An education in brewing quality from Bell’s Brewery
I’m starting off this post with two quick disclaimers. (1) I’m going to spend time talking about a brewery that’s outside of Cincinnati and is pretty large – but they make excellent, accessible beer. (2) This post is going to be a fairly long read. However, I think it may be worth your time if you are fan of craft beer. I recently had the pleasure of touring the Bell’s production brewery just outside of Kalamazoo, MI on the return-leg of a vacation with my family. How this all came about was kind of cool and I walked away flat out impressed with the gang at Bell’s.
Rule No. 1 – Don’t be an Internet troll beer snob
I do my best to live by the rule above as a person who is completely absorbed with craft beer. What’s a beer snob to me? Someone who cannot enjoy a beer unless it is only known by precious few, has a very limited production and distribution, and features some obscure ingredient or process. The beer snob will see a well-made beer as a “shelf turd” that isn’t worthy of their time, money, or liver. It’s someone that has taken much of the fun out of enjoying a good beer. Put them behind a keyboard where they are suddenly an expert on everything in the universe and this is why we can’t have nice things.
Now that I’ve got that out of the way – I acted like a beer snob earlier this year. I made a complaint to Premium Beverage Supply about the fact that they were distributing Hopslam with two different bottling date about a week apart. My own naive assumption was that week of aging had destroyed the delicate onslaught of hops in my beer. Thankfully, Premium and Bell’s themselves kindly suggest I was full of shit. Not one to believe the professionals, I obtained a bottle of the week fresher beer and performed my own exbeeriment. They were right and I was wrong. The big people that they are at Bell’s, they welcomed a random Cincinnati beer blogger to stop by anytime to check out their brewery.
That long-winded explanation is why I’m reviewing a brewery that is 5 hours from home and probably won’t be visited by many. However, what I learned at Bell’s is that they take their beer VERY seriously and they make a TON of beer. If your ADHD is already kicking in, here’s the moral of the story. They care immensely about the quality, stability, and taste of every beer they produce. From Oberon to Black Note to Oarsman – quality is measured and monitored. Be confident when you purchase Bell’s locally that its probably pretty damn close to brewery fresh.
Steady Growth Leads to HOLY MOLY
Their original homebrewshop founded in 1983 has since grown into a small production brewery, tap room, live music venue, beer garden, and soon to be classy beer-centric restaurant. I won’t spend too much time on this other than to say I’m impressed in how long they were able to operate out of a functionally inefficient space. My guide walked me through the smallish space with a 7bbl brewhouse that focuses on taproom exclusive production. Although, they also recently installed foeders to work on their sour game – check out Queen City Drink’s piece on Rivertown’s foeders if you aren’t familiar this piece of brewing equipment. This was interesting to see but a shorter than 10 minute drive down the road to Comstock, MI is where the real magic happens.