Our Story


  • 1970

    Larry Bell moves to Kalamazoo

    Late 1970s

     After attending Kalamazoo College, Larry begins working at the original Sarkozy Bakery where he gains an interest in yeast and fermentation. Soon after, Larry starts brewing his own beer and sees an opportunity.


  • 1983

    Original Bell's General Store opens

    1983

    Larry opens his homebrew supply store, a precursor to the brewery, on Burdick St. in downtown Kalamazoo, under the name Kalamazoo Brewing Supply Co.


  • 1985

    The First Bell's beer

    Sept. 19, 1985

    Brewing with a 15-gallon soup pot, Larry Bell sold his first commercial beer on this date in 1985.


  • 1985

    First brewed: Amber Ale

    1985

    Great Lakes Amber Ale (now known as Amber Ale)


  • 1985

    First brew

    December, 1985

    Bell's Beer


  • 1986

    Brewing milestone

    1986

    Beer production reaches 135 barrels (1 barrel = 31 gallons): originally self-distributed, Larry and a staff of 9 bottle and deliver everything for the next four years.


  • 1986

    First brewed: Third Coast Beer

    1986

    Referring to the coastline created by the Great Lakes, Third Coast Beer was created before the craft beer market really took hold in the United States: people were afraid of beer called “ale.” Even though it is technically a Pale Ale, it was named “beer” to be more approachable. The original

    Referring to the coastline created by the Great Lakes, Third Coast Beer was created before the craft beer market really took hold in the United States: people were afraid of beer called “ale.” Even though it is technically a Pale Ale, it was named “beer” to be more approachable. The original label set was a series of 24 different labels that traced a map of all 3,288 miles of the Michigan coastline, touching four of the five Great Lakes. TCB went to Larry's Library in 2017. 

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  • 1987

    First brewed: Porter

    1987

    Porter: Our award-winning Porter bridges the gap between malty brown ales and heavily roasted stouts. Notes of chocolate, coffee and roasted barley are offset with just a slight hop bitterness. 


  • 1987

    First brewed: Two Hearted

    1997

    The first version of Two Hearted debuted in the late 1980s as a Pale Ale brewed with English malt and Wisconsin grown hops (the two “hearts”). The Two Hearted we know and love today debuted in 1997 as a winter seasonal. In 2003, it became a year round offering and surpassed

    The first version of Two Hearted debuted in the late 1980s as a Pale Ale brewed with English malt and Wisconsin grown hops (the two “hearts”). The Two Hearted we know and love today debuted in 1997 as a winter seasonal. In 2003, it became a year round offering and surpassed Oberon as Bell’s best-seller in 2013. [MORE TWO HEARTED]

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    Two Hearted Ale

  • 1988

    First brewed: Kalamazoo Stout

    1988


  • 1988

    First brewed: Best Brown Ale

    1988

    Best Brown Ale has had many labels - from plain text, to the label pictured here to a series of owl paintings. The most recent version features a Great Horned Owl.


  • 1988

    First brewed: Cherry Stout

    1988


  • 1988

    First brewed: Double Cream Stout

    1988


  • 1988

    First brewed: Third Coast Old Ale

    1988


  • 1989

    First distributor

    January, 1989

    Now shipping more than 500 barrels annually, Rave Associates, based in Ann Arbor, becomes our first wholesaler to further establish Bell's across the state of Michigan.

     

     


  • 1989

    First brewed: Expedition Stout

    1989


  • 1990

    First pour: Indiana 

    January, 1990


  • 1990

    Two barrel system

    1990

    Brewing capacity increases again with the installation of a 2-barrel brew system. 


  • 1990

    First pour: Wisconsin

    February, 1990


  • 1991

    Come as you aren't

    1991

    Bell's celebrates its first Eccentric Day: originally a Bell's employee holiday, this annual party has grown over the years. Intended to showcase your alter-ego, or the side of you that wouldn't show up at the office, it is a day of food, beers and music. 


  • 1991

    5 full-time employees

    1991


  • 1992

    First pour: Illinois

    1992


  • 1992

    15-barrel system installed

    1992

     A long way from the original soup kettle, a larger brew system is installed. We still brew on this system to this day. 

    15-barrel system installed.

