How One Michigan Beer Scored Its Own State Holiday

Food & Drink

There are a few things that can signify that we’re finally headed into Spring: flowers blooming, pollen covering everything, and if you’re in Michigan, Bell’s Oberon Day.

Bell’s Oberon Day is officially Monday, March 25th. An official holiday in Michigan (seriously, governor Gretchen Whitmer declared Oberon Day an official holiday in the state in 2022), the day marks the unofficial start of Spring, but the official day that Bell’s wheat ale, Oberon, is available. At a time of the year when Michigan can still be quite cold and dreary, the day is an opportunity to celebrate the warm weather and sunny days ahead.

While the best place to celebrate the big day is arguably Bell’s Eccentric Cafe in Kalamazoo, Oberon Day events are happening around the United States from Washington State to North Carolina. You can check out a full list of the events Bell’s knows about here to find one near you.

“What I love so much about Oberon is it has such an intense and deep meaning for many people,” says Bell’s Executive Vice President Carrie Yunker. “People have tattoos of this brand. That’s how beloved it is.”

That Oberon Day distinction came in 2022 as part of the beer’s 30th anniversary, although the brew wasn’t always called Oberon.

Bell’s brewery founder Larry Bell, on a quest to create the perfect summer beer, originally named the beer Solsun. The name is a nod of sorts to the word saison, which the beer was modeled after. The beer uses Belgian male and German hops, but American yeast.

Back in 1992 when Solsun officially made its debut, the beer offered something that wasn’t really available in the American market, and it was a hit, especially locally.

The beer officially changed its name to Oberon in 1996. As legend has it, a local sorority had used the logo on a rush T-shirt, prompting Bell to trademark the name. When he filed the paperwork, another brewery with a beer called El Sol opposed its name, claiming it was too close to theirs. Rather than fight it out in court, he instead changed its name to Oberon, a nod to the character in William Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Now the beer comes in more than just its standard version. This year Bell’s plans to release Oberon Sunshine, a new shandy version that will be released in 12 packs that include three different flavors: Cherry Limeade Shandy, Lemonade Shandy, and Tropical Shandy.

On tap at the brand’s official party, where thousands are expected, will also be a number of variants of the classic beer including a Strawberry & Cream Oberon, Yuzu Oberon, Peach Jalapeño Oberon, and an Orange Vanilla Oberon. Rumor has it they’ll also be Oberon slushies available.

And they’re also bound to go through a ton of Oberon. Last year the Eccentric Cafe reportedly went through an astounding 91 kegs of the beer on Oberon day alone, equating to over 11,000 pints.

Oberon will be available from March until September except for in Florida and Arizona where it is available year round.

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