The day in fanboy: pilgrimage to Bell???s Brewery

August 11, 2011

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You’re going to have to live with a few goofy pictures of me. BECAUSE I WENT TO BELL’S!!! When I think back on it, my enlightenment via Oberon might have been my entry into my current beer obsession.

Unfortunately, my sojourn to Michigan was due to my visiting my cousin in the hospital. I knew I-94 would be taking me right past the mothership, but because of the timing regardless of the direction, it wouldn’t work out for me to experience much enjoyment. I’d have either 100 or 550 miles still to drive after having been there. The impetus of the trip was not pleasure so I didn’t feel like I could take an extra night to pause in Kalamazoo.

But I couldn’t not at least drive past the place. So on my way back to Minneapolis from Ann Arbor, I made it work as best I could. I had consulted the Bell’s website and thought I had learned that about all I’d be able to do would be to drive up to the place, take my picture, and drive off.

The brewery (the existing brewery in Kalamazoo, versus the new facility under construction just out of town in Galesburg) is conveniently located right on Business 94, minimizing the effort required to find it. It’s a very unassuming group of small buildings and, in fact, I almost drove right by.

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I was delighted to discover that the General Store was open. I dutifully dropped a couple bucks on Oberon and Two Hearted t-shirts, as well as this bottle of Wedding Ale which is only available at the brewery.

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I was excited when the guy in the store told me that the Eccentric Café, the brewery’s bar, opened at 11:00 rather than noon as I had been under the impression. That meant I only had twenty minutes to wait. As I had eaten breakfast at 7:00, I was ready for lunch.

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In the meantime, I walked back to the brewery and saw a load of fresh barrels waiting to go somewhere. Kalamazoo seems to be pretty old and railroady; I wish I could have taken time to drive around and explore a little. I bet there’s a lot of neat architecture. Bell’s is situated where three tracks intersect.

At long last, the twenty minutes had passed and Carly opened the door to the café. She probably rolled her eyes behind my back when she saw me sitting on the steps, having slipped the Oberon t-shirt on over my other shirt. Oh well. It’s people like me who make her establishment a destination.

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When I saw the beer board, I was supremely sad that I couldn’t partake. In addition to all the varieties that have made it to Minnesota, there were a bunch of others that are only available on draught at the brewery, the ones with the yellow tags by their names. I couldn’t stand it. Carly gave me a taste of the Le Batteur farmhouse ale. IT WAS SO GOOD!

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I made do with my turkey croissant sandwich. Before I left, I discovered the gallery of Bell’s- and beer-related license plates in the restroom hallway. Ha! Then I realized that I hadn’t thought to look for a Hopslam t-shirt and promptly forgot about it because I walked around and looked at the rest of the space.

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Up in the balcony, there was a variety of custom wrought iron work, including the wonderful Oberon sun. Out the back door, there was a garden for hanging out and enjoying a lovely Midwestern summer’s evening.

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Then I realized that there were several installations of hop vines. HOP VINES! Squeeeeee! Hops! Alas, none of them had developed flowers yet, but oh well. Now I know what I’d be in for as I consider planting some decoratively at home.

It was a ninety-minute stop during a 650-mile drive that ultimately took me sixteen hours to complete (I make a lot of pit stops). But hey, that was better than the seventeen that it took me to get to Ann Arbor. I knew I’d have regrets if I hadn’t spent the time that I did.

The next beer pilgrimage will be to Odell in Fort Collns, Colorado, next summer.

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