  • 1992

    First brewed: Solsun

    1992

    Now known as Oberon Ale, this summer beer starts a revolution all on its own. Originally released in 22 oz. bottles, the name was changed in 1997 because of trademark concerns with a Mexican brewery. Larry picked the name because he played Oberon, King of the Fairies, in his sixth grade

    Now known as Oberon Ale, this summer beer starts a revolution all on its own. Originally released in 22 oz. bottles, the name was changed in 1997 because of trademark concerns with a Mexican brewery. Larry picked the name because he played Oberon, King of the Fairies, in his sixth grade production of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream." MORE OBERON. 

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  • 1993

    A Michigan first

    June 11th, 1993

    Bell’s became the first Michigan brewery to open an onsite pub, the Eccentric Café, at 355 E. Kalamazoo Ave.

    Larry enjoying a pint after the opening of the Eccentric Cafe!
    Larry hanging the framed license!

  • 1994

    Michael Jackson pays a visit

    1994

    The acclaimed beer and whiskey writer, visited what was then known solely as the Kalamazoo Brewing Company. 


  • 1994

    First brewed: Bell's Pale Ale

    1994

    One of the earliest Bell's beers, Pale Ale was renamed Midwestern Pale Ale in 2012. That recipe used barley from the Bell's Farm (no longer affiliated with the brewery) in Shepherd, Michigan. That label featured a painting of the barn and silo on the farm by a local, Kalamazoo artist. 


  • 1996

    Bell's Beer Garden debuts

    1996

    This space has come a long way from where it started. 

    Beer garden sneak peek
    Beer garden sneak peek

  • 1996

    Solsun is officially renamed Oberon

    1996


  • 1997

    30 barrel system installed

    1997


  • 2001

    5 acres purchased in Comstock

    2001

    7 miles from Bell's original location, Comstock will become the future home of Bell's main brewery. Bell's Kalamazoo location continues to be a home to innovation. 


  • 2001

    First brewed: Java Stout

    2001


  • 2002

    New brewery

    December, 2002

    Construction on Bell's Comstock Brewery is completed. Equipment is moved in and the first beer is brewed. 

    Groundbreaking ceremony.
    Installing fermenters into the new brewery in Comstock.
    Inside the new brewery.
    Groundbreaking ceremony.

  • 2003

    First brewed: Winter White Ale

    2003

    Winter White Ale (now Bright White Ale)


  • 2003

    Bell’s Comstock Brewery opens about seven miles east of Kalamazoo on 32-acre site.

    2003

    The original footprint is just over 35,000 square feet.


  • 2003

    Keg line installed

    2003

    Our Comstock Brewery receives an additional way to package Bell's beer. 


  • 2004

    First brewed: Hopslam

    2004


  • 2005

    New brewery, new growth

    2005

    Our Comstock Brewery expands for the first time, but not the last. Construction will continue, in stages from here on out. 


  • 2006

    Investing in quality

    2006

    An Anton Paar for measuring alcohol, density and estimating calories is installed in the Bell's Quality Lab. 


  • 2006

    First brewed: Lager of the Lakes

    2006


  • 2006

    First brewed: Hell Hath No Fury

    2006


  • 2006

    First brewed: Octoberfest

    2006


  • 2006

    First brewed: Consecrator Doppelbock

    2006


  • 2007

    Expansion

    2007

    First cellar expansion is announced.


  • 2007

    First brewed: Black Note Stout

    2007


  • 2007

    First brewed: Bourbon Barrel Aged Expedition Stout

    2007


  • 2008

    More than 100,000 barrels shipped in 1 year

    2008


  • 2008

    First brewed: Hopsoulution

    2008


  • 2008

    First brewed: Christmas Ale

    2008

    Christmas Ale: the basic inspiration was to create a sessionable holiday beer which would stand apart from the array of spiced, high ABV winter warmers typically introduced during the holidays. The original Christmas Ale was designed to be a beer that could be paired with food without overwhelming it.

    Christmas Ale: the basic inspiration was to create a sessionable holiday beer which would stand apart from the array of spiced, high ABV winter warmers typically introduced during the holidays. The original Christmas Ale was designed to be a beer that could be paired with food without overwhelming it. Brewed without any spices: all of the dry, toasted notes and subtle toffee flavors come from the 100% Michigan-grown, custom malted barley, In 2017, the recipe was tweaked to be more malt-forward and fuller bodied as a Scotch Ale.

