Bell's Brewery

Bell's Brewery, Inc.[3] is a family-owned[4] craft brewing company,[5] 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 and the oldest craft brewery east of Colorado.[5][6] As of 2019, it is the largest independently owned brewery in the state, and the 7th largest craft brewery in the United States.[7] The company owns Upper Hand Brewery, a separately operated division in Escanaba, Michigan.

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
Distribution42 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
Light Hearted Ale Low-cal American IPA
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
Bright White Ale Belgian Wheat Ale


Larry Bell incorporated The Kalamazoo Brewing Company, Inc., in 1983 as a homebrewing supply shop in Kalamazoo, Michigan.[8] 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, the Eccentric Café.[9]

In 2003, Bell's opened an additional brewing facility in nearby Comstock, Michigan.[9] The company legally changed its name in 2006 to Bell's Brewery, Inc., reflecting the name by which it was popularly known.[10] 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.[11]

In late 2012, the Bell family repurchased all stock held by outside investors, returning the company to full family ownership.[12]

The company opened Upper Hand Brewery in the Upper Peninsula city of Escanaba in 2014.[13][14] This brewery produces UPA (American pale ale), Upper Hand Light (lager), Yooper Ale (pale ale), Escanaba Black Beer (black ale), Upper Hand IPA (India pale ale), and a variety of seasonal and specialty brews. Initially sold only in the U.P., it began limited distribution in the Lower Peninsula in 2020.[15]


Bells produces eight year-round packaged beers, and numerous seasonal and limited-production beers.[16] 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
Light Hearted Ale Low-calorie American-style IPA 3.7 36 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
Christmas Ale Scotch Ale 7.5 Unknown Seasonal (September to December)
Best Brown Ale[5] American Brown Ale 5.8 34 Seasonal (November to December)
Bright White Ale Belgian Wheat Ale 5 21 Seasonal (November to January)
Oberon Ale[5] 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[5] Russian Imperial Stout 10.5 77 Specialty (September)
Octoberfest Märzen 5.5 24 Specialty (July to September)
Double Two Hearted Ale[5] 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)


Two Hearted Ale (an India Pale Ale named for the Two Hearted River in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan) has been ranked by the American Homebrewers Association as one of the best beers in the United States, in its magazine Zymurgy.[17] They rated it #2 from 2010 to 2016, and #1 from 2017 to 2019.[18][19] Hopslam, a double IPA, is very popular among craft beer drinkers and sparks a backlog of demand at its yearly seasonal release; it has also placed within the Top 10.[20][21][22]


Bell's brews its Porter, Kalamazoo Stout, Lager of the Lakes, Light Hearted Ale, Amber Ale, Two Hearted Ale, Hopsoulution 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, Christmas Ale in November and December, and Bright White Ale (formerly 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 in forty-two states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. As of 2020, the states without Bell's beer distribution are Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah, Virginia (following an early 2019 legal dispute where Bell's pulled out of the state due to a dispute over distribution rights)[23] and Washington.[24]

Legal issuesEdit

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.[5] In 2007 the company re-entered the market through new distributors by creating two new beer brands: Kalamazoo Royal Amber Ale and Kalamazoo Hopsoulution.[25][26][27] 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.[28]


  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. ^ a b c d e f g Hampson, Tim (2008). The Beer Book. London: Dorling Kindersley. p. 22. ISBN 978-1405333016.
  6. ^ hostmaster (2016-12-29). "Bell's Brewery, Eccentric Cafe and General Store". Michigan. Retrieved 2019-10-29.
  7. ^ Champion, Brandon (2019-03-12). "Bell's Brewery near top of list ranking brewers by sales volume". mlive. Retrieved 2019-10-29.
  8. ^ "Articles of Incorporation-The Kalamazoo Brewing Co., Inc". Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. Retrieved 27 March 2014.
  9. ^ a b "Our story". Bell's Brewery - Craft Beer in Kalamazoo & Comstock, Michigan. Retrieved 2019-10-29.
  10. ^ "Restated Articles of Incorporation - Profit-Bell's Brewery, Inc". Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. Retrieved 28 March 2014.
  11. ^ Kjos, Ashley T. "Brewing Sustainably | Green Building and Design". Retrieved 2012-11-08.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ "FAQ". Upper Hand Brewery™. Retrieved 2019-05-29.
  14. ^ Monacelli, Emily (10 Nov 2014). "Bell's Brewery Inc's Upper Hand Brewery opens in Escanaba". Michigan, USA. Retrieved 3 Feb 2017.
  15. ^ "Bell's Brewery's Upper Hand Brewery to Add Distribution to Michigan's Lower Peninsula". Brewbound. 2020-07-13. Retrieved 2021-02-05.
  16. ^ "Our Beer". Bell's Brewery. Retrieved 29 October 2019.
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ "2017 Best Beers in America Results - American Homebrewers Association". American Homebrewers Association. 2017-06-19. Retrieved 2017-08-28.
  19. ^ Manzullo, Brian. "Bell's Two Hearted Ale named best beer in America — again". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 7 October 2019.
  20. ^ Greg Kitsock (January 17, 2011). "Beer: Retailers are slammed over Hopslam Ale". The Washington Post. Retrieved 13 January 2014.
  21. ^ 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.
  22. ^ 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.
  23. ^ Kendall, Justin (2019-02-05). "Bell's Brewery to Cease Beer Shipments to Virginia". Retrieved 2020-07-14.
  24. ^ "Bell's Where We Distribute". Retrieved 2020-07-14.
  25. ^ 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.
  26. ^ Loerzel, Robert (2007-11-19). "Bell's beer is coming back to Chicago". Crain's Chicago Business. Retrieved 2012-09-04.
  27. ^ Klockars, Karl (2007-12-04). "Interview: Larry Bell, Bell's Brewery". Archived from the original on 2007-12-14. Retrieved 2012-09-04.
  28. ^ Hughlett, Mike (2008-08-01). "Bell's brings beer back to area". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2012-09-04.

External linksEdit