Q&A with Craft Beer Lovers: Chelsea Lasson of Bell’s

Chelsea Lassen Bell's Brewery Kzoo Beer Blog pic

Chelsea Lassen of Bell’s Brewery, Inc. drinks her favorite brew: Bell’s Wild One. Photo courtesy of Rhino Media.

Featuring: Chelsea Lassen
Marketing Coordinator, Bell’s Brewery, Inc.

• Where is the strangest place you’ve ever drank a craft beer? An ICU waiting room

What is your favorite beer label? The 2014 Oberon mini keg

What is your favorite brewery? Well, I suppose I’m a little biased, but Bell’s – we make great beer, and Larry and Laura Bell make Bell’s a really happy place to be. Bell’s aside, I really love Crooked Stave, Russian River, and Jolly Pumpkin (can you tell I have a thing for sour beers??)

Do you remember your first craft beer? Back in my college days when I developed a taste for beer, I was a huge fan of any beer that was put in my hand. To me, that consisted of nothing but yellow fizzy beers and I thought I was really cool. Then one day, a good friend of mine had a six-pack of Bell’s Java Stout, and I insisted on giving it a try. He was sure I would hate it. However, after that first taste, my world changed. The flavor and complexities of that beer blew my mind; I had no clue that beer could be anything but yellow and fizzy. I immediately became a huge fan of craft beer, thus leading me to where I am today (despite the fact that I graduated with a double major in Exercise Science and Community Health).

Have you ever mixed craft beer with something else to make it entirely different? If so, what’s been successful for you? I’m a huge fan of Bell’s Oarsman, ginger beer, and a splash of lime juice. Perfect light & low alcohol beer for a hot summer day. Don’t ever mix a shot of gin with an IPA. Bad things will happen.

Is there a style of craft beer you don’t like at all? Not really. So far, I’ve found there’s at least one beer within every style that I enjoy. And as long as it’s a well made beer, I can certainly appreciate it.

Do you homebrew? I’ve homebrewed a couple times with groups of friends and co-workers, but it’s extremely time consuming so I’ve never really been serious about it.

If you were stranded on an island and you could only take one IPA and one Stout, which would they be? Hmm.. Stouts are one of my favorite styles of beer, but that’s the last thing I’d want to drink on a hot desert island. But, to answer the question – Bell’s Two Hearted and Bell’s Black Note Stout.

If you were to take a Michigan craft beer to another country as a representative of our great beer state, what would it be? That’s tough… Do I have to pick one? I can’t do it. There are too many good beers out there. It’s have to be Bell’s Two Hearted, Hopslam, or Expedition Stout. They’re all so delicious. Bell’s aside, it would have to be something from Jolly Pumpkin.

How far have you traveled for craft beer? All over the world. My experiences have taught me that the American craft beer scene is one of the best, and Michigan craft beer rocks.

If you were to open a craft brewery, what would you call it? This is the least fun answer ever, but I have no idea.

What one ingredient should never be added to beer? Vanilla. I HATE vanilla beers. Too sweet. Typically, I prefer beers that are balanced and stick to the basic ingredients (water, malt, hops, yeast). However, there are plenty of good beers out there that have spices and fruits added to them. As long as they’re balanced, all is good in my world (minus the vanilla. no thank you.)

Are you Elvis or Beatles? Dogs or cats? Hops or malts? Twin Peaks or Northern Exposure? Milli or Vanilli? Beatles. Cats. Malts. I’m not familiar with either Twin Peaks or Northern Exposure so that’s a toss up. Of Milli Vanilli, which one is Fab Morvan? I choose him for his big beautiful eyes.

If Wonder Woman were to drink a craft beer, what one would she drink? And honestly, do you think it would help her find the invisible jet? First of all, if Wonder Woman drank a lot of craft beer, there’s no way she could maintain those abs of steel. Despite that, I see her as a drink of big and bold stouts. Bell’s Expedition Stout perhaps? Or maybe Bourbon Barrel Batch 9000? Sometimes having a beer or two can relax you and open up your mind – maybe that’s all she needs in order to find the invisible jet?

How many kinds of beer glasses do you own? 6.

If Red Bull gives you wings, what does craft beer give you? 100% awesomeness.