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  • 2010

    First brewed: Oarsman Ale

    2010

    Oarsman Ale grew out of a desire to explore the tradition of session beers, trading intensity for finesse while still creating a flavorful experience. This was one of the first bottled Bell's beers to make the transition to cans only. Despite common misconceptions, it is not a Berliner Weiss, nor

    Oarsman Ale grew out of a desire to explore the tradition of session beers, trading intensity for finesse while still creating a flavorful experience. This was one of the first bottled Bell's beers to make the transition to cans only. Despite common misconceptions, it is not a Berliner Weiss, nor was it wild fermented. A ground breaking beer when it was released, Oarsman was removed from our year-round lineup in 2019 and is currently not being brewed. 

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    Bell's Oarsman Ale

  • 2010

    First brewed: The Oracle

    2010

    The Oracle was developed from a one-off batch brewed for the Craft Brewers Conference that was called “Big Head San Diego Style Ale.” The name and label refer to The Pythia, the title given to a priestess who serves as the Oracle of Delphi from Greek history & myth.


  • 2010

    Larry Bell wins Brewers Association Recognition award

    April 2010


  • 2011

    The Eccentric Café reopens after a $3 million renovation

    March 28, 2011

    Updates included a state-of-the-art music venue, expanded restrooms, additional seating options, a transformed Beer Garden, a new patio and a new main entry way.

    The Back Room, the music venue.
    The Back Room, the music venue.

  • 2012

    First brewed: Smitten

    2012

    Golden Rye Ale (now known as Smitten) was one of Larry Bell's earliest recipes. It was originally part of a series of rye beers released in 2010. It was part of our seasonal lineup (spring release) from 2013 through 2017. It has been released as a specialty once since then. 


  • 2012

    The first Skills Week

    2012

    The timeframe and size of Skills Week has ebbed and flowed over the years, but it has always been about our employees. We gather to discuss where we've been, where we are going next and get to know one another better. Workshops, guest speakers, a company picnic and celebrating milestones

    The timeframe and size of Skills Week has ebbed and flowed over the years, but it has always been about our employees. We gather to discuss where we've been, where we are going next and get to know one another better. Workshops, guest speakers, a company picnic and celebrating milestones are all a part of this annual company event. 

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  • 2012

    200,000 barrels shipped in 1 year

    2012


  • 2012

    A new brewhouse

    May 14, 2012

    This expansion includes a brand-new American made 200-barrel brewhouse, fourteen 400 barrel dry hop fermenters for Two Hearted, as well as grain storage and geothermal field installations. 

    Building a bigger brewery.
    On the road with the fermenters.
    Building a bigger brewery.
    Building a bigger brewery.

  • 2013

    Upper Hand officially announced

    April 25, 2013

    Construction begins in Escanaba, in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, on our sister brewery.

    The taproom.

  • 2013

    First brewed: Sparkleberry

    2013

    Learn more about Sparkleberry Ale


  • 2014

    First pour: New York

    2014


  • 2014

    Quality focused

    2014

    First full-time microbiologist hired as part of the Bell's quality team. 


  • 2014

    Can line is installed and the hop yard is planted

    2014

    Can line is installed.

  • 2014

    The Planets Series

    August, 2014

    Inspired by Gustav Holst's seven-movement orchestral suite, "The Planets." Released in order of Holst's piece, Mars to Neptune beginning in August 2014 and ending in July 2015.


  • 2014

    Upper Hand begins brewing

    Fall 2014

    A division of Bell's, it is an entirely separate brewery, offering a completely different line of beers available across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.


  • 2014

    300,000 barrels shipped in 1 year

    2014


  • 2014

    Expansion

    December, 2014

    The first of our 800 barrel fermenters is installed. 


  • 2015

    First pour: Louisiana

    2015


  • 2015

    Expansion

    2015

    Construction continues in Comstock: The Cube AKA our waste water treatment facility comes online; our Quality Lab adds ICP for measuring water quality and PCR for the analysis of beer DNA. 


