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Kalamazoo brewery will host Funvitational Beer Festival in honor of 30th anniversary

Larry Bell and his brewery are known for celebrating in big ways, and 30 years is a big anniversary for a craft brewery. There are more than 3,000 breweries in the United States, according to the Brewers Association, but only a handful are as old as Bell’s Brewery.

It seems like just yesterday we celebrated Bell’s 20th and 25th anniversaries, but then it also seems like just yesterday that Bell’s Best Brown Ale and Solsun (now known as Oberon) were only available in 22-ounce bottles.

As with many craft brewers, Larry started small and crude with a 15-gallon soup pot. Production has grown from 135 barrels (one barrel = 31 gallons) in 1986 to over 248,000 barrels in 2013.

Many of you have heard my stories of trips in the early 1990s to the brewery, which was just that — a brewery without a tap room. They did have six-packs for sale out a side door, and if you were lucky, you could grab a pint from a tapped keg in the corner.

Since that time, they have added and expanded a tap room, added a beautiful beer garden, added a production facility nearby in Comstock, and have begun renovations on a full-service dining room. Just this past year, they added a canning line and 12 800-barrel fermenters.

Bell’s has announced that its 30th Anniversary Funvitational Beer Festival will take place Saturday, Sept.12, at Homer Stryker Field, part of Mayors Riverfront Park and home to the Kalamazoo Growlers in downtown Kalamazoo. More than 100 breweries from near and far have been invited.

“We’re finalizing the brewery list now, but it was decided early on that every brewery in the immediate Kalamazoo area would be invited,” said Bell’s vice president, Laura Bell, in a statement. Some participating breweries may not even distribute to Michigan.

Ticket information will be announced in early April. Tickets will not be available online. Instead, they will be released based on a mail-order lottery system, then sold onsite at Bell’s General Store and Eccentric Café.

“We want to make sure that everyone who wants to come will have a fair chance to get tickets,” Bell said. “We also did not feel comfortable relying on a website that could be overwhelmed. We want this whole experience to be as fun and hassle-free as possible.”

The ticket cost of $45 will include 12 beer-tasting tokens (each good for a 4-ounce pour), a special commemorative tasting glass and food tickets. Additional tasting and food tickets will be available to purchase at the festival.

The festival will also include games, live entertainment and local food, with all proceeds going to charity.

Bell’s brewed a 25th anniversary commemorative batch, and I’m betting that we can plan on some great celebratory beers to commemorate 30 years, too. 

“We have been brewing in Kalamazoo for almost 30 years and we are extremely proud of where we got our start,” said Bell. “This festival is a celebration of that heritage, our community and our fans.”

Additional details will be released in coming months.

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