When Larry Bell founded Bell's Brewery in Kalamazoo, MI back in 1985, he revolutionized the craft brewing landscape. Through the years, it has kept at the forefront of the craft beer industry due to the dedication of its founder and its pioneering spirit. With an extensive lineup of recognized and award-winning beers, Bell's Brewery is renowned for its influence on the craft brewing scene, making it the oldest east of Boulder and providing a good example of how to stay ahead of the changing landscape.
Larry Bell is the founder of Bell’s Brewery, the oldest craft brewery east of Boulder, CO. He started the brewery in Kalamazoo, MI on his kitchen stovetop in the mid-1980s and has since grown it into one of America’s most beloved and successful independent breweries.
Back in 1983, Larry Bell, then a recent home brewing enthusiast, came up with the idea to open a brewery while working in a Chicago-area homebrew supply store. After persisting in his plan even once his family had dissuaded him of the notion, Bell began experimenting with small homebrew equipment he found at a store in Kalamazoo, MI.In 1985, Bell opened his first brewery called the Kalamazoo Brewing Company. It was the first craft brewery east of the Rocky Mountains. From humble beginnings, Larry Bell and his team of brewers focused on creating flavorful, complex beers for their growing number of fans.
Bell's two primary breweries are in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Comstock, Michigan. The Kalamazoo brewery, built in 1985, was historically housed in a 15-barrel brewhouse and distributes beer within a handful of states: Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, New York, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota. The Comstock brewery, which Bell’s began construction on in 2003, is housed in a much larger 400-barrel brewhouse and distributes beer to many other states and countries around the world.
Bell’s year-round & flagship beers include the popular Two Hearted Ale and Oberon Ale, as well as the less ubiquitous Amber Ale, Porter, Best Brown Ale, Mango Habanero Oberon, Kalamazoo Stout, and Oatsmobile Ale. They also have a "Smitten Golden Rye Pale Ale". Bell's year-rounded beers can be found in cans & bottles, or on tap.
Bell's Brewery also offers seasonal beers throughout the year, such as the September Fest, a traditional German Marzen-style lager; Octoberfest, a Märzen-style lager blended with American hops; and Expedition Stout, a robust, Russian Imperial Stout, layered with rich flavors of dark chocolate, coffee, and a hint of caramel.
Bell's Two Hearted Ale is consistently ranked as one of the best beers in the world. The double-IPA is brewed with 100% Centennial hops from the Pacific Northwest and is heavily dry-hopped. It is a hop-forward beer full of pine and grapefruit aromas, with a subtle malt backbone.
The Bell's Oberon Ale has long been a fan favorite for its light, easy drinking, fruity, and spicy character. It is made with Pale and Wheat malts and finished with a unique blend of spicy and aromatic American hops. The result is a beer that is bright and refreshing, perfect for any occasion.
Bell's Brewery also releases some of its beers in limited and special releases from time to time. These special beers are often brewed with different varieties of hops and malts, creating distinct and unique flavors. Some examples of Bell's limited-release beers include Consecrator, a doppelbock-style lager; Best Brown, an English Brown Ale; Big Head, an Imperial Red Ale; and Hopslam, an Imperial IPA.
Bell’s Brewery has earned nearly 300 awards since it was founded, including medals from the Great American Beer Festival, the World Beer Cup, and European Beer Star. In 2011, Bell’s Two Hearted Ale was named the Best Beer in America by Zymurgy Magazine.
In the thirty-five years since Bell's Brewery was founded, the craft brewery landscape has changed dramatically. But through it all, Bell's has stayed true to its roots, pushing the boundaries of beer innovation and inspiring brewers and beer lovers alike. With its focus on quality, creativity, and continual growth, Bell's Brewery is sure to be a leader in the craft beer world for many years to come.