Sept. 16 2009 12:00 AM

MBC brings suds and grub downtown

After teasing downtowners for more than a year and a half with a “Coming Soon” sign —and making patrons stare in helpless frustration at the inert tap handles for the two weeks they were open for lunch only — MBC is finally firing on all beer vats. Over Labor Day weekend, the Lansing satellite location for Michigan Brewing Co. unveiled all 17 of its draft beers to complement its full food menu.

“The concept was to create a place that was going to be a fun place to gather and talk,” said service manager Melinda Carpenter. “Good food, great beer and smooth music playing in the background. No televisions, no smoking; there is definitely no place else like this.”

Well, not outside the family, at least. The pub’s mothership is the original Michigan Brewing Co., headquartered in Webberville. That 76,000-square-foot location serves many functions: brewery, distillery, winery (Michigan Brewing also has its own signature gin, vodka and wine), and home to “Things Beer,” a nov elty store, selling T-shirts, beer steins and home brewing supplies. Owner Bobby Mason had been eying a new Lansing location on Washington Square near Kalamazoo Street since February 2008, but the sluggish economy and recent snafus with liquor license transfers kept the project from hopping along.

The new establishment, simply called MBC, is a bit more focused on the pub side of the business, and with that focus comes a spotlight on food and service. Carpenter formerly managed a fine dining seafood restaurant in Grand Rapids, and she said she’s happy to now call Lansing home. Kitchen manager Stephen Joseph honed his culinary skills at the Lansingarea Scalawags restaurants, where he got to know his way around seafood.

“This menu is similar to the Webberville menu, but we put more of an emphasis on fish here,” Joseph said. “We’re concentrating on Michigan fish — perch, walleye and whitefish. We’re trying to keep everything as local as possible.”

Rising to the head of the menu is the “Pub” Style Fish & Chips ($7.95). Three big filets of beer-battered pollock are deep fried and served with brew pub fries, hush puppies and coleslaw. It’s definitely a by-the-book menu item, but add a pint of Mackinac Pale Ale next to it and you have a meal. The Hog Heaven Pulled Pork Sandwich ($6.95), meanwhile, is a massive serving of smoked, shredded meat soaked in tangy barbecue sauce and served on a slightly sweet pretzel bun with crinkle-cut sweet potato fries. It goes well with the Nut Brown Ale, which has subtle hints of caramel and roasted nuts.

Among the 17 beers on tap is a rotating seasonal beer. Right now it’s the Screamin’ Pumpkin Spiced Ale, which is like pumpkin pie in a glass. If that sounds a little sweet (and if you want to boost the alcohol content) have it mixed with the Celis Grand Cru, a 7.6 percent ABV ass-kicker that adds a little punch. (OK, a lot of punch.) Regulars call the mash-up between those two a “Crumpkin.”

Other popular, on-tap favorites include the High Seas India Pale Ale (another high-ABV lip-smacker) and the brand new Bad Ass Beer, which was developed for Kid Rock as his signature beer. A classic American lager, it’s a little more userfriendly for microbrew newbies, and it’s a great introduction to MBC’s wares. And, as always, the growlers (64 oz. beer jugs) are available for $11 ($8 for refills), if you want to take a little of the fun home with you, and six-packs are $9.

“We’re known for our beer, but the food is an added plus,” Carpenter said.

She said the food menu will undergo some tweaking over the next several months, with daily lunch and dinner specials being used to help gauge customers’ likes and dislikes. Clear winners will be incorporated into the permanent menu within six months. MBC offers Wi-Fi for students and businesspeople who prefer a Bavarian Dark ale next to the keyboard over a French roast coffee. There is also talk of adding light, live music on some evenings to give the piped-in music a rest.

After 18 months of suspense, however, MBC probably could have opened up in a broom closet and still made new fans. “People were really excited about this place opening, especially after such a long wait,” Carpenter said. “But everyone has been so great, and they seem to be having a real fun time so far. We’re off a great start!”

MBC. 402 S. Washington Square, Lansing. Hours: 11 a.m. – 2 a.m. Monday – Saturday & noon – 10 p.m. Sunday. (517) 977-1349.