If you were a craft beer, what would you be and why? Bell’s Raspberry Wild One. I think I love that beer more than life itself. The picture I’ve included is of me drinking that beer at the 2013 MBG Winter Beer Festival (photo credit Rhino Media).

What is on your list of must visit breweries? All of them.

Favorite craft beer name? Hmmm.. probably Hopslam. You know exactly what you’re getting with that one. I’m all for creativity, but if I’m at a restaurant looking at a beer list that I’m not familiar with I want to have some idea of what the beer is just based on the name.

What is your favorite craft beer memory (PG-13 or not; I’m no prude)? I have two: Drinking lots of craft beer at Bell’s Eccentric Cafe’s Prom in 2011; it was just days before I started my career at Bell’s, and I was so excited about it. It was a perfect night. The other one is drinking craft beer with Larry Bell on various occasions. I respect the hell out of him and everything he’s done for the craft beer industry, and time with him is invaluable.

How do you get rid of head (foam)? I don’t.

What is the coolest bottle opener you own/have seen? There are hooded sweatshirts now that have beer koozies attached to the front pocket, and a bottle opener on the end of the sleeve.

When Chuck Norris drinks a beer …? When Chuck Norris orders a beer, the beer pays him.

If you got to name a craft beer, what would it be? Again, this is the least fun answer ever, but I don’t know. I got nothin.

If you got to have a beer with one person, who would it be and why? Anthony Bourdain. He’s my idol; I’ve seen him speak twice in recent years, and the first time I saw him he was drinking a Bell’s beer on stage!

What is your theme song? Currently, Ellie Goulding’s “Anything Can Happen”

What do you think about when you are alone in your car? Work. Life. Long car drives are good thinking time.

Pick two celebrities to be your parents? Anthony Bourdain and Meryl Streep.

Would you rather be a thief or a liar? If I’m going to do one, I might as well go all out and be both a thief and a liar.

Is it “Nobody doesn’t like Sarah Lee” or “Nobody does it like Sarah Lee?” Nobody does it like Sarah Lee.

Why is it always about you?? Why not?

A porter to help Santa’s helpers with ‘assembly required’ gifts

By:  Brian Steele
Co-Brewer and Owner of Boatyard Brewing Company

KALAMAZOO, MICH — One of the first things you figure out as a brewer is that commercial brewing is all about the numbers.  I have always been a left-brained person, so this stark fact gave me great comfort.

kalamazoo brewery

My left hemisphere was always happy thinking about strike temperatures, attenuation curves, IBUs, and oxygen concentrations.  Keep the numbers where the numbers should be and the Boatyard Brewing Co. (BBC) brewing world would be great.  Then, as I found consistency in the production of our ales, something happened.  The right side of my brain woke up and started knocking on my daily thoughts.  I would hear a little voice say, “Get out there, use those creative juices and let’s make something grand.”

At some point those voices made their point, and I began to view our brewing more as a form of art and less as a expression of scientific practicality. Brewing had become a way to express myself in a collaboration of wort and yeast.  The question was now, “Do I have anything worthy to express?”  I began this creative quest by digging out an old recipe that I had been working on for a few years.  It was to be a unique porter that I originally started crafting at the Saugatuck Brewing Company (SBC) with Barry Johnson.  The idea was to create a porter that was poured and consumed on Christmas Eve.  A porter that would help celebrate the friendship and family bonds that made Christmas special in my family.

While working on the recipe at the SBC, my first thought was vanilla.  It seemed that everything in our house had vanilla in it, as my parents created cookies, cakes, and fudge.  So with our first try we added just enough vanilla to fill the nose, but not enough to overwhelm the palate.  It was a nice porter, but not worthy enough for Christmas Eve.

The development of my special porter was stalled as we began the preparation for Christmas in December of 2010.  We had the big family Christmas at our house and I was still whining about the vanilla porter I made for Christmas Eve.  In the middle of one of my whines my father said, “Son, you should make a shoo-fly beer for Christmas.”  For those of you who didn’t grow up in central Pennsylvania, shoo-fly usually refers to a pie made from black-strap molasses.  My first reaction was a hardy chuckle, but my father’s comment set into motion a series of ideas that energized my artistic flair.  I set off on a journey to use all of the flavors of my Christmases past infused into that vanilla porter. I laid in bed that night and thought of the Christmas Eves I had been lucky enough to enjoy.  I thought of the food and drink that had been fussed over by four generations of my family.  The food and drink that brought joy to those beautiful nights.

