Great American Beer Festival Q&A: Bell's Brewery

The Great American Beer Festival, the nation's largest, staggers into the Colorado Convention Center this weekend. Last year, 46,000 attendees sampled nearly 3,000 beers, and this year's Fest is already sold out. Check Cafe Society through the week for survival tactics and beer recommendations from some of the breweries bringing their wares to Denver.

Bell's Brewery: Kalamazoo, Michigan Q&A with Laura Bell, Marketing Coordinator and Daughter of Founder Larry Bell

Bell's Brewery is true to its Great Lakes heritage, naming and crafting beer with an eye to the midwest: Third Coast Ale and a Lager Beer with a Lewis & Clark era map on its label. Founded 25 years ago, Bell's has gone from producing 135 barrels in 1986 to 90,000 two years ago. We talked with Laura Bell, who had limited release beer named after her when she turned 21.

Westword: If people only try one of your beers, which should it be? Laura Bell:The beers that we're bringing show that we're pretty versatile brewers. We have a sour beer going. We have a fruit beer, our Raspberry Ale, and then our Oberon and our Two-Hearted. I'd say the Brett Rye or the Wild One are the most extreme of the bunch.

WW: What is your favorite beer, other than your own? LB:I really like Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, I'll drink that when it's on. Short's Brewing out of Bellaire, Michigain has a good IPA called Huma-lupa-licious, that's one I drink.

WW: What got you interested in craft beer? LB: It's a family business, but the good thing is I had a choice. I didn't have to go work for my dad, and turns out that I really like it, I really like being part of the industry. I love craft beer, I love the people involved.

WW: What prizes do you think you have a good chance of winning this year? LB: There are so many breweries now that you never know. I don't know who is bringing what, and I think that we have maybe a good chance with some of the IPAs or Double IPAs, but I don't like to speculate on that kind of thing.

WW: What should people know about your brewery? LB: We are coming up on 25 years next year. We're still family owned and we bought a farm last year. That's kind of exciting. To do some of our own malt and hops and stuff like that.

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Kiernan Maletsky is Westword's music editor. His writing has appeared in alt-weeklies around the country as well as Miley Cyrus's mom's Twitter feed.
Contact: Kiernan Maletsky