State: From the Motor City to Lake Michigan (or any of its shores along many Great Lakes), the Wolverine State is darling as a mitten and home to a fragment of land called the Upper Peninsula whose inhabitants call themselves Yoopers.
Brewery: The brewery that bears Larry Bell’s name originated in 1985 as Kalamazooo Brewing. It changed to Bell’s since locals always referred to it as such. A much larger facility, dubbed the Krum Avenue Plant, is now located in Comstock, just outside “K’zoo” proper. What is now Bell’s Eccentric Café wasn’t just Michigan’s first modern brewery; it was the first microbrewery east of the Rockies. Respect.
Beer: Larry Bell explained that Amber is the flagship by virtue of it being their best-selling year-round beer. But Oberon is their wheaten summer seasonal that outsells it and for good reason. It’s lip-smackingly delicious, whereas Amber is, well, beige.
Difficulty of obtaining in Oregon: Moderate. Found in 18 states from Florida to North Dakota in the South and Midwest. And, oddly, in Arizona alone in the west.
PHOTO: Cameron Browne
What’s the deal with amber ales? Note that the distinguished panel of a dozen judges deemed the flagship amber ales from four of the most respected breweries—New Belgium, Alaskan, Mac & Jack’s (OK, ignore that one), and now Bell’s—as some of the worst in the country. But give us some La Folie, Smoked Porter, or Hopslam, respectively, and we’re happier than Charlie Sheen in a whorehouse.
This serves as proof that even the most adroit craft brewers know they gotta brew a keep-the-lights-on beer, something so boringly entry-level and unremarkable that it’ll appeal to the masses and keep volume up.
Bell’s portfolio that consists of well over 30 brands, and Amber is the only stinker in the bunch. That’s downright impressive. But still sad, given all their great beers not to mention the litany of over-the-top breweries in Michigan: Founder’s, Short’s, Dark Horse, Jolly Pumpkin, Brewery Vivant, etc, etc. Say what you will about the senseless Beer Town USA poll that perennially sees Asheville beat Beervana, but when Grand Rapids earned co-Beer Town honors this year, it did so for a reason. So again, the question must be asked: really? Bell’s Amber Ale is what Wolverines drink the most of?
This has nothing to do with Michigan, but when faced with the threat of communism, we’re all Wolverines.
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