Oct. 21 2015 11:15 AM

Lansing Brewing Co. taps into city’s century-old beer history

When Lansing Brewing Co. opens Thursday, one of its featured beers will be named for Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero.

It’s called Angry Mayor IPA.

That is one of a dozen beers that will be on tap at Lansing’s first post-prohibition production brewery. Lansing Brewing Co., at the corner of Shiawassee and Cedar streets, will initially offer 12 beers on tap at its pub, with canning and statewide distribution slated for 2016.

The 14,000-squarefoot facility includes a brewery, 5,000 square feet of dining area, a 50-person private party/overflow room, a seasonal patio area and the 5,000-square-foot “Stockyard” — a special event space with its own bar and sound system.

The Gillespie Group, which owns the brewery, is branding the launch as a reopening of sorts. The new brewery takes its name from the defunct Lansing Brewing Co., which was on Turner Street in what is now Old Town. The old brewery opened in 1898 and closed its doors in 1914 when the temperance movement — which eventually led to Prohibition — took hold in the area.

The new Lansing Brewing Co. has coopted much of the old brewery’s history, with murals proudly declaring, “We started brewing beer in 1898” and “We supplied beer to those that built this city.” The décor embraces this turn-of-the-century inspiration, with sleek art deco style accented by reclaimed wood walls and upcycled steel doors. Vintage automobile pistons have been fashioned into tap handles for the bar, and murals on the wall show photos of the old brewery and its workers.

The brewery is even recreating the old Lansing Brewing Co.’s flagship brew, Amber Cream Ale, using the original recipe. The beer is one of the mainstay beers that will always be on tap.

“Everybody knows about Amber Cream — we’re resurrecting that,” said Sawyer Stevens, head brewer. “It’s a style that’s not well known. It’s unique to this brewery.”

Stevens comes to Lansing Brewing Co. from Escanaba’s Upper Hand Brewery, a division of Bell’s Brewery. He has also worked as a brewer at Mt. Pleasant Brewing Co. and Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo. He is looking forward to being part of Lansing’s budding craft beer culture.

“It’s cool to be part of this,” he said. “There’s not a lot of craft beer here. We can really build a craft beer culture.”

Sawyer has some special beers on tap for Thursday’s opening, including the Boss, a double IPA, and 1898, an imperial stout named after the original brewery’s birth year.

“We wanted to make a big, bold beer for that,” Stevens said.

Beers will be available to go by growler (64-ounce jug), howler (32-ounce jug) or crowler — a first-in-Lansing device that creates single 32-ounce canned beers on the spot from beers on tap at the bar.

In addition to the beers, the brewery will offer wine and its own brand of liquor, Hardnose Spirits. The name and the logo — featuring a boxer in a fighting stance — are meant to evoke Lansing’s blue collar roots.

“We looked at pictures of the old brewery workers, and they all looked really hard, really tough,” said Pat Gillespie, president of the Gillespie Group. “We kept coming back to the word ‘hard,’ so we thought, ‘How about Hardnose? Like a hard-nosed 1920s boxer.’”

General Manager Dan Glazer appreciates the clout that the Gillespie Group brings to this endeavor.

“I think this project is really special,” Glazer said. “You couldn’t ask for a better group of people to bring a brewery here. Their vision for this city is phenomenal. They’re committed to Lansing.”

The brewery is the northernmost outpost of the Stadium District, a group of businesses surrounding Cooley Law School Stadium. The Gillespie Group also owns the nearby Stadium District and Marketplace apartment complexes and has partnered on the Outfield apartment complex, overlooking Cooley Law School Stadium, with Lugnuts owner Tom Dickson. It is slated to open spring in 2016.

“The Stadium District has been a project,” said Jake VanAtta, Lansing Brewing Co.’s sales and marketing manager. “We’re developing the nightlife. This is just a start.”

Part of the drive to reinvent the Stadium District, VanAtta said, is a certain level of municipal jealousy.

“We’re sick of people talking about (areas like) downtown Grand Rapids and midtown Detroit,” VanAtta said. “We want to bring nightlife back to downtown Lansing.”

The brewery will also have a full food menu, which VanAtta describes as “American classics with a twist.” Offerings include everything from appetizers and salads to pizza and comfort foods like chicken and waffles, bacon-wrapped meatloaf and poutine. Many of the marinades and condiments are made with beers from the brewery.

“Launching it all at once is a big undertaking,” Glazer said. “You need to hire really good staff. I think we’ve done that.”

Even late last week, crews were scrambling to put the finishing touches on the brewery. While Glazer is enjoying all the buzz, he really just wants to open the doors.

“There’s no dull moment right now,” Glazer said. “I’m just anxious to get people in here.”

Lansing Brewing Co.

Opening 11 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 22 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday- Thursday; 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Friday-Saturday; noon- 10 p.m. Sunday 518 E. Shiawassee St., Lansing (517) 371-2600, lansingbrewingcompany.com