Bell’s Brewing, Inc. (Kalamazoo, MI)

Just a short drive away from Battle Creek, it was easy to find Bell’s Eccentric Cafe, home of Bell’s Brewery, Inc. (formerly Kalamazoo Brewing Company.)    At the junction of multiple train tracks, this building doesn’t boast much at all from the outside.  Once inside, our first experience was the restroom…I really liked the restroom, and it was just a sign of things to come!

Stepping down into the brick-walled, warehouse-style building, it was obvious why they call the place “eccentric cafe”!  The bar area was lined with items that ranged from beautiful to strange.  Most of it looked like African art with a little bit of everything in between.  In retrospect, I would call the Dark Horse MORE eccentric, but there was plenty to enjoy at Bell’s.

The menu was impressive – mostly vegetarian, and anyone wishing otherwise would have to search.  Everything was pretty informal here.  No table service – so we sat at the bar – and for those wishing food, you order at the window, pay at the bar and receive a pager, then pick up at the window.  Beers were served in 12 oz glasses, 16 oz plastic cups or 20 oz glasses (glass snifters in some cases), and only plastic was allowed in the beer garden.  Locals would actually order by saying, “I’ll have a plastic of [insert beer here]!”

I started my afternoon with a taster of the Pale Ale (5% ABV), but went for the 12 oz of Two-Hearted Ale.  This IPA came in at 6.2% ABV, and was a tasty one!  I imagine the IBUs were fairly impressive because it had a fresh hop aroma, and a floral body that lingered long after the swallow.

D chose a beer he’d missed out on from a friend’s beer run earlier in the year – the Batch 7000 was a commemorative brew (each time they brew 1000 batches, they bring out another of these…), and this was a big one!  It came from a “cellar” bottle (little fridge near the bar), and it took him 90 minutes to drink all 12 oz.  At 11% ABV, this beer was absolutely black in color with a dark brown head.  In the snifter, I could smell the combination of alcohol and smokiness coming off this beer – vinous in quality, I knew this would be a beer I would love, yet I wouldn’t be able to drink much of it!  D described it as “scotch-like”, and he was right on.

For my second beer, I sampled the Porter (5.5% ABV) and Kalamazoo Stout (6% ABV), and I decided on the sweetness of the porter over the roasty flavors of the stout.  The Porter was well-balanced and a beautiful brown color.  The roasted grains and subtle hop bitterness made this a nice afternoon drink.

D’s second choice was Hell Hath No Fury Belgian Dubblel (9% ABV), which he deemed to be too dark for the style, but no complaints on the taste!  The sugar candy scent carried into the flavor.

There were many other tap and bottled beers there that we didn’t have (see below), but as we were leaving, the Cyser – a honey and apple cider measuring 8% ABV that gave a fresh apple scent from several feet inches away – went on. Amy was kind enough to offer us a taste, and as much as I wanted a glass of it, we did need to move on.  I did comment that this Cyser was very much like the first couple of ciders I had in England only with carbonation (the ciders in Kent, England were made “just down the road” and came right out of the barrel with no added carbonation – they were around 8%, but had the mouthfeel of apple juice!)

Beers on tap that we didn’t try at Bell’s:

  • Bell‘s Beer (light pils)
  • Amber Ale

  • Old Ale (barleywine)

  • Third Coast Beer
  • Sparkling Ale (American Tripel)

Beers offered in bottles that we didn’t try at Bell’s:

  • Double Cream Stout

  • Rye Stout

  • Wheat Love Ale

  • Cheery Stout

  • Third Coast Old Ale
  • Expedition Stout

  • Wheat Eight

 

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