Bell’s Brewery marks 36 years with homebrew competition

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From left: Eli Osborne, first place winner; Lori Moore, who accepted the third-place award for Scott Main; Matt Mansfield, second place winner; and John Mallett, Bell's VP of operations. Courtesy Bell's Brewery

A Baltic porter with salted chocolate took first place in the 11th annual Bell’s Homebrew Competition.

Winners were announced Sunday, Sept. 19, as part of the brewery’s 36th anniversary party at Bell’s Eccentric Café in downtown Kalamazoo, just steps from where Larry Bell brewed the first batches of Bell’s beer in 1985.

The celebration also included special beer tappings, a throwback food menu, this year’s Homebrew Expo with multiple vendors, a Q&A with Bell’s brewers, a hop rub demonstration, giveaways and more.

Eli Osborne took first place in the homebrewing contest. Matt Mansfield came in second, and Scott Main placed third.

“Overall, we saw a lot of high-quality submissions and a lot of returning brewers, some nationally recognized homebrewers,” said Ian Gould, Bell’s senior store clerk and competition organizer. “We saw a lot of submissions that were either fruited sours or some variation of pastry or sweet stouts.”

The competition kicked off on July 31, with 148 homebrewers picking up Bell’s wort for free — one of the few requirements for entering the contest. Ninety-eight entries were judged last week by a cross-section of Bell’s employees from various departments, including two Beer Judge Certification Program judges, Great American Beer Festival (GABF) judges, a certified Cicerone and those considered to be masters of sensory in their respective fields.

“Fourteen entries made it to the final round of judging, speaking to the overall quality of submissions this year,” Gould said.

As in past years, the first-place winner will head to next year’s GABF as a guest of Bell’s, including round-trip airfare and hotel accommodations, and will have their beer entered in the festival’s Pro-Am competition. They also will get the opportunity to brew their beer on Bell’s original system, aka the B1, and have it go on tap at the brewery’s pub, the Eccentric Café.

New prizes this year included a three-year membership to the American Homebrewers Association, a medal and a place in the Bell’s Homebrew Hall of Fame.

Second- and third-place winners each received gift cards to the Bell’s General Store, a one-year membership to the AHA and a medal.

Everyone who entered this year received a seven-day trial to the AHA, as well as one free entry to its National Homebrew Competition.

2021 Bell’s Homebrew Competition winners

  • First place: Eli Osborne — Galley West, a Baltic porter with salted chocolate
  • Second place: Matt Mansfield — a German chocolate cake-inspired stout with coconut and chocolate
  • Third place: Scott Main — Wind Through the Trees IPA, brewed with blue spruce tips, lemon zest, Chinook, lemon drop and Mosaic hops

Honorable mentions

  • Bill Blakeslee (2019 winner): Pineapple Under Great Lakes, a pineapple wheat IPA
  • Robert Mansfield: Raz-Diculous, a raspberry sour
  • Gerald Vanderweele: Scottish Ale

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