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COMSTOCK, Mich. – Bell’s Brewery, Michigan’s oldest and largest brewery, celebrates its 32nd anniversary this month.

As part of the celebration, Bell’s kicked-off its 8th Annual Bell’s Homebrew Competition on Sept. 9 at Bell’s Eccentric Café in downtown Kalamazoo.

“Three decades ago, I would have never imagined where we would be as a company, as a brewery, as an industry,” Larry Bell, President of Bell’s Brewery said.

“A lot has changed over the years. This year marks quite a few other milestones all over the state and we raise a glass to all of our fellow craft brewers celebrating as well,” he added.

bells brewery

Larry Bell founded Bell’s Brewery in 1983 and sold his first beer in 1985. The company he started is now 100% family-owned and also the largest independent craft brewery in the state of Michigan. Larry’s daughter, Laura Bell, was promoted to the role of CEO in February.

“It’s an incredible honor to be a part of the next generation,” Bell’s CEO Laura Bell said.

“As we look to what comes next, it’s very important to remember our roots and celebrate the fans and the homebrew community that helped us get to where we are today, she added.

Even before Larry Bell sold his first commercial beer, he started as a homebrewer and then founded a homebrew supply shop, a precursor to the brewery Bell’s is today. Production reached 135 barrels in 1986, all brewed and bottled by 10 employees.

Today, Bell’s employs more than 540 people, a majority in the state of Michigan, and shipped 421,000 barrels in 2016.

As the seventh largest craft brewery in the U.S., according to the Brewers Association, its impact can be seen throughout the craft beer industry in Michigan, in the Midwest and beyond. Bell’s was the first brewery to sell beer by the glass in the state and has inspired countless other breweries, homebrewers and craft beer enthusiasts.

Bell's

Free wort for the Bell’s Homebrew Competition was given away to almost 200 homebrewers. Among the first place prizes for that competition, the winner will get to brew their recipe at Bell’s original Kalamazoo brewery to then to go on tap at the adjacent Café alongside beers like Oberon and Two Hearted, a beer that was recently named #1 beer in America by the readers of Zymurgy Magazine.

Coming up later this month is a three-day Octoberfest Celebration on Sept. 22-24, also at Bell’s Eccentric Café. German cuisine, live music and of course, Bell’s Octoberfest Beer are all part of the festivities. Held in the Bell’s Beer Garden, this is a free, all-ages event.

Bell’s fans are also encouraged to see where their favorite beers are born. Free brewery tours of Bell’s original Kalamazoo brewery are offered on weekends. Tours of its nearby Comstock Brewery are offered throughout the week. Tours can be booked at bellsbeer.com/tours.

 

COMSTOCK, Mich. – Bell’s Brewery, Michigan’s oldest and largest brewery, celebrates its 32nd anniversary this month.
As part of the celebration, Bell’s kicked-off its 8th Annual Bell’s Homebrew Competition on Sept. 9 at Bell’s Eccentric Café in downtown Kalamazoo.
“Three decades ago, I would have never imagined where we would be as a company, as a brewery, as an industry,” Larry Bell, President of Bell’s Brewery said.
“A lot has changed over the years. This year marks quite a few other milestones all over the state and we raise a glass to all of our fellow craft brewers celebrating as well,” he added.
bells brewery
Larry Bell founded Bell’s Brewery in 1983 and sold his first beer in 1985. The company he started is now 100% family-owned and also the largest independent craft brewery in the state of Michigan. Larry’s daughter, Laura Bell, was promoted to the role of CEO in February.
“It’s an incredible honor to be a part of the next generation,” Bell’s CEO Laura Bell said.
“As we look to what comes next, it’s very important to remember our roots and celebrate the fans and the homebrew community that helped us get to where we are today, she added.
Even before Larry Bell sold his first commercial beer, he started as a homebrewer and then founded a homebrew supply shop, a precursor to the brewery Bell’s is today. Production reached 135 barrels in 1986, all brewed and bottled by 10 employees.
Today, Bell’s employs more than 540 people, a majority in the state of Michigan, and shipped 421,000 barrels in 2016.
As the seventh largest craft brewery in the U.S., according to the Brewers Association, its impact can be seen throughout the craft beer industry in Michigan, in the Midwest and beyond. Bell’s was the first brewery to sell beer by the glass in the state and has inspired countless other breweries, homebrewers and craft beer enthusiasts.
Bell's
Free wort for the Bell’s Homebrew Competition was given away to almost 200 homebrewers. Among the first place prizes for that competition, the winner will get to brew their recipe at Bell’s original Kalamazoo brewery to then to go on tap at the adjacent Café alongside beers like Oberon and Two Hearted, a beer that was recently named #1 beer in America by the readers of Zymurgy Magazine.
Coming up later this month is a three-day Octoberfest Celebration on Sept. 22-24, also at Bell’s Eccentric Café. German cuisine, live music and of course, Bell’s Octoberfest Beer are all part of the festivities. Held in the Bell’s Beer Garden, this is a free, all-ages event.
Bell’s fans are also encouraged to see where their favorite beers are born. Free brewery tours of Bell’s original Kalamazoo brewery are offered on weekends. Tours of its nearby Comstock Brewery are offered throughout the week. Tours can be booked at bellsbeer.com/tours.
 

