Saturday, June 09, 2012

Bell's: An inside visit to the Comstock brewhouse and production facility

Written by  Dan VanderKooi
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.....3Bell's: An inside visit to the Comstock brewhouse and production facility

Bell’s closed out American Craft Beer week with a weekend open house at their new brewhouse and production facility in Comstock, Michigan (about a 12 minute drive from the Eccentric Cafe.) As visitors approached the main entrance, very familiar Oberon tap door handles welcomed them into the facility, where several of Bell’s employees (now over 165 employed,) were happy to answer questions and show people around.
Bell's: An inside visit to the Comstock brewhouse and production facilityThe tour was basically self-guided. At the main level, a table was setup with free pins and brochures. Up a flight of stairs and beginning the tour sat several displays giving the history of Bell’s brewery from 1985 to present. Even die-hards were likely to learn something new as the displays were very informative and full of trivia including many quotes from Larry Bell. Historic events at the brewery were also noted such as a visit in December 1994 by the late great beer critic Michael Jackson. (I did have to explain to one guest which Michael Jackson was being referred to here!)

Bell's: An inside visit to the Comstock brewhouse and production facilityBrewing equipment such as the mash tun where the malts are converted to sugar and the whirlpool to spin the wort were all clearly labelled and easily accessible to the many tourists. The bottling line which fills over 40,000 bottles a day was visible through windows from the upper level as well. At the end of the tour, guests exiting outside the rear of the brewhouse were treated to free soda and grilled food. Several downtown Kalamazoo local restaurants offered specials to coincide with the event. An expansion of this magnitude is certainly a major milestone for Michigan breweries and a reason for celebration; as one banner inside the brewery proudly proclaims, “We’re growing so more beer will be flowing.”

Dan VanderKooi

Dan VanderKooi

Dan VK has been following the Michigan Craft Beer scene since before Oberon has been available in 6-packs. Besides making the rounds at all the local craft breweries and beer bars, Dan also supports the local music scene, reads crime fiction, and enjoys playing volleyball with his wife and friends.