COMSTOCK TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — West Michigan-based Bell’s Brewing is being sold to an Australian brewer and will merge with New Belgium Brewing.
Bell’s founder Larry Bell announced his retirement and that he is selling the company to Lion, which also owns New Belgium Brewing.
“The two businesses together will be really just a juggernaut of craft beer. We have a lot of respect for New Belgium,” Bell said. “The two companies share a lot of values and so this is a really good choice for us. (It) makes a lot of sense and I think the Kalamazoo area community should be proud of what we’re going to do here.”
Bell founded Bell’s Brewing in Kalamazoo in 1985. The company, which employees 550 people, has grown to become the 16th largest brewery in the United States, it says.
Bell says following some health issues, he decided it was time to put a succession plan in place.
“It’s an emotional day. This is a job that I’ve held for 38-plus years, so to retire from this business that I love and industry I love, obviously there’s some mixed emotions there. At the end of the day, I’ve got a career I can look back on and be very proud of,” Bell said.
The combination of Bell’s and New Belgium will be at the top of the U.S. craft beer market in both sales and growth, combining brands like Two Hearted Ale, Oberon Ale, Voodoo Ranger and Fat Tire.
“We’re going to work together with the team we have at New Belgium today to figure out how do we take the best of what New Belgium is within craft brewing and the best of Bell’s and bring those things together,” New Belgium Brewing CEO Steve Fechheimer said. “There’s some things that maybe we can do at our breweries that maybe they can’t do at the Comstock brewery today. It’s that kind of fun innovation that I know a lot of people on our team are excited about.
Fechheimer said the partnership means leadership from both companies with be combined.
Both the Bell’s and New Belgium names will continue to be used. Both companies also say they will continue selling beers they already sell. They say the new partnership will likely come with new products and opportunities.
“They’re acquiring us because they love what we do. They’re acquiring the No. 1 ranked brewery in the United States with the No. 1 brewery ranked beer in the United States. They’re not buying this to make less beer. They’re buying this to make more beer, which means more people here and they want to build on what we do here,” said Bell.
The sale of Bell’s Brewery is expected to be finalized in the coming months. There’s no word on how much the company will be sold for.