UPDATE: OberON, you will still be able get bells in Lansing. More information can be found in our most recent episode here.
It’s only the 29th of January and this year is looking like an above average news worthy one. Early this morning it was leaked out that Bell’s Brewery Kalamazoo, MI will may no longer be sending beer to the Lansing based distribution company Nick&Nick Classic Wines. In a nutshell this means that what Classic Wines has in-stock is might become all the Bell’s beers that will be available; for a time that is as yet, undetermined. This decision was made by Larry Bell himself.
The current talks of a buy-out between Classic Wines and M&M Distributing (mid-Michigan’s Anheiser-Busch distribution house) have started a brush fire of rumors and speculations about what is going to happen with these brands that have been the bread and butter for Classic Wines (est. 1987). With the lions share of Michigan and other states top Micro-brews, Classic Wines’ business has grown right along with the Micro-brews that they have been offering for over 22 years. With the raise and fall of the craft beer industry’s many different players, Classic Wines has always stood strong and pushed forward in the land-locked middle of the great mitten shaped lower peninsula of Michigan. Sometimes this region of Michigan is over looked. We do have the state capitol, but no huge lake or distinctive culture. So growth in this market has been tough at best, but Classic has grown.
With Michigan beers themselves standing out as sought after beers for their command of brewing new variations of or classic styles, the over 70 breweries are finally getting attention on a national scale. Before Michigan could get this far in the beer world, it had to start somewhere. That start is Bell’s. At last look Bell’s ranks as the 26th largest brewery in the US, and though some may not admit it, Larry Bell is the father or uncle to Michigan’s brewing culture. Selling his first beer back in 1985 to now selling over 90,000 barrels per year. With this success comes hard times and tough choices. Larry and Bell’s Brewing have had many of both through out 24 years.
Just a few years back Bell’s pulled out of Chicago to avoid being in a distribution house that didn’t live up to expectations. This resulted in 2 years with out Bell’s beers. A new line of products were made to be sold under a different brewery name and labels. So even though “Bell’s” couldn’t be sold Larry found a way to sell them something. You can’t hold a smart man down, you can only underestimate him.
So now, Mr. Bell is handed yet another tough choice: sit idle and let his beer go to a distributor that he may not have faith in, or fight to maintain the right to put his beers (his passion, our refreshment) in the hands of someone who he knows will take care of Bell’s beers and name. The last choice may not make the average consumer happy. The greater Lansing area may not get any Bell’s product for sometime. Hoarding may happen, people that can’t make it through this will drive way out of their way to get the beers they love. Don’t forget, Larry may have started this beer revolution here in Michigan, but there are over 70 different others that have used his flame to light their own torches.
Be well and drink,