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A toast to Larry Bell: the long-time friend of Broad College now honored as maker of America’s best beer

By Omar Sofradzija

Larry Bell is great at making beer. That’s something the nation is finding out. But Bell has been well-known around the Eli Broad College of Business for a long, long time.

“When I first met him and had him speak to my students, he only had one label: Bell’s Beer,” said Carl Borchgrevink, director of the School of Hospitality Business at the Broad College. “He has been speaking to my students for more than 25 years.”

Larry Bell, founder and owner of Bell's Brewery (right), with his daughter, MSU alum and former Bell's Brewery executive Laura Bell. Photo courtesy Bell's Brewery.
Larry Bell, founder and owner of Bell’s Brewery (right), with his daughter, MSU alum and former Bell’s Brewery executive Laura Bell. Photo courtesy Bell’s Brewery.

One of Bell’s more recent labels, Two Hearted Ale, was named America’s best beer available for purchase in the U.S. in an American Homebrewers Association survey for the second year in a row. And the same survey ranked Comstock. Mich.-based Bell’s Brewery – founded and owned by Bell – as the nation’s best brewery for 2018.

While Bell isn’t a Spartan alum (he hails from Kalamazoo College), he has been an integral part of the Spartan community through his efforts. He’s contributed his time, talent, and even a child to MSU.

“He is an excellent speaker, and his desire for craft and his belief in quality always shines through! He will tell you that he is not a great speaker, but his passion pours forth, and the students love hearing from him,” Borchgrevink said. “When he cannot make it to class, his daughter Laura (Bell, a former CEO of Bell’s Brewery) comes to class … She is a Spartan alumnus. Sometimes they both come.”

“While he is not a Spartan, we made him an honorary faculty member – back when that was permitted – in recognition of all his support,” Borchgrevink said.

That support goes back to the 1990s, when Larry Bell would come to an Advanced Foodservice Management class to discuss beer styles and brewing, Borchgrevink said.

Borchgrevink and Sherwin
Carl Borchgrevink, right, director of MSU’s School of Hospitality Business at the Broad College. Photo by Derrick Turner.

“He would bring the beer with him that we needed for class discussions and sensory assessments,” Borchgrevink said. “He is passionate about brewing, craft, and all things beer. He believed in doing things the right way.”

How passionate? “This may have happened many times, but I know of one episode in which he found his unpasteurized beer sitting on a warm shelf at a local grocery store, not in a cooler, and he let store management clearly know how and why this was a quality concern,” Borchgrevink said.

“In some places, distributors can sell the right to represent a brewery to other distributors without consulting the brewery in question. This happened to Bell’s Brewing in the Chicago market, and the distribution of Bell’s was sold to a distributor that did not represent Bell’s as well as Larry felt they should,” Borchgrevink said. “Therefore, he withdrew Bell’s beer from the Chicago market, to great consternation among consumers.”

Bell will also share his talents at the 2018 MSU Detroit Executive Forum on Oct. 24 at the Beacon at One Woodward in Detroit, where he will discuss the business and science of beer with attendees. The forum, presented by the Broad College and the MSU College of Engineering, has hosted CEOs and other senior executives of influential companies throughout its 53-year history.

Last year’s featured speaker was Jim Hackett, president and CEO of Ford Motor Company.

For more information about this year’s MSU Detroit Executive Forum, contact alumni@broad.msu.edu or events@egr.msu.edu.


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