Ask any of the Midwestern transplants who have taken up residence in Brooklyn what they miss most about home, and there’s a good chance they’ll say Bell’s Brewery. Based in Kalamazoo, Michigan, it’s the sixth largest craft brewery in the US, having produced 216,000 barrels in 2012. (Brooklyn Brewery, the 10th largest, produced 176,000.) But due to the logistical challenges and substantial costs of distributing in NYC, none of that beer was available here—not until this February, anyway, when the brewery finally made its New York City debut at over 80 bars and countless bottle shops and bodegas.
The Bell’s brand that’s likely to become a staple around town is their award-winning Two Hearted Ale, a popular IPA that packs tons of floral, citrusy flavor into its relatively modest 7 percent ABV. The Kalamazoo Stout is a smokey and easily drinkable take on the style, while the Amber Ale is the perfect step up for those of you who still drink Yuengling. But it’s the limited stuff that’ll have the real beer nerds going crazy. Expedition, a Russian Imperial Stout, is one of the best in the world, and Hopslam, which you still might be lucky enough to find on a shelf here and there, is a hugely bitter and delicious double IPA that people look forward to all year.
Bell’s’ arrival further establishes New York as a serious craft beer town. The one question that remains: when will Great Lakes follow suit? (And New Belgium, and Deschutes…)