I took that same vanilla infused porter recipe from a few years earlier and began some pretty unique tweaking.  First I needed that lovely molasses.  You just can’t celebrate Christmas in Pennsylvania without molasses.  I think it is even a state law that you must consume a few ounces every December or they will cancel Groundhog’s Day.  So I tossed out a little of the base malt and replaced the sugars with a wee bit of molasses.  For those who have never used molasses, it is heavenly in dark beer, but a little goes a long way.

I also remembered the smell of rum and raisins each Christmas as rum cakes baked in the kitchen.  To capture those flavors in the beer, I caramelized plump raisins in the oven and then deglazed the pan with a generous portion of dark rum.  That pan sat all night, melding the flavors from the dried fruit and rum.  I added that mixture towards the end of the boil and let the magic begin.  When sampling the wort, I knew this brew was really close to what I wanted.   An amazing vanilla extract from Chicago was added after fermentation and our Christmas Eve Porter was born.  Last Christmas Eve, we enjoyed this porter for the first time and created a tradition we hope to carry on.  On Christmas Eve, Dan and I took our bottles and delivered them to friends and family.  No note or card, just a little gift left by the front door from friends who wanted the flavors of Christmases past to come alive again.  A porter that would help all of Santa’s helpers with those “some assembly required” gifts.

Bell’s Comstock Brewery tours begin Oct. 6; museum hours begin Oct. 9

COMSTOCK, MICH. – Bell’s Brewery, Inc.’s new 200-barrel brewhouse will officially open to the public this weekend.

Free guided tours will be offered at the Comstock brewery located at 8938 Krum Ave. on Saturdays at 12:30 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Self-guided tours will also be offered beginning Oct. 9. Everyone is welcome to visit the brewing gallery from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays. Tour coordinator Clay Karz will be available to answer questions.

The brewhouse was part of our most recent expansion that broke ground in April 2011 and was completed in May 2012.

That expansion also included additional fermentation space, expanded grain handling facilities and more.

For more information about the brewhouse, including photos, please visit bellsbeer.com.

For more information about brewery tours in both Comstock and Kalamazoo, please visit bellsbeer.com/visit/tours.

Click for more information on what to do in Kalamazoo!

ABOUT BELL’S BREWERY, INC.:

Bell’s Brewery, Inc. began in 1985 with a quest for better beer and a 15-gallon soup kettle. Since then, its grown into a regional craft brewery that employs more than 180 people over an 18-state area, in addition to Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. The dedication to brewing flavorful, unfiltered, quality craft beers that started in 1985 is still with the brewery today. Bell’s currently brews more than 20 beers for distribution as well as many other small batch beers that are served at its pub in Kalamazoo, Bell’s Eccentric Cafe. Its ongoing goal is to brew thoughtfully, creatively and artistically. Bell’s strives to bring an authentic and pleasant experience to all of its customers through unique ales and beers. For more information, visit bellsbeer.com.

Bell’s Pale Ale gets a new name, label; ‘Midwestern Pale Ale’ begins shipping in October

COMSTOCK, MICH. – Bell’s Pale Ale is getting a facelift.

While the label and the name are changing, the recipe will remain basically the same except for one small, yet very significant change.

Midwestern Pale Ale will now be brewed with a small portion of barley from the Bell’s Farm in Shepherd, Mich. and will begin shipping in mid-October.

“This is a relatively minor change to the recipe and people won’t notice anything different, however its part of a much larger picture,” said Laura Bell, marketing director for Bell’s Brewery, Inc.

According to Bell, the change gives the beer a deeper connection to the land, to Michigan and its agricultural heritage and to the Midwest.

Barley from the Bell’s Farm is also used to brew two other beers – Christmas Ale and Harvest Ale (also made with Michigan-grown hops).

The new label features an original painting of the Bell’s Farm by Kalamazoo artist Conrad Kaufman.