gravel bottom

Ada, Michigan  Gravel Bottom Craft Brewery & Supply today announced plans to relocate to a newly constructed building at 452 Ada Drive, near the corner of Ada Drive and Fulton Street in Ada Michigan, immediately adjacent to the new Kingma’s Market. Gravel Bottom’s new facility will feature a larger taproom, expanded tap offerings, food and extensive on-site brewery capacity. Gravel Bottom will continue operations at 418 Ada Drive until their new site is complete by the end of the year.

The new, 2,500-square-foot brewery will include a 75-seat indoor taproom and an outdoor patio offering up to 50 seats. Gravel Bottom will also expand hours of operation offering quick lunches and small-plate food pairings for up to a dozen new taps.

“We have built a great following in Ada and look forward to helping make Ada a destination as we continue to support local events like Beers at the Bridge, Brats and Bonfires and the Ada Chili Cook-Off.” said Matt Michiels, owner, Gravel Bottom Craft Brewery & Supply. The new space will give Gravel Bottom the opportunity to upgrade its brewing equipment and offer a wider variety of its innovative craft beer selections. “We are adding a small kitchen as well which will allow us the opportunity to pair our beers with food and provide our customers with an enhanced craft beer experience,” said Michiels.

Gravel Bottom is also expanding its operations and is currently researching locations closer to Grand Rapids “I am excited to unveil even more details on our growing production plans in the next 4 to 6 weeks as they are put in place, and I look forward to sharing how they will enhance the Beer City experience” said Michiels.

Michiels moved back to Michigan in 2011 and opened Gravel Bottom Craft Brewery & Supply in 2013 creating the region’s first craft brewery and home brew supply store. Gravel Bottom’s announcement joins a growing number of Ada Village shops, restaurants, and new businesses as Ada’s redevelopment continues.

 

COMSTOCK, Mich. – Winners of the 7th Annual Bell’s Homebrew Competition were announced Nov. 6 during the 8th Annual All Stouts Day at Bell’s Eccentric Café, 355 E. Kalamazoo Ave., in downtown Kalamazoo.

Eleven homebrewers placed out of the 146 that submitted this year.

First place went to Evan Monroe for his hoppy Saison brewed with peaches.

 

Monroe will get to brew his recipe at Bell’s original brewery to then go on tap at the adjacent Café. He will also head to the 2017 Great American Beer Festival in Denver as a guest of Bell’s and compete alongside a Bell’s brewer in the Pro-Am Competition.

“Our judges saw a lot of experimentation again this year and overall, there was a solid mix of traditional beer styles and those that pushed style definition. Our top winners reflect that mix very well,” said David Curtis, Bell’s General Store Operations Manager and competition organizer.

Second place went to brothers Chad Hutson and Daryl Hutson for their Belgian Double IPA.

Third place went to Jay Vanbuskirk for his Black IPA.

