Thursday, September 10, 2015

Bell, Book, and Badgerow: Telling the Story of Two Michigan Beer Pioneers

A younger Larry Bell toasts his future success. Photo courtesy Bell's Brewery.

On Saturday Michigan's oldest operating brewery, Bell's, will celebrate its 30th anniversary in Kalamazoo, hosting a festival featuring breweries from across the country, including a number not normally seen in our fair state. Sometime next month, the Ypsi Alehouse is expected to open its doors in Downtown Ypsilanti, becoming Michigan's newest brewery. What do these two places have in common?

Bottles from the short-lived Real Ale Company.
In 1982, Ypsi Alehouse partner Ted Badgerow founded Michigan's first brewery in decades when he opened the Real Ale Company in Chelsea. Though Badgerow's brewery was open barely more than a year, it was around long enough for then-Ann Arbor resident Larry Bell to pay a visit and, later, buy some equipment from Badgerow during the brewery's liquidation. By 1985, Michigan's microbrewing torch passed to the Kalamazoo Brewing Company, today known as Bell's Brewery to lovers of great beer across Michigan and 21 other states (and growing).

I interviewed both Badgerow and Bell for my book, Ann Arbor Beer, wherein I tell the story of how they kickstarted Michigan's modern brewing renaissance (read an excerpt here.) Congratulations to Larry on three decades of making fantastic beer and to Ted (who has remained an avid homebrewer all these years) on his return to commercial brewing!

And, to anyone heading to Kalamazoo this weekend, perhaps I'll see you there.

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