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Bell’s Brewery turns 36, celebrates roots with homebrew competition winner announcement, celebration

A Baltic Porter with salted chocolate took first place in the 11th Annual Bell’s Homebrew Competition.

Winners were announced Sunday as part of the brewery’s 36th-anniversary party at Bell’s Eccentric Café in downtown Kalamazoo – just steps from where Larry Bell brewed the first batches of Bell’s beer in 1985. That celebration also included special beer tappings, a throw-back food menu, this year’s Homebrew Expo (multiple vendors), a Q&A with Bell’s brewers, a hop rub demonstration, giveaways, and more.

Eli Osborne took first place. Matt Mansfield came in second and Scott Main placed third.

“Overall, we saw a lot of high-quality submissions and a lot of returning brewers, some nationally recognized homebrewers,” Ian Gould, Bell’s Senior Store Clerk, and competition organizer said. “We saw a lot of submissions that were either fruited sours or some variation of pastry or sweet stouts.”

The competition kicked off on July 31; 148 homebrewers picked up Bell’s wort for free, one of the few requirements for entering the contest. 98 entries were judged earlier this week by a wide cross-section of Bell’s employees from various departments including two Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) judges, Great American Beer Festival (GABF) judges, a certified Cicerone, and those considered to be masters of sensory in their respective fields.

“Fourteen entries made it to the final round of judging, speaking to the overall quality of submissions this year,” Gould added.

As in past years, the first-place winner will head to next year’s GABF as a guest of Bell’s (round trip airfare, hotel accommodations)and have their beer entered in the festival’s Pro-am competition. They will also have the opportunity to brew their beer on Bell’s original system (also known as B1) to then go on tap at the brewery’s pub, the Eccentric Café.

New prizes this year include a three-year membership to the American Homebrewers Association, a medal, and a place in the Bell’s Homebrew Hall of Fame.

Second and third place winners will each receive gift cards to the Bell’s General Store, a one-year membership to the AHA, and a medal.

Everyone who entered this year will receive a 7-day trial to the AHA as well as one free entry to its National Homebrew Competition.

The Bell’s General Store has been supporting the homebrew community with recipes, ingredients, equipment, and advice since 1983, two years before Larry Bell started brewing commercially.

This year’s winners

  • 1st place: Eli Osborne – Galley West – a Baltic Porter with salted chocolate.
  • 2nd place: Matt Mansfield – a German chocolate cake inspired stout with coconut and chocolate.
  • 3rd place: Scott Main – Wind Through the Trees IPA – brewed with blue spruce tips, lemon zest, Chinook, lemon drop, and Mosaic hops.

Honorable mentions:

  • Bill Blakeslee (2019 winner) – Pineapple Under Great Lakes – a pineapple wheat IPA
  • Robert Mansfield – Raz-Diculous – a raspberry sour
  • Gerald Vanderweele – Scottish Ale

Previous winners are –

2019: Imperial Coffee Blonde Ale from Bill Blakeslee

2018: Heather’s Request, an Apricot IPA, from Matt MacQuillan

2017: Damson Plum Crisp, Saison brewed with damson plums and toasted sugar from Steve Vroegop.

2016: Freedom of Peach, hoppy Saison brewed with peaches, from Evan Monroe.

2015: Bale So Hard, a Farmhouse Ale brewed with HBC 438 and Mosaic hops from David Hellen.

2014: Coffee Mustache, a California Common style beer brewed with coffee from Matt VanNatter.

2013: Proud Mitten, a dry-hopped IPA/Pale Ale made with Centennial, Citra and Simcoe hops from David

Lyman.

2012: Manden Med Leen, a black IPA brewed with Belgian yeast from Nick Rodammer.

2011: A Bit of Heat, brewed with paradise seeds, rose hips, and habaneros, from Geoff Groff.

2010: Oscar’s Folly, a collaborative IPA from Jarrett Cupp, Bailey Cupp, and Paul Gentz.

For more information and for updates, keep an eye on Bell’s website, bellsbeer.com, or join them on social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and Untappd.