ABOUT BELL’S BREWERY, INC.:

Bell’s Brewery, Inc. began in 1985 with a quest for better beer and a 15-gallon soup kettle. Since then, its grown into a regional craft brewery that employs more than 180 people over an 18-state area, in addition to Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. The dedication to brewing flavorful, unfiltered, quality craft beers that started in 1985 is still with the brewery today. Bell’s currently brews more than 20 beers for distribution as well as many other small batch beers that are served at its pub in Kalamazoo, Bell’s Eccentric Cafe. Its ongoing goal is to brew thoughtfully, creatively and artistically. Bell’s strives to bring an authentic and pleasant experience to all of its customers through unique ales and beers. For more information, visit bellsbeer.com.

Early spring weather affects Bell’s Cherry Stout production for 2012

COMSTOCK, MICH. – Since it was first released in 1988, Bell’s Cherry Stout has always been brewed with 100 percent Montmorency cherry juice made from cherries grown in northern Michigan’s Traverse City region.

Bell’s is extremely proud of this deep connection to our home state.

This seasonal beer is released annually in October along with other stouts in the Bell’s portfolio – Java Stout, Expedition Stout, Special Double Cream Stout and others. Unfortunately, that tradition will have to be put on hold this year.

Warm temperatures followed by multiple frosts earlier this year severely affected Michigan’s tart cherry crop to such an extent that unfortunately, there will be no new batches of Cherry Stout in 2012.

A small number of Cherry Stout kegs from 2011 will be released on a limited basis however.

While Bell’s hopes that a bountiful harvest will allow them to bring this beer back to the fall stout line-up next year, more importantly, Bell’s is hopeful that it will allow Michigan’s fruit growers to recover as well.

ABOUT BELL’S BREWERY, INC.:

Bell’s Brewery, Inc. began in 1985 with a quest for better beer and a 15-gallon soup kettle. Since then, its grown into a regional craft brewery that employs more than 180 people over an 18-state area, in addition to Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. The dedication to brewing flavorful, unfiltered, quality craft beers that started in 1985 is still with the brewery today. Bell’s currently brews more than 20 beers for distribution as well as many other small batch beers that are served at its pub in Kalamazoo, Bell’s Eccentric Cafe. Its ongoing goal is to brew thoughtfully, creatively and artistically. Bell’s strives to bring an authentic and pleasant experience to all of its customers through unique ales and beers. For more information, visit bellsbeer.com.

Third Annual Kalamazoo Beer Week is Jan. 12-18, 2013

KALAMAZOO, MICH. — Love craft beer? This is one for your calendar.

The Third Annual Kalamazoo Beer Week is Jan. 12-18, 2013, and it will bring lots of beer-related fun.

Kalamazoo Beer Week organizers are busy brainstorming ways to create additional special events for attendees, including offering tastings featuring beers that aren’t usually available to the general public and, in some cases, aren’t normally bottled at all. There will also be chances for people to sample different vintages of the same product.

Started in 2011 by Imperial Beverage, the first Kalamazoo Beer Week had less than 20 events. The 2012 event saw more than 100 events. Previous Kalamazoo Beer Weeks brought a pub crawl, tap takeovers, beer-paired dinners, special tastings, meet-the-brewer events, beer trivia games, and more.

Save the date(s). And we’ll see you there!

Help spread the love:
• Twitter: @KzooBeerWeek with event hashtag #KBW2013
• Facebook: www.facebook.com/KalamazooBeerWeek
• Website: www.kalamazoobeerweek.com

Kalamazoo Beer Week is Jan. 12-18, 2013.  Watch www.kalamazoobeerweek.com for the 2013 calendar.  Cheers!

Winner of Bell’s Homebrew Competition to debut July 21

KALAMAZOO, MICH. — The Draft Board is about to get a little spicier — and we’re not talking about hops.

“A Bit of Heat,” the homebrew from Geoff Groff that won Bell’s second annual homebrew competition back in September, will be tapped at 3 p.m. July 21 at the Eccentric Café in downtown Kalamazoo.

Brewed with paradise seeds, rose hips and habaneros at our original brewery located next to the Cafe, Groff’s dry habanero-ed IPA or Strong Pale Ale comes in at 6.4% ABV.

