Our downtown Kalamazoo brewery is where we got our start. Though the batches may be smaller than what we brew for wider release at our Comstock Brewery, our original brewery is still very focused on innovation and bringing new beers to life.
It’s actually quite fitting that the same location where Larry Bell started brewing and beers like Oberon, Two Hearted, Amber, and others originated is still very much a part of where we go next.
One of the many ways we utilize that location, affectionately referred to as B1 by those who work here, is through our Employee Spotlight Series.
Officially debuting in January 2021, this new series of beers are based on ideas sourced directly from our employees from all areas of the company.
We have a lot of passion and creativity, so how do we choose from so many great ideas?
Here’s a brief look at how all of this works:
- This series is open to all Bell’s employees.
- Each submission is vetted by production and quality staff for feasibility (we do have to be careful when bringing in new ingredients that could be potential allergens for example).
- Once a concept is vetted, it moves to a raffle.
- 12 names are randomly selected per calendar year.
- The beer is brewed and released on draft at our pub, the Eccentric Cafe, and at our General Store adjacent to our original brewery about once a month. (Growlers and crowlers can be purchased to take home – while supplies last).
We’ll detail all releases in this series here (and announce on our social channels) as they are ready, so come back often! Be sure to also check out our Celebration Series as well!
The first beer rolled out in this series is Mosaic Lager (5.6% ABV), created by Adam, who originally started as a member of our Door Staff and is now one of our Innovation Brewers. Adam modeled this lager after Lager of The Lakes and is brewed with 100% Mosaic hops. it is crisp and crushable with a dank hop character.
The second beer rolled out in our 2021 Employee Spotlight Series is a crisp, refreshing Kolsch (4.7% ABV), created by Nathan who currently works in our technical packaging department! When he started homebrewing, his dad also became interested which then turned into the two brewing this beer. Together, they call it “Put Me in Kolsch” because of the passion they both share for baseball.
The third beer rolled out in our 2021 Employee Spotlight Series is a Black Currant Lavender Sour (8% ABV): Sour ale with dark berry flavors and a complex, floral finish. This recipe comes from Joey who currently works in our Packaging department! His inspiration behind this beer came from the first sour beer he ever tried. In his words, “my goal was to take the joy I experienced when trying my first sour beer and put it into a sour that made me feel that same joy and maybe even helps people get into sours for the first time!”
The fourth beer rolled out in our 2021 Employee Spotlight Series is a White Stout (6.5% ABV): Blonde Ale brewed with coffee, vanilla, and cocoa nibs. This recipe comes from Adam who works in our Supply Chain department! Adam loves a good stout and wanted to create a beer that everyone could enjoy. White Stouts are rare and hard to find in his opinion and he is very excited to bring this beer to life right here at the pub! Traditionally, stouts are classified as dark beers but with a White Stout, you will find a light-bodied beer with a smooth vanilla taste and a hint of cocoa nibs at the end.
The fifth beer rolled out in our 2021 Employee Spotlight Series is a Double IPA (9.3% ABV): aromas and flavors of mango, overripe peach & citrus rind. This recipe comes from CJ who works in our Point of Sale department! CJ decided to name this beer “Social Distance IPA” because this recipe was developed back last March when the pandemic lockdowns began. The idea for this beer was to make an IPA so intensely aromatic that your friends could smell it from 6ft away! It’s an IPA that’s both safe and socially conscious.
The sixth beer rolled out in our 2021 Employee Spotlight Series is a Dry Hopped Cider (7.7% ABV): This recipe comes from Kate, a member of our Sustainability team. Something that sets this apart from other releases is that this cider is gluten-free! Kate has Celiac Disease and cannot drink beer. She loves the smell of hops and the cider we brew at Bell’s. The inspiration behind this cider came from the desire to apply our hops expertise to our cider. This employee spotlight was dry-hopped with Centennial and Simcoe hops (think Two Hearted and Hopslam) and Kate is beyond excited to share with others the magic that can happen when you combine a dry cider with great hops.
The seventh beer rolled out in our 2021 Employee Spotlight Series is a Tart Wheat Ale (4.2% ABV) from Nate, a member of our Brewing team! This is a light and refreshing fruit beer, perfect for summer. The inspiration for the fruits in this beer (Grapefruit & Cactus) came from the spring training leagues for Major League Baseball (Grapefruit in Florida, Cactus in Arizona). Nate’s inspiration behind the beer style came from his mother’s favorite beer, Bell’s Oarsman.
