Eric Strader writes about the craft beer scene in Indiana and Michigan. He's a dad, husband, potter, soccer coach and special education paraprofessional who likes to read, bike, hike and canoe. You can read more from him in his community blog for The Elkhart Truth, Hop Notes.
Just in time for summer barbecues, trips to the beach and family canoe and tubing trips, Bell’s 16 oz. cans of Oberon (American wheat ale, 5.8% ABV) and Two Hearted Ale (IPA, 7% ABV) are now available at Bell’s General Store in four packs. I have also confirmed they are available throughout Michiana.
Yesterday, I stopped into Bell’s General Store to pick up some things, and guess what was still in the cooler? Bourbon Barrel Aged Cherry Stout (8.5% ABV, imperial American-style stout with tart Michigan cherries aged in bourbon barrels from various distilleries). This was previously released in 2008 in 12 oz. bottle six packs, and until now has only been rarely seen on draft. Unlike many other breweries that announce specialty releases with great fanfare, Bell’s quietly filled its cooler last Friday with 750 ml bottles of Bourbon Barrel Aged Cherry Stout. When the store does this, word travels quickly – usually without posting much on social media. There was a limit of two bottles per person, and I thought I was going to be out of luck on this release, so I was very happily surprised when there were still a few bottles in the cooler.
Also, anyone looking for some Consecrator Dopplebock (8% ABV) can also find this at the General Store. I feel that this is one of the Bell’s beers that does not get the love it deserves. And this year, for whatever reason, Michiana didn’t get much.
As usual, the tap list at the Eccentric Cafe was not disappointing in any way, shape or form. I ordered a black bean wrap and an Experimental Hop 2014-3 Ale (6.5% ABV). It is described as a dry hopped amber with peachy, earthy and toasted notes. I definitely tasted malt and a bit of spiciness from the rye malt. Since an experimental variety of hops was used, it’s hard to say what was intended for the hop flavor profile, but overall, I got a lot of earthiness, and it paired well with my wrap.
It was hard to pass up the bourbon barrel aged Kalamazoo Stout (7% ABV) and Round House IRA (7% ABV), both of which are favorites of mine. Instead, I enjoyed a Quinannan Falls Special Lager (6.5% ABV), another favorite of mine, to finish my dinner. It is similar to a German pilsner – however, it is a lager with notes of peach and apricots. It is at the same time both dry and effervescent. I believe this was bottled once for their 750 ml release but other than that is only available on draft.
Just in case there is any question as to the eccentric qualities of the Eccentric Cafe, you can order an Eccentric grilled cheese. This is always on the menu, and I have never seen the same description twice. My favorite included pineapple and BBQ sauce. However, yesterday’s version contained strawberry cream cheese, spinach, balsamic reduction caramelized onions and muenster on MacKenzies honey amber bread.
With a foundation firmly rooted in homebrewing, Bell’s Brewery is proud to be a part of the 2014 American Homebrewers Association National Homebrewers Conference from June 12-14 at the De Vos Center in Grand Rapids, Mich.
As a Local/Craft Brewery Lounge Sponsor, a special Bell’s lounge will be available for all conference attendees to enjoy. Bell’s beer, including a special commemorative Michigan barleywine that is currently fermenting just for the conference, will also be on tap.
Made with Michigan-grown hops from Hop Head Farms in Hickory Corners and barley from the Bell’s Farm in Shepherd, Bell’s Beer Michigan will be bottled exclusively for conference attendees to take home.
A variety of unique foods, including house smoked meats, from Bell’s Eccentric Café in Kalamazoo, will also be available to sample in the Bell’s Lounge.
“We are always thrilled to support the homebrewing community. It’s a natural fit since that’s how we got our start,” said Laura Bell, Bell’s Vice President. “To have a gathering like this, practically in our backyard, is a great way to give a little back and get a chance to talk with so many of those who share our passion.”
Bell’s president and founder, Larry Bell, will also be in Grand Rapids for the conference and will be available to chat with homebrewers at the Bell’s Lounge during the first day of the conference.
Later that night, Larry Bell will kick-off a multi-day tap event at Logan’s Alley, located a short distance from the conference. Two Hearted, Oberon, Black Note, Bourbon Barrel Aged Kalamazoo Stout, Bourbon Barrel Aged Batch 9,000, Berry Ale and many other Bell’s beers – 16 different beers in all plus a firkin – will be featured.
A special Bell’s brunch will also be offered on the final day of the conference at Logan’s Alley.
There’s still time to register and enjoy the largest annual gathering of homebrewers from all over. Here’s what else will be featured at the conference:
Not sure what to expect? Have a look at last year’s photos, the first time attendee guide, and this video overview. Cheers!
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