This year’s runners up are (in no particular order):

  • Ross Winter – Imperial Stout w/bourbon soaked oak chips
  • Steve Morren – Sour Brown Ale
  • Kevin Kolk – Hibiscus and ginger fruit beer
  • Andy Akers – Belgian Wit/American Pale Ale hybrid
  • David Cohoe – Golden Ale with a roasty character
  • David Lyman (2013 competition winner) – IPA
  • Stephen Hardy – IPA
  • David Nowell – Grape Saison

“The number and skill of those who have competed over the years is incredibly inspiring. We are very proud to support this community and to see that familiar drive and passion reflected by so many,” said Laura Bell, Bell’s Vice President and Co-owner.

More information about when this year’s winning recipe will be tapped at the Café will be released as it becomes available. Judges’ comments are available to be picked up at the Bell’s General Store.

Previous first place winners include –

2015: Bale So Hard, a Farmhouse Ale brewed with HBC 438 and Mosaic hops, from David Hellen

2014: Coffee Mustache, a California Common style beer brewed with coffee, from Matt VanNatter.

2013: Proud Mitten, a dry hopped IPA/Pale Ale made with Centennial, Citra and Simcoe hops, from David Lyman.

2012: Manden Med Leen, a black IPA brewed with Belgian yeast, from Nick Rodammer.

2011: A Bit of Heat from Geoff Groff, brewed with paradise seeds, rose hips and habaneros.

2010: Oscar’s Folly, a collaborative IPA from Jarrett Cupp, Bailey Cupp and Paul Gentz.

homebrew

Ben Darcie at Gravel Bottom Brewery and Homebrew Supply in Ada, Michigan, believes that all of us should have the opportunity to brew a 100% Michigan made beer. Even the homebrewers.

As the locavore movement continues to gain popularity in our area, it only makes sense our craft beer follow suit.

But what makes a Michigan beer a Michigan beer? Is it local brewers, utilizing Michigan’s agricultural bounty? Or is it using only locally grown hops and collaborating with Michigan Maltsters? Perhaps it’s a combination of all these things, and more.

“For the first time in Michigan homebrewing history, people can actually make a 100% Michigan beer at home,” Darcie states with a touch of excitement in his voice—and why not? This is huge.

homebrew

 

Think, for a moment, what goes into a beer. Water, hops, malt and yeast. Michigan water is wonderful and plentiful, easily sourced for all. Michigan hop farms have exploded over the last ten years or so, with a wide range of varietals to meet most of your brewing needs. The focus on malt has been huge in the last three to four years, with four start up malt houses opening between 2015-2016 alone. But yeast? Yeast is a new one, and finally we have a Michigan company, Craft Cultures, located in the UP, that completes the Michigan ingredient circle.

While Craft Cultures has offered its product to many of our local breweries (for example, 57 Brew Pub and New Holland’s Pub Only offerings), Gravel Bottom is one of the first homebrew store to approach them to create packaging specifically for smaller batch brews. “We are the only [store] in West Michigan, possibly the lower peninsula, that has 5 gallon pitches of Michigan propagated yeast,” Darcie shares.

homebrew

One of the goals Darcie had when coming aboard at Gravel Bottom was for home brewers to have the opportunity to make Michigan beer, and he took it upon himself to contact Craft Cultures and request specialized packaging for carrying their product within the shop. All the yeast from Craft Cultures is captured and propagated in state, and they even carry two indigenous strains of yeast as well—Keweenaw Ale I and Eagle River Ale II, with more available soon.

“For the first time we can make a beer  at home that is 100 percent reflective of our state. Which is really really awesome… It’s all about our air, it’s all about our soil, it’s all about our sun. it’s all about our elevation and our water. It is all us, 100 percent our state and I think that’s what makes it so cool.” Darcie’s commitment to this concept is palpable.

So visit Gravel Bottom Homebrewing Supply and see their extensive selection of Michigan grown product for yourself. “The biggest thing that separates us is our extensive hop selection. We carry between 60-75 different options. With the addition of Michigan malts and Michigan yeast, it definitely sets us apart in the entirety of West Michigan. We are very, very excited to offer this.”

From the very beginning, embracing the homebrewing community was a part of Gravel Bottom’s existence, and meeting homebrewers where they are, from novice to expert, is part of the experience of the shop. Darcie and crew are there to help.