The eighth beer rolled out in our 2021 Employee Spotlight Series is a Rye IPA (7% ABV) from Josh, a member of our Logistics team! Not only does this American IPA have spicy Rye notes and orange/tropical hop flavors, but the hops used in this brew are also from both Two Hearted & Official! Josh is a big fan of Rye IPAs and wanted to showcase this style downtown at the pub.
The ninth beer rolled out in our 2021 Employee Spotlight Series is a British Strong Ale (7% ABV) from Derek, a member of our Sales team! This recipe is a riff on the last beer Derek formulated as a professional brewer. The first time it saw a brew length was 1999 for the holiday & winter season! The key ingredients and processes in this are the use of English and English-style hops & an extended boil to develop kettle caramelization instead of using caramel/crystal malts.
The 10th beer rolled out in our 2021 Employee Spotlight Series is a SMASH beer (5.3% ABV) from Bill, a member of our General Store team! If you’re looking for a crushable & delicious brew, this one is for you. This recipe is an easy-drinking pale ale with pleasant fruit notes. In his words, he wanted “a light, refreshing beer that is simple to make & can be enjoyed year-round!”
The 11th beer rolled out in our 2021 Employee Spotlight Series is a Kvass (4.5% ABV) from Drew, a member of our Brewing team! This brew is a Farmhouse ale with rye bread added to the mash tun giving this one flavor of white pepper, banana & floral hops notes. The concept was to bring together two food products that start out with essentially the same ingredients; cereal grains & water, follow generally the same process, & end up each their own unique product of fermentation. Drew has been into making naturally leavened bread for several years & brewing beer for even longer!
The 12th beer rolled out in our 2021 Employee Spotlight Series is a Chai Milk Stout (7.5% ABV) from Ralph, a member of our Facilities team! This stout is brewed with honey & lactose, which is then conditioned on Chai tea that contains ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, and black tea leaves. Ralph and his wife have recently become tea fanatics and Chai is a flavor combination that stands out to both! He thought that the flavors associated with Chai and milk would be delicious in a stout. In Ralph’s words, “it should be called Yippi-Chai-ay since it is coming out in December & Die Hard is a Christmas movie.”
The 13th beer rolled out in our 2022 Employee Spotlight Series is a Peach Pomegranate Sour (5.2% ABV) from Erica, a member of our Finance team! This brew is a wheat ale conditioned on peach puree and pomegranate juice concentrate. Erica has never brewed before but has always wanted to be able to make something that she would pick out to drink on a tap list. She’s a big fan of both sours and fruit so she picked two fruits that she thought would pair well together!
The 14th beer rolled out in our 2022 Employee Spotlight Series is a Grisette (3.7% ABV) from Michael, a member of our Quality team! Grisettes are an old Franco-Belgian beer style that has recently been re-popularized by some American breweries & typically uses Saison yeast but are much lower in ABV. Michael has come to appreciate a lot of our low ABV brands like Light Hearted & Upper Hand Brewery Light but wanted to come up with a recipe that married his love of Belgian beer & a modern “IPA-like” hop profile without just making a session IPA. This beer was designed to be crisp, dry & refreshing with a huge aromatic, dry hop punch from his two favorite hop varieties: Galaxy & Strata – both having strong citrus & tropical fruit characteristics!
The 15th beer rolled out in our 2022 Employee Spotlight Series is a Hazy IPA (6.4% ABV) from Nick, a member of our Brewing team! Nick’s favorite Bell’s beer is Official & loves the soft “pillow-y” mouthfeel, plus the blast of hops flavor. Some of his favorite hops come from Australia & New Zealand, so he decided to put the two together! This beer utilizes three hop varieties & is known to be tropical & fruit-forward.
The 16th beer rolled out in our 2022 Employee Spotlight Series is a Coffee Blonde Ale (4.5% ABV) from James, a member of our Brewing team! His inspiration of this beer came from LAST PODCAST ON THE LEFT’s “Rise from your Grave.” James was inspired and very interested in creating a smooth, sessionable coffee ale. While enjoying this brew, you will find dominant vanilla aromas, subtle flavors of coffee and sweet vanilla. Plus… this beer is brewed with local coffee – Kalamazoo Coffee Company!