Upper Hand Brewery to begin distributing downstate

ESCANABA — It was announced Thursday afternoon that a popular Upper Peninsula brewery will begin distributing their beer south of the bridge for the very first time.

Upper Hand Brewery, which is a division of the popular Bell’s Brewery, will begin shipping their beer across the Mighty Mac later in the year. Distribution will begin in September or October, and their three most popular beers, UPA, Upper Hand IPA, and Upper Hand Light, will be the first to make it to the Northern Lower Peninsula.

But this new change doesn’t mean that the brewery will start ignoring their roots in the U.P. and the experience they offer.

“There’s still going to be some U.P.-only things, and some things that are just going to be available at the brewery,” said Larry Bell, the co-founder and President of Bell’s Brewery. “But we’re going to continue building on the great U.P. culture that we have, and sharing that with as many people as we can.”

Bell admits that it was his idea to keep the beer in the Upper Peninsula only, but realizes the growth that is possible by expanding below the bridge.

“That was my thing, ‘we’ll be U.P. only,’ so it’s me that has to fall on my sword here,” Bell said with a smirk. “There’s a lot of people that wants to see the beer below the bridge, and it’s been 5 years of U.P. only. The brewery’s really starting to do well, and they have the capacity to do more sales, so I don’t think it’s fair to keep them bottled up in the U.P.”

Upper Hand’s popularity has grown since they first broke ground on the brewery in 2013, and Bell believes the popularity will continue to grow as their distribution area expands.

“So far, we’ve gotten a lot of great reactions,” said Bell. “We know there’s a lot of people that would like this beer to come down below [the bridge], a lot of people that have  love for the U.P. I’ve very proud of the beer they make up there, it’s good quality beer. So I think there’s a lot of people that will be happy to have that access below the bridge.”

Bell says that no business or distributor that currently gets Upper Hand beer around the Upper Peninsula will be impacted by this change, and they’re working hard to ensure they’re ready for the change.

“I spoke with our manager up there today, and they’re really busy. It’s all hands on deck getting beer canned, and we have some good orders coming,” Bell said.

Distribution to the Northern Lower Peninsula will begin this fall, with Griffin Beverage and H. Cox & Son handling distribution. Additional territories and distributors around the state is expected to follow in 2021.