Groff, who is originally from Troy and now lives in Climax, has been homebrewing off and on since about 1999. Although he points out that he has brewed a lot more since joining the Kalamazoo Libation Organization of Brewers (KLOB), a local homebrewing club based in Kalamazoo, a couple of years ago.

He decided the day before picking up his Bell’s wort to experiment with peppers, something he had wanted to do for a short while. He used habaneros that he grew.

But don’t let the pepper factor scare you away. There’s just the right amount of heat, hence the name.

“It is well balanced and is not as spicy as people may think. The spice is enough to recognize that’s it in there and that it is peppery,” Groff said.

It comes out a bit more in the finish, he said.

Groff, along with Brewery Manager Andy Farrell and Specialty Brewer Zeke Bogan brewed about 10 barrels of A Bit of Heat in June on Bell’s 15-barrel system. This is also where Bell’s brews its experimental and small batch beers like The Wild One and an ongoing series of beers that use experimental hops directly from growers’ trial plots among others.

I enjoyed being with Andy and Zeke, to watch them brew on a larger system, and seeing how different it is from brewing on a homebrew scale, he said.

“The fact that you can brew 10 barrels in not more than a few hours longer then it might take a homebrewer to make five to ten gallons is quite cool,” Groff said.

Groff is a substitute teacher in Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties and hopes to start brewing professionally, perhaps even open his own brewery, someday.

Bell’s Third Annual Homebrew Expo and Competition Kick-off will be held on Sept. 8. Stay tuned to Bell’s Homebrewing Blog, website as well as Facebook, Twitter and Google+ for more details as they become available.

ABOUT BELL’S BREWERY, INC.:

Bell’s Brewery, Inc. began in 1985 with a quest for better beer and a 15-gallon soup kettle. Since then, its grown into a regional craft brewery that employs more than 180 people over an 18-state area, in addition to Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. The dedication to brewing flavorful, unfiltered, quality craft beers that started in 1985 is still with the brewery today. Bell’s currently brews more than 20 beers for distribution as well as many other small batch beers that are served at its pub in Kalamazoo, Bell’s Eccentric Cafe. Its ongoing goal is to brew thoughtfully, creatively and artistically. Bell’s strives to bring an authentic and pleasant experience to all of its customers through unique ales and beers. For more information, visit bellsbeer.com.

Arbor Brewing Company is Michigan’s first solar brewery

ANN ARBOR, MICH. — Ann Arbor’s first brewpub also became Michigan’s first solar brewery when it went online with a $95,000 solar-thermal and photovoltaic system on June 18, 2012.

Arbor Brewing Company’s sustainable energy system uses the sun’s energy to generate electricity as well as the majority of the hot water needed for brewery and restaurant operations.

The project grew out of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority’s (DDA) Energy Conservation Grant Program which provided free energy audits and 50 percent project rebates (up to $20,000) to downtown businesses that implemented audit recommendations to become more energy efficient. Arbor Brewing Company owner Matt Greff worked with Ann Arbor DDA Energy Programs Director David Konkle as well as a consulting team from the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and the Environment led by Jarett Diamond. Together they were able to identify a number of financial resources and incentives to help offset the installation cost of the system including the $20,000 grant from the DDA, a $10,000 interest-free loan from the city, a 30 percent tax credit from the federal government, and various incentives from DTE.

Arbor Brewing Company’s sustainable energy system includes a 2.4 kW solar photovoltaic array, 300 solar thermal collector tubes and a high-efficiency tankless water heater system to supplement the heat from the collector tubes when necessary. When combined with other improvements like switching to CFL and LED lighting and installing low-flow sprayers and occupancy sensors, the system is expected to offset gas usage by up to 40% and electricity usage by up to 15%.

Arbor Brewing Company’s Corner Brewery in Ypsilanti also is nearing completion on its own $250,000 Green Brewery Project, which includes solar-thermal, photovoltaic, and geo-thermal technologies along with other improvements such as new windows and awnings and energy-efficient chiller equipment. The system has with a total system rating of 18 kW electric, and 64.8 kW thermal and is expected to provide almost all of Corner Brewery’s hot water needs and up to 15% of its electricity. It is set to go online later this summer.

According to Greff the project, which took more than two years to complete, was worth every bit of effort.

