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A look at Oberon Ale's history on its 30th anniversary

Glass of beer with Bell's logo on table with cans of Bell's beer in the background
Bell's Brewery has been sold to the Australian-based company Lion. Lion is a subsidiary of the Japanese conglomerate Kirin.

Spring may have officially started yesterday, but for many Michiganders, it’s the release of Bell’s Oberon Ale that indicates the season’s start.

2022 marks the 30th anniversary of the drink — one so popular that Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued a proclamation declaring March 21, 2022, as Oberon Day — so how exactly did it come to Michigan?

Bell’s Brewery was founded in 1983 as one of the first three craft breweries in the state. Originally named the Kalamazoo Brewing Co., they started selling beer two years later.

Oberon Ale was first brewed in 1992, originally sold under the name Solsun. Bell’s founder Larry Bell said the now-famous name is based on a character from Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream in a 2012 MLive interview.

The ale is available from mid-March to September, as supplies last. Unfortunately for Oberon enthusiasts, stocking up is tough, as it only has a shelf life of about six months. It’s available in bottles, two sizes of cans and even 5-liter mini-kegs.

According to Whitmer's proclamation, the state bought 14,067,074 pints of the ale last year, and the brewery created 423 Michigan jobs. As of 2016, the company contributed $1 billion to the Michigan economy.

Want to celebrate Oberon Day in a new way? We’ve got recipes for you. Try an Oberon Sour or Beer’s Knees (a variation of the bee’s knees cocktail, but with beer) and let us know what you think.

Emma Ruberg joined Michigan Radio in January as the Digital News Intern. She recently graduated from the University of Michigan with a double major in political science and communications and previously worked as a Senior News Editor for The Michigan Daily covering government and public safety.
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