  • 2015

    Best and Brightest

    May 2015

    Bell's Brewery is named Voted one of the Best and Brightest companies to work for in the U.S.!

    Other Best and Brightest awards include: 

    • West Michigan's Best and Brightest 2015-2018
    • Best and Brightest Companies to Work for in the Nation 2015-2018
    • Best and Brightest in Wellness 2016-2019

  • 2015

    Eccentric Café restaurant debuts

    2015

    The 150 square-foot kitchen that served the Café’s guests for more than 20 years, makes way for an expanded, brand new bar and additional draught options. A full-service restaurant and full-sized kitchen now also occupies space once used to brew and package beer. 


  • 2015

    First brewed: Double Two Hearted

    2019

    Everything you love about Two Hearted , but doubled. 


  • 2015

    Bell's Funvitational (30th Anniversary Celebration)

    September 13, 2015

    How do you celebrate 30 years of Inspired Brewing? You invite breweries from all over the world to your hometown for a beer festival like no other. More than 4,000 people attended and more than 200 beers were poured, many had never been tapped before in Michigan. Our 30th Anniversary Ale, an American

    How do you celebrate 30 years of Inspired Brewing? You invite breweries from all over the world to your hometown for a beer festival like no other. More than 4,000 people attended and more than 200 beers were poured, many had never been tapped before in Michigan. Our 30th Anniversary Ale, an American Imperial Stout was also released to commemorate the occasion.

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    Celebrating the fireworks at Bell's 30th Anniversary Funvitational Beer Festival

  • 2016

    First brewed: Pooltime

    2016


  • 2016

    First brewed: Quinannan Falls

    2016


  • 2016

    Bell's logo, packaging refresh

    March 29, 2016

    As we continue to focus on brewing the best beer we can, we also wanted our logo and all of our packaging to reflect that same commitment to quality. There were a few changes that needed to be made to reflect where we are today, but still honored our heritage.

    As we continue to focus on brewing the best beer we can, we also wanted our logo and all of our packaging to reflect that same commitment to quality. There were a few changes that needed to be made to reflect where we are today, but still honored our heritage. That new look officially launched in the fall of 2016.

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  • 2016

    Expansion

    September 2016

    Construction is completed on a brand new Bottling Hall, warehouse space, additional fermentation space, employee care areas and Logistics Center.


  • 2017

    First brewed: Arabicadabra

    2017


  • 2017

    More dry-hopping

    2017

    Sixteen 400 barrel dry hop fermenters added to Cellar A.


  • 2017

    First brewed: Am I Right or Amarillo

    March 2017

    This a specialty American IPA was brewed for release in Texas to celebrate the addition of our 31st state. The first time we brewed a beer specifically for a new market, it was only available during our launch in the Lone Star State.  Fun fact: this beer shares a name with

    This a specialty American IPA was brewed for release in Texas to celebrate the addition of our 31st state. The first time we brewed a beer specifically for a new market, it was only available during our launch in the Lone Star State.  Fun fact: this beer shares a name with a song by the band Asleep at the Wheel who have performed at our Eccentric Cafe twice. 

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  • 2017

    First pour: Texas

    2017


  • 2017

    No. 1

    June, 2017

    After 7 years of being ranked #2, American Homebrewers Association members vote Two Hearted Ale as the #1 Beer in America! 


  • 2017

    First pour: New Mexico

    Fall 2017


  • 2018

    Still growing...

    2018

    Twelve additional 800 barrel fermenters are installed. Other construction projects are completed including yeast propagation system upgrades, two pilot brew systems and a specialty packaging line installation. 


  • 2018

    Published

    2018

    Bell's first publication in the American Society of Brewing Chemists (ASBC). 


  • 2018

    More 800 barrel fermenters

    2018

    Twelve additional 800 barrel fermenters are installed, yeast propagation system receives upgrades, two pilot brew systems and a specialty packaging line are also added. 


  • 2018

    First pour: Colorado

    2018


  • 2018

    First brewed: Larry's Latest Sour Ale

    2018

    Learn more about Larry's Latest Sour Ale.


  • 2019

    First brewed: Official

    2019

    We made it Official in 2019 with the release of our Hazy IPA. Learn more. 


  • 2019

    First brewed: Larry's Latest Flamingo Fruit Fight

    2019

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