On September 10, 2010 Bell's Brewery and owner Larry Bell announced plans for a $52 million, five-year investment. Today news broke that the initial expansion plans were approved creating 36 jobs in the Kalamazoo/Comstock, MI area.
On it's website, Bell's outlines the initial phases on the investment. "Approximately $17 million will be invested in 2011 to expand the Comstock Township plant, adding 24 new 400-barrel fermenters, a 200-barrel brewhouse, a new employee care area and provide space and equipment for some new specialty fermentations...", states owner Larry Bell in the press release. This initial expansion of production capabilities will signifigantly increase the volume of product that Bell's can push out. "In this business if you're not growing, you're dying." added Mr. Bell.
The remaining $36 million will be used on the Comstock facility through 2016. The press release notes that Bell's is seeing annual growth rates of around twenty percent. "This year, over 150,000 barrels of Bell's brands will be sold, a 20 percent increase over last year.", the article continues.
Bell's is the oldest U.S. craft brewer East of the Mississippi River, started by original and current owner Larry Bell, with a simple soup kettle.
The expansion does beg the question. Will we ever see Orberon available year-round in Mighigan, as it is in Florida? I doubt that will happen, as the brand identity and desirability Bell's has built through Oberon, it's leading seller, might be lost. A high amount of media coverage and beer-talk occurs each March when official "Oberon Release Day" nears. I doubt Bell's would want to lose that free press.
A link to the press release by Bell's is below: