Kalamazoo Brewing Company, makers of the many fine varieties of Bell's beer, also has a brewpub located in the brewery itself, known formally as Bell's Eccentric Cafe, but known throughout the beer world simply as Bell's. Kalamazoo Brewing Company is a brewery, first, and a brewpub, second.
Bell's most famous beer is probably its seasonal Oberon Ale. It's the brew that really put them on the beer world map, and it has exploded in popularity throughout the midwest over the past 10 years, or so. You can get Oberon in bars all over the place now, but it only tastes 'right' at the Eccentric Cafe.
You could drive by Bell's every day for a year and not even notice it. It's located in an old industrial facility, and it still looks very much like that from the outside. I've taken more than a few people there who've asked whether, "The pub is in this factory?" And, it is. This is a working brewery more than a brewpub, because in the greater scheme of micro-brews, Kalamazoo Brewing Company is a fairly large-scale brewer. It has to be to satisfy demand, but in spite of volume, the company is also uncompromising when it comes to quality. Whether it's Oberon, Best Brown, Two Hearted, Old Ale, Porter, Winter White, or another Bell's variety, you can be sure the beer you drink is made with love and attention to detail.
That said, Bell's beer and the Kalamazoo Brewing Company is not for everyone. This is a place that caters to beer aficionados. If Bud Light is your kind of beer, you'd best stay in the grocery aisles, because Bell's makes only hearty, full-flavored beers. All of them are unfiltered and bottle (or keg) conditioned. If you're worried about carbs and calories, stay away. Also, Bell's beginners should be aware that many of these beers and ales have a very high alcohol content, sometimes higher than 10 percent, so drink with care.
The brewery features the Eccentric Cafe, inside, and a wonderful beer garden, outside. Live music is featured most nights, and there is a strong college crowd vibe in the evenings, but Kalamazoo is a college town, so that's to be expected. The cafe is tastefully decorated, and Bell's sticks to what it's best at, so offerings are limited. There is a very small kitchen that offers a few interesting snack selections, but don't go to Bell's if you're expecting dinner. Go there to drink beer. You can't even get a mixed drink or soda at the bar. It's Bell's beer, Bell's wine, or water. (Personally, I've never tried the wine or water)
Bell's is a Michigan treasure and is home to some of the finest beers in North America. I hope that everyone with an interest in beer makes a pilgrimage.
If you are interested in learning more about beer, check out www.beeradvocate.com, it's a great site.