Brewing Just Like Bell’s

The Michigan brewer behind beers such as Two Hearted Ale and Oberon Ale recently released for the first time their house yeast, enabling homebrewers to make accurate clone brews or experiment.

John Holl May 10, 2019 - 3 min read

Brewing Just Like Bell’s Primary Image

Photo Courtesy of Bells

Bell’s Brewery (Kalamazoo, Michigan) is one of the largest and most celebrated craft breweries in the country. Its beers such as Two Hearted Ale and Oberon Ale regularly top best of lists (including those in this magazine), and there are plenty of professional brewers who will tell you that they tried to dial in Bell’s recipes during their homebrewing days.

Now for those looking to dial in their clone brews, Bell’s is making it a little easier. It recently introduced its house yeast, created by Imperial Yeast, and is making it available through its General Store.

“We recently hooked up with Imperial Yeast, and I love their products and their people, and it seemed like a great fit,” says David Curtis, Bell’s General Store operations manager. “Packaging our yeast for homebrewers is something I’ve wanted to do for several years. I threw the idea out to Owner Larry Bell and Brewmaster John Mallett a couple times in the past, but never really got much traction. This time, we got everyone on board and were able to make it happen fairly quick.”

Curtis says he likes to think of the yeast as a clean American yeast with very pleasant and subdued esters.

“Unlike a lot of yeasts, you can really push the upper temperature limits on ours, and the esters will stay restrained,” he says. “The nice part about that is you can turn a beer around very quickly without a flavor detriment.”

He says the house yeast is not just for cloning Bell’s beers. It’s extremely versatile and can handle most IPAs, pale ales, ambers, blonde ales, porters, stouts, strong ales, and more. “I think there’s plenty of opportunity for experimentation with this yeast. Our brewers have been using it for more than 30 years and still find new uses for it,” he says.

Curtis says that the yeast has long been a wish-list item for homebrewers, and even though the brewery has given out instructions and assistance on how to culture yeast from bottles and cans, “I think this will satisfy the itch for a lot of homebrewers who don't want to spend all the time it takes to do that. I'm just glad to see that others are as excited about this as we are.”

The Bell's House Yeast is available only from the brewery’s General Store in downtown Kalamazoo or their online store. Curtis says that the pricing for this strain is the same as all the other Imperial Yeast packs at $12 each. And if you happen to buy it along with one of the brewery’s kits, you get 25 percent off the yeast.

John Holl is the author of Drink Beer, Think Beer: Getting to the Bottom of Every Pint, and has worked for both Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine® and All About Beer Magazine.