Monday, August 26, 2013

Bell’s Brewery

You can thank President Carter for legalizing home brewing. It happened in 1979. Meanwhile in Kalamazoo, a young Larry Bell was working for a bakery. Bakeries supplied the grains for home brewing before brewery supply stores appeared on the retail landscape. After it was legal, Bell opened Kalamazoo Brewing Company, a home brewing shop. People began to ask for samples of his pale ale, and in September 1985, Bell sold his first commercial beer - born in a 15 gallon soup pot.

Fast forward to 2013, when a group of media writers were invited to tour expansion number four of the Bell’s production facility. It’s a 200 barrel brew house that operates 24 hours per day. It's an upgrade from the 50 barrel brew house opened in 2003. Expansions five and six are slated to open in Spring, 2014. The tour was part of an August, two-day foodie tour organized by Food Dance Restaurant.

So, what is in beer? Water, malt (grains), hops, and yeast, our tour guide, Gary Nicholas tells us. He started out as the Bell’s quality manager and now runs the training and professional development programs. “You cannot make great tasting beer without using great tasting water,” said Nicholas. “We have water with a high mineral content here; it’s great for making beer – especially stouts.”

The beers are bottle conditioned – that means there is a bit of yeast in the bottom of each bottle. “We don’t make beer,” said Nicholas. “Yeast makes beer.” They handle their own special yeast and its propagation. You cannot buy that yeast. All of their beers have the same yeast; it’s the house ale yeast.

After the tour, we were bussed downtown to Bell’s Eccentric Café and treated to lunch and beer. I tried a few samples: Larry’s Latest Pale trial # 1, Larry’s Latest Lager trial # 2, Larry’s Latest Black Ale, and Roundhouse IRA (India Red Ale). This brew pub opened in 1993. Prior to that brew pubs did not exist due to the laws at the time. The café building has gone through many expansions also. The new 400 person music hall was formerly their glass warehouse. And, the enclosed beer garden was an auto garage.

Thanks for reading and following on Facebook and Twitter.

Below are photos of the tour and café.

Bell's Production Facility
cool door handles
The brew house - where the grains are mashed and sparged, then the wort is boiled and hops are added.
Bell's is rebuilding the old fermentors from Stroh's
fermentation cellar
barrel aging
bottling line
Bell's Eccentric Cafe
bar at Eccentric Cafe
the music hall
beer garden

No comments:

Post a Comment