Bell’s U.P. brewery project moves forward

ESCANABA – The Escanaba City Planning Commission on Monday approved construction plans for the brewery planned for the Whitetail Industrial Park off 19th Avenue North.

Larry Bell, owner of Bell’s Brewery of downstate Comstock, is planning to build a 11,550-square-foot state-of-the-art brewery and bottling facility there.

In a purchase agreement that closed Monday afternoon, Escanaba City sold 3.16 acres in the industrial park to Bell’s Brewery for $30,000.

The new business will be called the Upper Hand Brewery. Bell said the $1.3 million construction project will be put out to bid soon with groundbreaking anticipated in early August.

Bell’s expansion to Escanaba – an investment totaling $2.5 million – is part of a $15 million company-wide capital improvement project.

Bell’s has a brewery and cafe in Kalamazoo, a distribution center in Galesburg, and a brewery and corporate office in Comstock. The company employs about 200 people.

The Escanaba business is expected to have five employees, Bell said.

Though Bell’s Brewery has a pub in Kalamazoo, the Escanaba plant will not have an area where beer is sold to the public.

The law allows the company to operate only one brew pub in the state, Bell said, adding the new facility here is being designed to conduct tours and offer free beer samples.

Bell’s products are sold in 18 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C. Pike Distributors of Escanaba is the local distributor of the company’s ales and beers.