Sunday, May 17, 2009

"Still Crazy, After All...."

This is a picture of Larry Bell, owner and patriarch of the Bell's Brewing Co. in Kalamazoo, MI. This guy was my boss from the time I was 23 to the time I was 30. Then he fired me. Sour grapes? No, I had a great time while I was there, and all good things inevitably come to an end. Plus, does this look like someone who thinks things through thoroughly? Yes, I mean the one in purple tights. Strangely enough, he is a very intelligent and calculating man, and his success in the beer business is testimony to that. In fact, a certain amount of his success can be attributed to his reputation for being a potentially insane character who can be dangerous to party with. In certain circles, his exploits are legendary. In very few circumstances is it necessary to embellish the truth about him.

Anyway, the outstanding brews from his brewery will begin to be available in Atlanta this week. As you can imagine, the intro will focus on the core brands at first, and other specialty beers will trickle into our market eventually. We will have two of those specialty beers, Expedition Stout and HopSlam, at a launch party at our Kennesaw store on Tuesday. There will also be Amber Ale, Oberon and Pale Ale on draft (hopefully Porter too, but I am not 100% sure). Kalamazoo Stout will be available, along with the other 4 core items, in bottles as well. I am a big fan of the K-Zoo Stout, and if you like stouts with a lot of flavor, you will too. So, head on up to Kennesaw on Tuesday if you want to taste these beers. I will be there all day, and the festivities start at 5 pm. I will not be wearing tights or a pair of what appear to be Paul Schaeffer's sunglasses, however.

One interesting thing on this subject is that Bell's was founded in 1985. So, when a lot of these "rock star" brewers were still delivering pizzas or getting ready for the prom, Larry was making beer. Good beer. In Michigan, not California or Colorado. It wasn't a good decision, and it took a lot of guts (stupidity?) to start it in the first place, and not give up when things got tough. Maybe he's a visionary, maybe he's stubborn, or maybe he didn't have anything to fall back on. Either way, you have to give respect where respect is due. Approaching 25 years of brewing out of a West Michigan college town deserves some props. Larry, you wacky SOB, glad to see that you're still crazy after all these beers.