kalamazoo beer week

As the new year begins, Kalamazoo likes to start it off right by hosting the annual Kalamazoo Beer Week.  During the middle of January, Kalamazoo invites locals and visitors to come and celebrate their appreciation for craft beer. Local restaurants and breweries have come together to create a weeklong series of events that promotes different craft beers from Michigan and other states through dinners, tap takeovers, and lively events held all around Kalamazoo. Some events provide their guests opportunities to dine with local brewers over a dinner designed to be paired with their beer. Other events offer the chance to challenge a brewer to a Mario Kart race while sipping on their KBW specialty beer on tap.

This year Kalamazoo has selected to host KBW from January 16 – January 23. Local breweries started the week off with several release partys and tastings around the area. All week long, Gonzo’s Biggdogg Brewing will be serving KBW limited release beers on tap and ending it with a barrel aged beer week finale that will include five barrel aged beers.

Both Brite Eyes Brewing Co. and Tibb’s Brewing Company have teamed up with local beer enthusiasts, the Malt Mavens, to brew special beers for KBW. Brite Eyes will be serving their collaboration, a Spiced Rye Stout, on tap starting January 20 while Tibb’s will tap their Beardless Blonde Ale on January 22.

Bell’s Brewery is partnering with Louie’s Trophy House on January 21 to host “Beat the Brewer at the Putting Green.” Louie’s invites KBW partygoers to come and enjoy some Bell’s beer while challenging a Bell’s Brewer on the green.

Towards the end of the week, Kalamazoo Beer Exchange will be hosting a never-before-seen Total Tap Takeover of Hop Head Farms on Friday January 22. They will be serving twenty-eight local beers brewed with hops from the local Hop Head Farms.

Even though these events are only a select few of all the ones KBW has to offer, they are great examples of how Kalamazoo has set out to help attendees create a relationship with craft beer.

If you are interested in the events KBW has to offer this year, check out the events page on their website.


KALAMAZOO – Think your homebrew is a winner? Enter it in the annual Bell’s Homebrew Competition on Sept. 19 at the Kick-Off and Expo event at Bell’s Eccentric Café, and you could find yourself in Denver for the 2016 Great American Beer Festival (GABF).

The first place winner gets to brew his or her recipe at Bell’s original brewery and have it served on tap at the Eccentric Café. The first place winner will also win a free trip to the 2016 GABF in Denver as a guest of Bell’s Brewery with exclusive access to some of the festival’s events.

Bell’s will cover the airfare cost of a round trip to Denver—so long as the winner is within the continental U.S.—as well as lodging for two nights. While the winner is in Denver, he or she will team up with Bell’s for the 2016 Pro-Am Competition, which pairs homebrewers with commercial brewers to compete for top honors. The winner will also attend the awards ceremony and members-only session.

The only requirement of entering the competition is that participants use Bell’s wort in their brew, which they can obtain at Bell’s Homebrew Competition Kick-Off and Expo event on Sept. 19.

The Kick-Off and Expo event will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and sign-up for wort pick-up will start immediately at 11 a.m. and distribution of the wort will start at 1 p.m. Only a limited amount of wort is available, so it will be distributed in a first-come-first-served fashion. In the past years, over 200 individuals have been able to receive wort.

Learn more about the event here and start planning your perfect recipe. Entries are due by Oct. 25 at 7 p.m.

KALAMAZOO – Bell’s Brewery, Inc. celebrated its 30th anniversary on Saturday with its own beer festival dubbed “Funvitational.”

Homer Stryker Field was transformed into a carnival atmosphere complete with a Ferris wheel, games, photo booth, and food vendors. The main features, though, were the beer tents spread around the field that housed ninety breweries from near and far. Many of them had never served beers in Michigan before and don’t distribute here. All of the local Kalamazoo breweries were invited to participate alongside those from as far away as Belgium. Each guest brewery’s table had two taps for serving its carefully curated selections.

Guests arrived at the festival grounds on foot, by bike, and in cars, buses, and shuttles—including the silly, yet functional Big Banana Car.

The 3,000 ticket holders began their celebration as early as noon in a holding area where they exchanged their shiny multicolored event ticket for a wristband, commemorative tasting glass, and a guide booklet containing pages of carnival style tickets valid for 12 beer samples and $8 worth of food. They were able to bring and share their favorite beers while waiting for the festival to begin. Many rare and special brews were being passed around from group to group as they anticipated the official start.

When the time came to move from the holding area to the the festival site, the Detroit Party Marching Band led the line with their enthusiastic style of showmanship and lively tunes.

Numerous breweries deviated from their announced plans and brought special surprises. Perhaps the biggest was Cigar City Brewing from Florida who brought its coveted Double Barrel Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout, a beer brewed only once and now retired. Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project from Colorado pleased fans of its Petite Sour series by adding Raspberry to its lineup.

Russian River Brewing Company from California served Supplication and its highly rated Pliny the Elder Double IPA, although it wasn’t Pliny’s debut in Michigan as it had been served at the American Homebrewers Association conference in Grand Rapids last year. The line for its table stretched across the field until the taps ran dry midway through the evening.

Bell’s served more than 30 beers at its home plate setup, as well as several from its Upper Hand Brewery division that doesn’t distribute in the Lower Peninsula. Bell’s Brewery’s retired Batch Number series was well represented with six of the earliest incarnations on tap. New beers created for the occasion made their debuts throughout the event.

