In Shakespeare’s play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Oberon is king of the fairies. While it certainly tastes like magic, the Oberon Ale from Kalamazoo, Mich.-based Bell’s Brewery signals the start of spring.

Bell’s Brewery, now owned by Australian beverage company Lion, was started by Larry Bell in 1983. One of Bell’s most beloved brews is the Oberon Ale, an American wheat ale.

First brewed in 1992 and sold under the name SolSun, the release of the seasonal beer has turned into an all-out holiday, especially in Michigan. Last year, the 30-year anniversary of the beer, Michigan’s Gov. Gretchen Whitmer proclaimed March 21 as Oberon Day.

This year, Bell’s hosted a group of media members for an in-depth tour of the Comstock brewery on Sunday, March 19, a day ahead of Oberon Day. As a Michigan girl, I fan-girled when I was invited to tag along for all the Oberon Day festivities.


Bells Brewery
At the conclusion of the tour, we were given samples of Hop Grandslam, a variation the double IPA, Hopslam Ale, straight from the tank.
Image Courtesy of Chloe Alverson


The tour was led by Bell’s Senior Brewer, Kevin Stuchell, who has been with the company for more than 20 years. And of course, the tour started off with a tasting of Bell’s Amber Ale, a beer that helped build the brewery and is considered their “gateway to craft beer.”

The Comstock brewery — a 32-acre site — is the company’s main brewing location, while the downtown Kalamazoo location brews experimental and exclusive beers for the Eccentric Café.

The bottling system at Bell’s does 750 bottles a minute, and is complete with a camera inspection unit that kicks bottles off of the line if there are any flaws. The company’s canning system fills 500 12-ounce cans a minute, and this output was doubled with the installation of a second canning system. This is where many of the year-round available beers are brewed, such as the Amber Ale and Two Hearted IPA.

At the conclusion of the tour, we were given samples of Hop Grandslam, a variation the double IPA, Hopslam Ale, straight from the tank.

Following the tour, there was a beer pairing dinner at the Eccentric Café. The five-course meal was specially curated by the chef so that each dish highlighted the taste of Oberon. The courses were also inspired by this year’s Oberon Day theme, Camp Oberon. Dinner included dishes such as the Campfire Salad and Grown-up Silver Turtles, and, obviously, the first pints of Oberon Ale, complete with an orange slice garnish.

Monday, March 20, was the big day.

The morning kicked off around 10 a.m. at the Bell’s downtown Kalamazoo location, where fans were lined up around the block, eager for the first taste of spring and summer. Great Lakes Brass, a brass musical group, played “You Are My Sunshine” while an Oberon Ale flag was raised and the festivities began.

Inside the Eccentric Café, fans immediately lined up for their Oberon. A record-breaking 5,000 guests were in attendance of the event, which went until 10 p.m.

Aside from traditional Oberon, Bell’s offered eight varietals of the wheat ale: Creamsicle, Chipotle Lime, Watermelon Basil, Raspberry Hibiscus, Pineapple Jalapeno, Fruit Punch, Peach and Blood Orange. Many of these varietals are only available at the Café and might not return. For Oberon Day alone, staff at the Café, who were “camp counselors” for the day, prepared around 7,000 oranges to use as garnishes.

Andy Farrell, brew master at Bell’s, has been with the company for 23 years. When it comes to creating the latest varietal of Oberon, he says he works closely with the innovation brewers and marketing team to find what works well together.

A variety pack of Oberon is slated to hit stores mid-May. Fans can expect to see previous varietals and at least one new flavor in the pack.