Our story

Our journey began with a 15-gallon soup kettle, a quest for better beer and countless batches of homebrew. The passion and personality that began Bell’s continues today through our breweries and Eccentric Café. We continue to grow and evolve, dedicated to our mission; to be fiercely independent, 100% family owned, deeply rooted to our community, committed to the environment and brewers of inspired beer.

30 years of inspired brewing

Bell's History
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Late 1970s Larry Bell moves to Kalamazoo to attend Kalamazoo College. After college, he 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 Larry opens his homebrew supply store under the name Kalamazoo Brewing Co.
Sept. 19, 1985 Brewing with a 15-gallon soup pot, Larry sells his first commercial beer.
1986 Production reaches 135 barrels (1 barrel = 31 gallons). Originally self-distributed, Larry and a staff of 9, bottled and delivered everything for the next four years.
1989 Bell’s was shipping more than 500 barrels annually and assigned its first wholesaler, Rave Associates, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to further establish itself across the state of Michigan.
1990 Bell’s beer starts heading to states beyond Michigan.
June 11, 1993 Bell’s became the first Michigan brewery to open an onsite pub, the Eccentric Café.
2001 Bell’s original, downtown Kalamazoo Brewery is brewing 7 days a week to keep up with demand. With no more room to grow, plans are put in place for a second brewery.
2003 Bell’s Comstock Brewery opens about seven miles east of Kalamazoo on 32-acre site. The original footprint is just over 35,000 square feet.
2005 Comstock facility expands for the first time. Construction will continue, in stages over the next few years.
2007 First cellar expansion is announced.
March 28, 2011 The Eccentric Café reopens after a $3 million renovation that includes 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.
May 14, 2012 A brand-new American made 200-barrel brewhouse and an expanded Comstock Brewery officially opens.
April 25, 2013 Our sister brewery, Upper Hand Brewery, is officially announced.
2014 A canning line and twelve 800-barrel fermenters added.
Fall 2014 Upper Hand begins brewing and packaging beer in Escanaba, located in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
A division of Bell's, it is an entirely separate brewery, offering a completely different line of beers available across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and northern Wisconsin.
2015 The Eccentric Café unveils a full-service restaurant and full-sized kitchen in a space once used to brew and package beer. 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.
Construction begins on our eighth brewery expansion in Comstock.
September 13, 2015 How do you celebrate 30 years of Inspired Brewing? You invite breweries from all over the world including those in Kalamazoo 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.
2016 Seven new states added to Bell’s distribution footprint: Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, South Dakota and West Virginia.
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. That new look officially launched in the fall.
September 2016 Construction is completed on a brand new Bottling Hall, warehouse space, additional fermentation space, employee care areas and Logistics Center.
2017 Bell’s beer officially began shipping to Texas in early March. Am I Right or Amarillo, a specialty American IPA was also brewed for release in Texas to celebrate the addition of our 31st state. Beer will head to New Mexico in the fall.

A first look at the refreshed packaging for Expedition Stout, Oberon, Two Hearted and Hopslam.
Our first expansion: the 1-barrel brewing system.
Larry Bell brewing Eccentric Ale.