In addition to the knowledgeable staff and a plethora of Michigan grown product, a free homebrewing class is offered the first Saturday of every month, and a hands-on brewing class is offered every 3rd Saturday, alternating between extract and all grain brewing. Classes are $20 or $40, and include the class session, a pint of beer and $20 off at the homebrewing shop if you spend $100 or more.

Darcie was kind enough to offer some recipes for your experimentation. Check them out following this article.

MITTENBREW MICHIGAN WHEAT IPA

OG: 1.060
FG: 1.015
ABV: 6.1%
IBUs: 66
SRM: 5.3

All Grain Recipe
Target Batch Size: 5.5g
Target Boil Size: 6.75g
Efficiency: 70%
Boil time: 60m

Mash Time: 60m @ 152*f
Fly Sparge @ 170*f

8.5lbs Pilot 2-row Brewer’s Malt
4.5lbs Pilot White Wheat
1.0lbs Pilot Munich Malt

1oz MHA Centennial (12.1%aa) @ 60min
1oz MHA Cascade (9%aa)          @ 15m
1oz MHA Centennial (12.1%aa) @ 10m
1oz MHA Chinook (12.1%aa)     @ 5m

Yeast: Craft Cultures Yeast Lab CCYL110 California Ale Yeast
Temperature: 60-65*f

MHA = Michigan Hop Alliance


MITTENBREW MICHIGAN ENGLISH RYE PALE ALE

OG: 1.055
FG: 1.014
ABV: 5.5%
IBUs: 42
SRM: 6.7

All Grain Recipe
Target Batch Size: 5.5g
Target Boil Size: 6.75g
Efficiency: 70%
Boil time: 60m

Mash Time: 60m @ 152*f
Fly Sparge @ 170*f

8.0lbs Pilot 2-row Brewer’s Malt
3.0lbs Pilot Munich Malt
2.0lbs Pilot Rye Malt
0.5lbs Pilot PB Toast

1oz MHA Chinook (12.1%aa) @ 60min
1oz BCH Crystal (3.2%aa)      @ 10m
1oz BCH Crystal (3.2%aa)      @ 5m

Yeast: Craft Cultures Yeast Lab CCY123 Dry English Yeast
Temperature: 60-65*f

MHA = Michigan Hop Alliance
BCH = Black Creek Hops


MITTENBREW MICHIGAN HONEY BROWN

OG: 1.058
FG: 1.015
ABV: 5.9%
IBUs: 23
SRM: 18

All Grain Recipe
Target Batch Size: 5.5g
Target Boil Size: 6.75g
Efficiency: 70%
Boil time: 60m

Mash Time: 60m @ 156*f
Fly Sparge @ 170*f

6.0lbs Pilot 2-row Brewer’s Malt
5.0lbs Pilot Munich Malt
2.5lbs Pilot Toasted Brown Malt
1.0lbs Pilot PB Toast
1.0lbs Michigan Honey (Added with 5m remaining in boil)

1.5oz BCH Hallertau (4.5%aa)      @ 60min
1oz    BCH Fuggle (4.5%aa)          @ 5m
0.5oz BCH Hallertau (4.5%aa)      @ 0m

Yeast: Craft Cultures Yeast Lab CCY123 Dry English Yeast
Temperature: 60-65*f

BCH = Black Creek Hops

 

For more information about Gravel Bottom and specific classes offered, follow them on Facebook or check out their website.

coldbreak brewing

I had the pleasure of chatting with Boyd Culver and Chris Musil of Coldbreak Brewing Equipment recently. They’re new to the home brew store community, and with their educational classes and their Homebrew League involvement, we at MittenBrew thought it was about time to chat about their new venture out in Cedar Springs, Michigan.

coldbreak brewing

Steil: You’ve been selling your products online before the physical store opened, correct? What inspired you to start selling product online in the first place and how did that morph into a physical location?

Culver: “Because we have our own brand of equipment, it was our way of having it nationally. We have around a hundred stores in the US that carry our brands. Not everybody has access to it, so that was why we sold strictly our brand online. We had no intentions of having a homebrew store…but then Dave (Ringler) got ahold of us and it fit”

 

Steil: How long has Coldbreak Brewing Equipment had its physical location?

