If you’ve been to a craft beer bar in New York City this past week, chances are you’ve noticed a new name on the draft boards. Bell’s Brewery from Comstock, Michigan brought their full arsenal of brews to the city for an official launch after months of teasing. Upstate New York got Bell's last fall, but we had to wait a long, cold five months for winter specialties Hopslam and Expedition Stout. Even a small amount of their coveted Black Note Stout made it out on draft.
While new brands enter the New York market weekly, it’s rare to see such a complete rollout where shelves are cleared to make room for the anticipated rush. Founder and owner Larry Bell famously took to the internet in 2007, scolding New York City bars for (illegally) selling kegs and bottles of the Midwest favorite. It seemed like Bell’s would never surface in the Big Apple, but here we are, and people sure are excited! When I picked up a sixer of Hopslam, their massive 10% double IPA brewed with honey, no fewer than five people came up to me asking where I’d found it.
Bell’s is one of the few breweries with a reputation for solid, accessible beer in nearly every category, available year-round. Their Two-Hearted Ale, with a strong malt backbone, is widely regarded as one of the best IPAs not only in the Midwest but the entire country. After I moved back to New York from D.C., where Bell’s has been available for some time, summers weren’t the same without their wheat pale ale, Oberon. Look for that one to be on tap everywhere in NYC once the snow melts in May.
The entry of Bell’s into New York comes at an interesting time for beer. Now that Ommegang’s parent brewery, Duvel Moortgaat, has acquired Missouri’s Boulevard, we'll see the Kansas City favorite enter the market this year. Other go-tos like Wisconsin’s Central Waters, Oklahoma’s Prairie Artisan Ales and Connecticut’s Two Roads are also exciting new additions to the wider market. In fact, there’s so much craft beer movement in New York State that it’s actually threatening the big boys, which was made abundantly clear by AB-InBev's recent buyout of Blue Point.
With NYC Beer Week approaching tomorrow — yay says I, boo says my liver — it’s safe to say that we're a serious beer city. Let 2014 be known as the year we have a craft brewery in every borough — Flagship Brewing will finally open on Staten Island! But let’s not understate the impact of brands like Bell’s breaking into the market with a full portfolio after years of calculated abstinence. Now go drink some.
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