store selling merchandise and homebrewing supplies at its Kalamazoo location. Begun as a homebrewing store in 1983, and producing beer since 1985, it is the oldest existing craft brewery in Michigan.[5] As of 2019, it is the largest independently owned brewery in the state, and the 7th largest craft brewery in the United States.[6] The company also owns Upper Hand Brewery, a separately operated "sister" business in Escanaba, Michigan.


Larry Bell incorporated The Kalamazoo Brewing Company, Inc., in 1983 as a homebrewing supply shop in Kalamazoo, Michigan.[7] In September 1985, the company began to sell its own beer, brewed in a 15-US-gallon (57 L) soup kettle and fermented in open fermenters covered with plastic wrap. The company produced 135 barrels in its first year. In 1993 the company opened an adjacent brewpub on Kalamazoo Avenue, the Eccentric Café.[8]

In 2003, Bell's opened an additional brewing facility in nearby Comstock, Michigan.[8] The company legally changed its name in 2006 to Bell's Brewery, Inc., reflecting the name by which it was popularly known.[9] A larger production facility in Comstock opened in 2012, increasing the company's brewing capacity from 180,000 barrels to 500,000 barrels per year.[10]

In late 2012, the Bell family repurchased all stock held by outside investors, returning the company to full family ownership.[11]

The company opened Upper Hand Brewery in Escanaba in 2014.[12][13]


Bells produces seven year-round packaged beers, and numerous seasonal and limited-production beers.[14] Many limited-production beers can only be found in their general store in Kalamazoo.

Notable Bell's Beers
Name Style ABV % IBU Notes
Amber Ale American Amber Ale 5.8 32 Year-round
Hopsolution Ale Double IPA 8 60 Year-round
Kalamazoo Stout American Stout 6 51 Year-round
Lager of the Lakes Bohemian Style Pilsner 5 34 Year-round
Official Hazy IPA 6.4 55 Year-round
Porter Robust Porter 5.6 33 Year-round
Two Hearted Ale American-style India Pale Ale 7 60 Year-round
Best Brown Ale American Brown Ale 5.8 34 Seasonal (September to October)
Winter White Ale Belgian Wheat Ale 5 21 Seasonal (November to January)
Oberon Ale American Wheat Ale 5.8 26 Seasonal (February to August)
Arabicadabra Coffee Milk Stout 5.5 30 Specialty (October)
Blackbeard's Bear Hug American Imperial Stout 14.4 34 Specialty (October)
Cherry Stout Stout 7 17 Specialty (October to November)
Expedition Stout Russian Imperial Stout 10.5 77 Specialty (September)
Octoberfest Märzen 5.5 24 Specialty (September)
Christmas Ale Scotch Ale 7.5 Unknown Specialty (November)
Double Two Hearted Ale American Double IPA 11 80 Limited Specialty (August)
Hopslam Ale Double IPA 10 65 Limited Specialty (January to February)
Pooltime Ale Belgian Wheat Ale 5.2 23.2 Seasonal (April to May)


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.[15] It was ranked the best beer in the United States in 2017.[16] 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,[17] taking the award for the first time after seven straight years at second. Two Hearted retained the top spot again in 2018. For the third year in a row, Two Hearted Ale retained its standing as the best beer in the United States in 2019 per the American Homebrewers Association.[18] Hopslam, a double IPA, is very popular among craft beer drinkers and sparks a backlog of demand at its yearly seasonal release.[19][20][21]


Bell's brews its Porter, Kalamazoo Stout, Oarsman, Lager of the Lakes, Amber Ale, Two Hearted Ale, and Official year-round. Several other beers are sold seasonally: Oberon Ale from late March through September (year-round in Florida, Arizona, and Puerto Rico), Best Brown Ale in September and October, and Winter White Ale from November through January. Specialty stouts such as Expedition Stout and Special Double Cream Stout, are released in autumn. Consecrator Doppelbock is released once a year. Additional beers are sold on tap at its brewpub.