Musil: “It was about a week before the brewery (Cedar Springs Brewing Company) opened.”

 

Steil: Why Cedar Springs?

Boyd: “We’ve got customers like Siciliano’s, O’Conner’s, Gravel Bottom, Pauly’s… they’re all customers of our brand of equipment, so we’re essentially competitors of theirs, but we went to them to make sure they were ok with us putting a homebrew store in. They were totally fine with it and they said there’s nobody north of Grand Rapids and there’s a lot of homebrewers north of Grand Rapids, but there’s nobody to facilitate them.”

Musil: “And it was far enough away that we felt that, ok, we’re not competing with them in the same way.”

 

Steil: What relationships do you have with other homebrew shops? Is there a sense of camaraderie like in other portions of the beer world such as with breweries?

Both: “Yes!”

Culver: “You can even see it with the Homebrew League, since we’re all involved with the Homebrew League.”

Musil: “That and even ordering our yeast is with Gravel Bottom because of the shipping costs and all that. It’s such a fragile product that we all put our orders together and split the shipping costs.”

Culver: “But we’re all friends, Steve (Siciliano) was my first customer with Coldbreak. He started selling the chillers on consignment, and basically if he would have said no, I don’t know that any of this would have existed.”

“Well and then with Big Brew day on Calder, it was obviously started by Siciliano’s, but then Gravel Bottom and Cold Break co-hosted it starting this year, so moving forward it’ll get more teamwork out of that.”

 

Steil: You’re known for producing and selling jockey boxes nationally. How did that get started?

Culver: “I mean, there wasn’t a lot of competition for the products and all of the products compared to ours were inferior. We just looked at it, and it looks like a cheap item and then you’re serving something that you put your heart and soul into a poorly put together jockey box. And I think that with better quality products like our jockey boxes, people tend to take care of it better because of that higher value.”

Musil: “And actually the price is comparable to what you can buy elsewhere for lesser quality jockey boxes.”

coldbreak brewing

 

Steil: Do you see seasonality with your products? Changes during the seasons?

Culver: “In the home brewing industry, summertime is awful for sales. They plummet, because no one wants to homebrew because everybody’s on their boat, while it’s the exact opposite for jockey boxes because festival season is right there where it’s the slow time for homebrewing, and so it kind of evens out the year for us.”

 

Steil: What makes your homebrew shop different than the other homebrew shops we have?

Musil: “Our grain is kind of our specialty I think. We got a bigger grain selection than the other stores.”

Culver: “There’s not many in this country that have as many grain options as we do.”

 

Steil: Tell me about the education program you have for Coldbreak.

Culver: “Going back to what makes us different, I think the classes, and we know the other stores offer classes, but Chris does a really good job and he has a nice powerpoint setup, it’s comfortable, and that’s the focus, and any question we have, if we don’t know the answer, we’re very resourceful. The classes are really thorough and in depth, but still down at a level that someone who’s never brewed before can understand it. But then we’re also doing kombucha, wine, and mead classes which are coming up.”

Musil: “Each class is about once a month. The Intro To Homebrewing we had running every couple of weeks, but at the moment it’s summer so we’re having trouble filling them, but it’s not surprising. In fall they’ll pick back up. I’m teaching the Intro class but then we have other guys coming in to teach the other ones if they know more than I do about, say, the wine for the wine class. It’s other homebrewers who come in to teach.”

 

Steil: What do people request most often?

Musil: “Not physical items, but there’s a lot of people coming in looking for help. Like, “I want to do this style of beer, can you help me put a recipe together?” but that’s as far as it goes when it comes to getting consistent requests.”

 

Steil: Do you see a variation in trends from customers about specific products they’re looking for? Anything in particular you’re noticing now?

Musil: “No, but I think that the homebrewers that are in the know, are looking for things like the Azacca hops or the Zeus hops or something specific like that. Just certain ingredients that might be trending at the moment.”

