When it comes to powerhouses in the microbrew scene, we have quite a few here in West Michigan. None compare, however, to the national focus and recognition of Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo. Their beers are sold in dozens of states across the country, but nothing embodies the true Bell’s experience like a trip to their very own brewpub in downtown Kalamazoo, lovingly entitled the Eccentric Cafe.
The brewpub opened in 1993 and was the first brewery in our state to offer beer by the pint.
“My dad wanted to sell it by the pint,” says Laura Bell, daughter of founder Larry Bell and current Marketing Director for the brewery. “He petitioned and got the laws about this changed so you can enjoy a pint right here.”
Bell’s has been making great beer for a long time, but you have to experience the atmosphere in the Eccentric Cafe to actually appreciate it. With local art gracing the walls and music playing over the speakers, it feels as comfortable as that pair of sweatpants you don’t have the heart to throw away.
“We are trying to foster communication between people,” Bell says.
They accomplish this by refusing to offer WiFi or television. When you walk in, folks are talking, having a good time, and enjoying the company of a varying group of people. Business owners and college students alike are enjoying the living room ambiance.
The Eccentric isn’t the only place to enjoy a pint at the brewery. They have a newly remodeled Beer Garden in the back that will open for the season on June 1st. It has picnic tables, benches, and plenty of lawn space to just sit down on the grass, sip some brew, and stare at the clouds on a nice summer day. The beer garden also has an outdoor stage where bands play many nights out of the week.
With the cafe serving delicious sandwiches (seriously, try the Eccentric grilled cheese) and the bartenders pouring the many scrumptious brews Bell’s has to offer (some of which are only available at the pub), it is no wonder that has become a neighborhood gathering place for many years.
“Beer is a social thing,” Bell adds. “We want you to be comfortable. This is a low key place. Come in, sit down and have a pint. Or have three.”