Bell's beer is distributed through a thirty-nine state region, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The states include Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Legal issues[edit]

In 1998, Bell's changed the name of its flagship summer beer from Solsun to Oberon as a result of legal action by Mexican brewing company Cerveceria Cuauhtemoc Moctezuma, makers of a beer with a similar name: El Sol ("The Sun").

Bell's was temporarily pulled from the Illinois market in October 2006 when Union Beverage, its distributor to Chicago, tried to sell its distribution rights to a competitor which Larry Bell did not trust to adequately represent the brewer's full product line. In 2007 the company re-entered the market through new distributors by creating two new beer brands: Kalamazoo Royal Amber Ale and Kalamazoo Hopsoulution.[22][23][24] In August 2008, Bell's was able to return its primary brands to the area, after Union Beverage's parent company quit the Illinois market.[25]

In 2015, citing then-current use of the word "Innovation" in its marketing materials, Bell's filed a federal trademark opposition against Innovation Brewing, located in Sylva, North Carolina.[26]


  1. ^ "Our Story". Bell's Brewery. Retrieved September 13, 2013.
  2. ^ "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.
  3. ^ "Corporate Entity Details: Bell's Brewery, Inc". Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. Retrieved 27 March 2014.
  4. ^ Zerilli, Ursula (2013-03-20). "Bell's Brewery Inc. entirely family owned and ready to make 'kooky' beer, says founder". mlive. Retrieved 2019-10-29.
  5. ^ hostmaster (2016-12-29). "Bell's Brewery, Eccentric Cafe and General Store". Michigan. Retrieved 2019-10-29.
  6. ^ Champion, Brandon (2019-03-12). "Bell's Brewery near top of list ranking brewers by sales volume". mlive. Retrieved 2019-10-29.
  7. ^ "Articles of Incorporation-The Kalamazoo Brewing Co., Inc". Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. Retrieved 27 March 2014.
  8. ^ a b "Our story". Bell's Brewery - Craft Beer in Kalamazoo & Comstock, Michigan. Retrieved 2019-10-29.
  9. ^ "Restated Articles of Incorporation - Profit-Bell's Brewery, Inc". Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. Retrieved 28 March 2014.
  10. ^ Kjos, Ashley T. "Brewing Sustainably | Green Building and Design". Retrieved 2012-11-08.
  11. ^ Zerilli, Ursula (2013-03-20). "Bell's Brewery Inc. entirely family owned and ready to make 'kooky' beer, says founder". mlive. Retrieved 2019-10-29.
  12. ^ "FAQ". Upper Hand Brewery™. Retrieved 2019-05-29.
  13. ^ Monacelli, Emily (10 Nov 2014). "Bell's Brewery Inc's Upper Hand Brewery opens in Escanaba". Michigan, USA. Retrieved 3 Feb 2017.
  14. ^ "Our Beer". Bell's Brewery. Retrieved 29 October 2019.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ "2017 Best Beers in America Results - American Homebrewers Association". American Homebrewers Association. 2017-06-19. Retrieved 2017-08-28.
  17. ^ "2017 Best Beers in America Results - American Homebrewers Association". American Homebrewers Association. 2017-06-19. Retrieved 2017-06-20.
  18. ^ Manzullo, Brian. "Bell's Two Hearted Ale named best beer in America — again". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 7 October 2019.
  19. ^ Greg Kitsock (January 17, 2011). "Beer: Retailers are slammed over Hopslam Ale". The Washington Post. Retrieved 13 January 2014.
  20. ^ 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.
  21. ^ 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.
  22. ^ 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.
  23. ^ Loerzel, Robert (2007-11-19). "Bell's beer is coming back to Chicago". Crain's Chicago Business. Retrieved 2012-09-04.
  24. ^ Klockars, Karl (2007-12-04). "Interview: Larry Bell, Bell's Brewery". Archived from the original on 2007-12-14. Retrieved 2012-09-04.
  25. ^ Hughlett, Mike (2008-08-01). "Bell's brings beer back to area". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2012-09-04.
  26. ^ "Bell's Brewery Provides Further Clarification on Trademark Dispute With Innovation Brewing". The Full Pint. 13 March 2015. Retrieved 13 March 2015.

External links[edit]