 

With a new storefront location, specially made jockey boxes, an influx of brewing classes, and an obvious want to collaborate with others to create an education friendly environment for homebrewers, Coldbreak Brewing Equipment is no doubt a wanted addition to our Michigan beer family. I want to thank Chris and Boyd once again for taking the time to fill us in on their endeavors! Also be sure to keep up on which classes they are hosting at the store

 

Photography: Steph Harding

COMSTOCK, Mich – The 7th Annual Bell’s Homebrew Competition Kick-off and Expo will be held this year on Sept. 10 at Bell’s Eccentric Café in downtown Kalamazoo.

The homebrewer who takes first place will get to brew their recipe at Bell’s original brewery to then go on tap at the adjacent Café.

The first place winner will also attend the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado as a guest of Bell’s Brewery. That person will team up with Bell’s for the 2017 Pro-Am Competition and attend both the awards ceremony and member’s only session.

Bell’s will cover the cost of airfare to Denver and back (must be within the continental U.S.) and provide lodging for two nights.

“Homebrewing is how we got our start and this competition is one of the ways we honor that heritage. To be able to offer this kind of opportunity to a community that has given us so much is incredible and we are very happy to do it,” said Laura Bell, Vice President of Bell’s Brewery, Inc.

As in previous years, there is no cost to enter the competition and the only requirement is that you use Bell’s wort, which will be available for free at the kick-off, while supplies last.

This year’s Expo will run from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. and will feature Blichmann Engineering, Briess Malt, Pilot Malt House, Stir Starters, Whirlpool, Kalamazoo Libation Organization of Brewers (KLOB) and others.

Sign-up times for wort pickup will begin at 11 a.m. Wort will be distributed beginning around 1 p.m., first come, first served. In past years, more than 200 homebrewers have been able to receive wort.

Competition entries (four 12 oz. bottles) are due to the Bell’s General Store by 7 p.m., Sunday, October 30.

The 2015 winning recipe, from David Hellen of New Hudson, MI, will be tapped for the first time at 2 p.m. on Aug. 13 at the Café. Bale So Hard is a Farmhouse Ale brewed with HBC 438 and Mosaic hops.

Previous winners also include –

2014: Coffee Mustache, a California Common style beer brewed with coffee from Matt VanNatter.

2013: Proud Mitten, a dry hopped IPA/Pale Ale made with Centennial, Citra and Simcoe hops from David Lyman.

2012: Manden Med Leen, a black IPA brewed with Belgian yeast from Nick Rodammer.

2011: A Bit of Heat from Geoff Groff, brewed with paradise seeds, rose hips and habaneros.

2010: Oscar’s Folly, a collaborative IPA from Jarrett Cupp, Bailey Cupp and Paul Gentz.

For more information about entering this year’s competition, please visit bellsbeer.com.

 

rat festYpsilanti, MI – Long before Arbor Brewing Company was born in 1995, owners Matt and Rene Graff earned their stripes as homebrewers. In celebration of their roots in the homebrewing community, ABC will host the sixth annual Rat Fest homebrew competition in February.

Rat Fest started as a competition between the brewery staff and members of the Ann Arbor Brewers Guild to brew 24 beers in 24 hours on just two systems. Over the course of the first two years, the event grew and the brewery opened the competition to homebrew clubs in Southeast Michigan.

This year the microbrewery has invited eight home brewing clubs to demonstrate their brewing creativity on a 10­ gallon brewing system, affectionately known as The Rat Pad. The AABG Hopheads, AABG Yeasters, Burns Park Brewing, Brighton Home Brew Club, The Brew Divas, Motor City Mashers, The Sons of Liberty and Hyperion Brew Club are each brewing four beers for the public competition.

As an added bonus, the ABC Microbrewery brew staff has come up with a challenge for the homebrewers; one of their four beers must be a sour. The result is a wide array of fantastically tart, puckering brews.

This year’s Rat Fest will be held from 1 to 5 p.m. on February 20th at Arbor Brewing CompanyMicrobrewery in Ypsilanti. Tickets are $30 in advance, or $40 at the door, and include a commemorative tasting glass, beer samples and appetizers. Tickets can be purchased in person at the microbrewery or by phone.

For more information visit their website at Arborbrewing.com