“It feels really good to know that we were able to make changes that are as good for the environment as they are for the bottom line,” Greff said. “We couldn’t have done it without the expertise and assistance we received from our many partners and we hope to be able to assist other small businesses interested in improving their energy efficiency.”

Arbor Brewing Company is hosting a ribbon-cutting reception to celebrate the launch of its new sustainable energy system 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 11 at the brewpub at 114 E Washington St, Ann Arbor. Corner Brewery is hosting its celebration 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 29 at 720 Norris St, Ypsilanti. Both events are free and open to the public.

Kalamazoo Beer Week is Jan. 12-18, 2013.  Click here for more info about what to do in Kalamazoo! Cheers!

Short’s Brewing Co.’s $2 million expansion will nearly double capacity

BELLAIRE, MICH. — Bell’s Brewery. Founders Brewing. New Holland Brewing. Arcadia Brewing. Atwater Brewery. Keweenaw Brewing.

What do these breweries have in common?

In addition to being based in Michigan, they have each recently undertaken or completed expansions to boost production.

Now, you can add Short’s Brewing to that list.

CFO, Scott Newman-Bale, tells BeerPulse that the company will shut down production for part of July so that workers can make a number of critical upgrades to the facility. The highlight of the project will be the installation of sixteen 90-barrel fermenters. The company will also improve efficiency, quality control and make some upgrades on the packaging line.

Once completed, the $2 million project will have nearly doubled working capacity from 16,000 barrels to 30,000 barrels.

As with so many other breweries, expansion can’t come soon enough for Short’s. The brewery is right up against capacity, having brewed nearly 13,000 barrels in 2011 on 56% growth from the year prior (per The Brewers Association).

The expansion, however, will not result in further distribution. “Michigan forever,” Newman-Bale quips.

In beer news, the company just revealed on its Facebook page that Spruce Pilsner should hit shelves next week. “It is already on sale in six-packs at our pub. The 2012 batch yielded about 540 cases and 32 half barrels.”

Before the shutdown takes effect, Strawberry Short’s Cake Golden Ale will also hit shelves.

Once the brewery is back online, Key Lime Pie will return, right on schedule.

Then there is the return of Short’s Peaches and Crème High Gravity Golden Ale, a beer that hasn’t been brewed since 2007 when it was released as part of the Imperial Series. Its return will come in 12 oz. bottles.

The Short’s team also gave a talk at SAVOR earlier this month, which you can listen to on Craft Beer Radio.

Third Annual Kalamazoo Beer Week is Jan. 12-18, 2013.  Click here for more info about what to do in KalamazooCheers!

Wolverine State Brewing announces expansion

ANN ARBOR, MICH. — The Wolverine State Brewing Company received final approval of expansion plans that will add 3,500 square feet of the old Big George’s warehouse to the brewery and Tap Room in the coming months.  The new space will include a private rental hall with separate bar to accommodate parties up to 75 people and will serve as overflow for the existing Tap Room. Restroom facilities will also be expanded as part of the overhaul.

The brewery will also expand bringing totals up to 130 barrels fermentation and 50 barrels of cellar capacity. The brewery renovation will include staff offices, more storage space and a mill room.

Sales in the last year are up 40 percent in the Tap Room and nearly 400 percent percent wholesale. Arbor Beverage, distributor for Washtenaw and Livingston counties, have doubled sales of both bottled and draft products at many restaurants, bars, large and small stores.

WOLVERINE AMBER LAGER will be added to the bottled beer lineup beginning Aug. 1. More information about Wolverine Amber, a Vienna-style lager, is available on the “lagers” page of www.wolverinebeer.com.

THE MASSACRE, Bourbon barrel Imperial Dark Lager will release in four-packs in the Tap Room ONLY by pre-sold tickets on Oct. 11, 2012. More info at www.wolverinebeer.com. Presales begin Aug. 15, 2012.

“We are expanding at a rate that far exceeds our original planning,” said Matt Roy, founder and president. “It’s a testament to the high quality of our beer and the popularity of the Tap Room. It is the lager revolution.”

Renovation will begin immediately on the space located at 2019 W. Stadium Ann Arbor. Pricing information on the hall rental will be made available July 15, 2012.

The third Annual Kalamazoo Beer Week is Jan. 12-18, 2013.  Click here for more info about what to do in KalamazooCheers!