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“When we started planning this a year ago it was like ‘Ok, we know this is our 30th anniversary, what do we need to do to make sure that we have enough awesome beer to do it?’” said Vice President Laura Bell. “Because we can’t just put something in a barrel and then two weeks later have it be what you want it to be or try to organize all of the brews so, yeah, we’ve been working for about a year to make sure we had new and different exciting stuff.”

Guests and breweries alike were buzzing about Funvitational being one of the most organized and enjoyable events they’ve been a part of. Anne Sprecher of Wisconsin’s Sprecher Brewing Company, which also celebrated its 30th anniversary of brewing recently, said “This is awesome. Very well organized and it is what they say it is, it’s fun!”

“Our goal is to make this fun for brewers, too, right? You get invited to beer festivals and you’ve got to set up your own shit, and so everything is already tapped and set up for the brewers (at Funvitational),” said Bell. “All they have to do is show up and they get to play for an hour before everybody gets here. If you’re throwing a birthday party you don’t tell people to come and do all the work.”

Many Bell’s Brewery employees were part of the ample workforce who did the preparation and continued to ensure a smooth day for all in attendance.

Maine Brewing Company owner Daniel Kleban, who has roots in Michigan, spoke highly of his experience.

“I had no idea what to expect coming to this festival. I was just happy to be invited because I have a great respect for Larry and Laura, and John [Mallett, Director of Operations], and what they’ve done here with this brewery,” he said. “I had no idea if people would know who we were. I mean, we don’t sell beer here so it’s great,” he added about the welcome he’s received by people coming to his table for pours of Lunch and Another One.

“Obviously we love Michigan beer, and there are festivals that showcase that and the Guild does a fantastic job doing that,” said Bell. “We wanted to do something a little bit different, and having the opportunity to have breweries from all over the world here who don’t distribute to our state and to get to bring that here is something that we’re really proud of and excited for.”

“I think people take beer too seriously sometimes and at the end of the day, we make beer and beer is fun so let’s celebrate not only being able to drink some really great beers but have fun with our community,” said Bell. “Just take a deep breath, enjoy yourselves, don’t think about it too hard!”

A fireworks display behind home plate closed the festival after a rousing speech by President and Founder Larry Bell as he and his hard-working team were applauded by the crowd. Afterward, many people made their way to the Bell’s Beer Garden for the final outdoor show of the season, a free dance party with DJ sets of funk and soul music.

Colorado fans and midwest transplants, rejoice! Bell’s beer will venture west to Colorado during the weeks surrounding the Great American Beer Festival.

Starting Sept. 21, Crooked Stave Artisans will temporarily distribute Bell’s beer across its entire distribution footprint including the cities of Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins, and Colorado Springs.

“This was a unique opportunity for us to finally be able to bring our beer to Colorado, even though it’s just for a short time,” said Laura Bell, Vice President of Bell’s Brewery, Inc.

Bell’s fans have taken to the brewery’s Facebook page to express their excitement for the brand’s limited-time distribution in Colorado. For many it is a chance to stock up on staple brews like Two Hearted—and to try harder-to-find classics like Amber Ale and Expedition Stout.

“Every time I head back to Michigan I stock up,” said one Facebook commenter in response to Bell’s announcement.

“Thank you for letting me do so without the 24-hour drive.”

Bottles of Amber Ale, Best Brown Ale, Expedition Stout, Kalamazoo Stout, Midwestern Pale Ale, Oarsman Ale, and Two Hearted Ale will be available to purchase.

Best Brown and Two Hearted Ale cans will also be available.

Draught options will include Amber, Oarsman, Two Hearted, Black Note, Bourbon Barrel Aged Expedition Stout, Coffee Mustache, Double Two Hearted Ale, Lavender Saison, Mars DIPA, Raspberry Wild One, and The Wild One.

For more information visit

FERNDALE — It’s 12:01 a.m. and the Emperor of Oberon has been named, crowned and caped thanks to a lucky raffle draw. Most importantly, he has also been handed the first official glass of the infamous Bell’s Brewery craft beverage. To the eager crowd, Oberon means no more winter, and with that first sip, bar patrons collectively let out blissful sighs of last year’s spring and summer nostalgia.

One-Eyed Betty’s played host to this happy event, with customers and staff excited for a special Sunday release. Sure, most everyone in the room had to be up early this coming Monday for work, but everyone seemed content, frosty glass in hand.

Erika Vitkin, a Bell’s Brewery Field Representative for Southeast Michigan, distributed free swag and good cheer in honor of the event.

“Oberon is an annual staple on the Michigan timeline of beer releases,” she says. “It reminds everyone of something different — and for me — it’s hanging out on my porch back in college, and also, it’s just home.”

So while March weather in Michigan continues to play hot-and-cold with its residents, the craft industry has officially marked the start of spring. Oberon is here!

Upper Hand Brewery, a division of Bell’s Brewery, celebrated its grand opening today, just over a year after breaking ground in Escanaba.

The brewery features a 20-barrel brewing system capable of producing about 200,000 gallons of beer per year. Three beers — UPA (Upper Peninsula Ale), Escanaba Black Beer and Upper Hand Lager will be available outside of Escanaba on draft beginning this week. Bottles will be released beginning in December.

Both draft beer and bottles will only be available in the Upper Peninsula region.

“To be able to open a brewery in the U.P. fulfills a lifelong dream for me. I couldn’t be prouder to open the doors of this great facility here in Escanaba,” said Larry Bell, founder and president of Bell’s Brewery in Comstock.

A public open house is planned for Dec. 6 from Noon to 5 p.m. at the brewery.