28 October 2009

Greetings From Michigan, A Great Beer State: Stop #3 - Bell's Brewing Company

No proper beer trip to Michigan would be complete without a stop at Bell's Eccentric Cafe. On our way in the door, I noticed that I had a message on my phone, and just as soon as we walked in the door, we were right back out on our way to the Bell's production facility (Thanks Bob and Marty!). Their facility is normally not open for public tours, so this was an extra special treat for us.

Driving up to the building, you get the sense that Mr. Bell is not fooling around. The building is a massive steel structure tucked between a couple buildings and a couple fields just a few miles out of town. This location works well for them because that means they have some more room to grow in the future. And that is a good thing for all of us.

We've got a lot of photos, so I'll mostly let them speak for themselves.

The control board in the photo, while functional, is not generally used in production. The brewer runs the operation from a computer room.

We don't know exactly what's in here, but we hear it might be sour! I for one am super excited about that prospect.

There are a lot of green updates to this location, including solar lights, motion detector lights, and a grass rooftop. The barrels on the left are supported by an overhead grid. This allows for easy access for the workers as well as the hoses and other brewing equipment.

This machine washes, sanitizes, and fills the kegs.

This shelf holds beer from previous batches they've brewed (no 9000 yet, we asked) so if they run into any issues, they can check it out. They take quality control seriously here!

The bottling line fills and packages Expedition Stout.

This was my favorite stop on the tour - the lab.

Bell's Eccentric Cafe is located about 5 miles from the brewery. It's a giant room with beautiful details in wood and brick. You can order beer at the bar and food at the small window to the right of the bar. Notice the 76 Ale sign hanging on the wall? It comes from the old Terre Haute Brewing Company.

Mike had the Rye Stout, which is something brand new to bottles. The flavor in front was a deep roasted malt with coffee flavors, also kind of like toasty bread. The rye comes through in the middle, and the beer finishes with a full coffee flavor again.

I had the Golden Funk, a 6.5% ABV Sour Ale. The board said it had peppercorn, galangal, and cardamom. I've never heard of galangal before, but wikipedia says it's a root that is used in some Asian dishes. The beer is floral and sour with a funky medicinal flavor. Mike said that the nose reminded him of ketchup flavored potato chips, but I mostly just got a lot of floral notes. It's very interesting and I hope this is just the beginning of their sour offerings.


  1. I'm jealous. You guys were lucky to get a tour of that place. I typically get into that part of Michigan once a year but have never been inside their place. Hope you got to try a wide variety of their beers. A sour beer in the works? Nice. Keep us posted.

  2. Who did your tour? I too am excited that you guys got tour of the place. I was lucky enough to go earlier this year and had a great time. Probably learned more than I have on any other brewery tour.


  3. Larry told me a while back that their Wild One sour ale was going to get a brewery only bottle release... I've had it 3-4 times and it's a really kick ass American take on a Flanders Red.

    I thought the Golden Funk was just wretched though. Way over spiced. Ugh.

  4. They had Wild One at GABF and it was very good! Would love to have it again...

  5. I hate to be contentious and don't want to sound like an ass...but the Rye Stout is not new to the bottle. It's been a while that it has been in the bottle and I've been looking forward to seeing again (because it's terrific). It's not "new" though. Either way, I really appreciate this post and it further stresses that I ought to head up there some time.

  6. Chipper - jealous? Don't you live in Colorado? :) Seriously though, we were extremely lucky to get the opportunity to tour this brewery.

    Sam - Marty at Bell's gave us the tour of the place. Super nice guy.

    Scott - I didn't think it was wretched. Spicy, yes. But not wretched. I guess it's whatever floats your boat.

    Rod - you suck.

    Michael - you're probably right. But it is something we have not seen in Indiana (at least in the current packaging)for a long time. The information we find is that it was released one time in 2006. You may have been more fortunate to see it more frequently.

  7. I think 2006 would be about right on the previous launch of the Rye Stout. I distinctly remember having one when I got back from my honeymoon in May of 2006 and that bottle was the last of the 6 pack that I bought

  8. Excellent write up. I've loved the Eccentric Cafe every time I've gone. They have some excellent Humus there.

  9. Can we address the elephant in the room? Ketchup flavored potato chips? First question: Where do you find Ketchup flavored potato chips and two, why on Earth would you eat them. Sorry I just felt that that couldn't go unaddressed.

  10. I really like the ceiling suspended tanks. That is good thinking.

  11. Unfortunately, I've not seen it more frequently than you. I love that beer and saw it last in a Kentucky Liquor Barns. I'm going to have my little bro pick some up for me because he still lives in Indianapolis.

  12. Ketchup potato chips are awesome, and the only place I've ever seen them in Indianapolis was at Wal-Mart.

    Here's some info I've stolen directly from wikipedia:

    In Canada, seasonings include dill pickle, ketchup, all-dressed, salt and vinegar, barbecue, salt and pepper, bacon, chicken, fries and gravy, and even curry.

    The market in United Kingdom is dominated by Walkers (at present a regional brand of Lays) which is known for its wide variety of crisps. The three main flavors are ready salted, cheese & onion and salt & vinegar, however other typical examples include prawn cocktail, worcestershire sauce, roast chicken, steak & onion, smoky bacon, lamb & mint, ham & mustard, barbecue, BBQ rib, tomato ketchup, sausage & ketchup, pickled onion, Branston Pickle, Marmite and more exotic seasonings such as Thai sweet chili, roast pork & creamy mustard sauce, lime and Thai spices, chicken with Italian herbs, sea salt and cracked black pepper, turkey & bacon, caramelized onion & sweet balsamic vinegar, stilton & cranberry and mango chili.

    South Africa has a large variety of potato chip flavors, including "fruit chutney", "biltong" (beef jerky), "sausage", "worcestershire sauce", and "tomato sauce" (ketchup flavor) among many others.

    In the Netherlands the market is dominated by Lay's; they offer a large variety of flavors, like: 'naturel' (salted), paprika, bolognese (Italian herbs and tomato), barbecued ham, cheese & onion, Mexican herbs, Heinz tomato ketchup, chilli, spareribs, Mediterranean herbs, Thai sweet chili, Oriental spices, pepper & cream, chicken & thyme and spices & lime.

    Etc etc etc... Ketchup is just the tip of the potato chip iceberg.

    Click here to buy!