Plans filed for new microbrewery on Massachusetts Street, right across the street from Free State Brewery
photo by: Nick Krug
I don’t know if Massachusetts Street is going to become a dividing line or simply a place to take a carb-induced nap. Whatever the case, the 600 block of Massachusetts is going to become more interesting as plans have been filed for another microbrewery to locate right across the street from the venerable Free State Brewing Co.
As I hinted months ago, I had heard a rumor that a brewery was looking to locate in the former M&M Office Supply building at 623 Massachusetts St. Indeed, that has turned out to be true. A trio of Lawrence entrepreneurs plans to open Black Stag Brewery on the ground floor of the building this fall.
Yes, the business will be right across the street from Free State Brewing Co., but that is seen as a benefit, said John Hampton, one of the co-owners of the new business. Mass Street won’t become a battle line between the two breweries, he predicts. Rather a big part of the business strategy is to create synergies for beer lovers. (I don’t know what synergies are, but I bet they are salty and make you thirsty for another beer.) With Free State on Mass and the Lawrence Beer Company nearby in the Warehouse Arts District, Hampton thinks downtown Lawrence can become something special for craft beer aficionados.
“We want to make Lawrence a destination,” said Hampton. “With one good brewery, people will come for that. With two good breweries, more people will come for that. But three within walking distance of each other, people will start saying they really have to come here and check out the beer scene.”
Kathryn Myers, who is married to Hampton and is one of the co-owners, said her research shows that the Lawrence market still has quite a bit more room for microbreweries, and she pointed to Fort Collins, Colo., as an example of a town that has figured out how to make the craft beer scene a big part of its economy and entertainment industry. While Lawrence isn’t as big as Fort Collins, she thinks Lawrence can realistically become the craft beer capital of Kansas.
As for the beer, the downtown site will include enough brewing equipment to keep 12 brews on tap, Hampton said. He said the brewery plans to feature a lot of small-batch brews. Hampton — whose background is as a biologist who worked with fermentation in the pharmaceutical industry — plans to have several small-scale fermenters that will allow the brewery to experiment with various styles.
The brewery, though, also will feature a lot of traditional German and Belgian-style beers. Its signature brew will be a black lager, which plays into the Black Stag name.
The brewery also will have an extensive menu. Hampton — who shouldn’t be confused with the longtime Lawrence attorney of the same name — said the business is close to hiring a chef. He said steak and pasta will be a big part of the menu, along with quite a few lunch-oriented sandwiches.
Hampton said the building is expected to be unique as well. The ownership group — which also includes Myers’ father, William Myers — fell in love with the building. Originally a car dealership, the building has 14-foot ceilings, thick walls and big timber beams that they plan to leave exposed as part of the design. The brewing equipment also will be prominently displayed.
The building also is set back from Massachusetts Street, which allows for a small parking lot in front of the building. Hampton said plans call for about half of that parking lot — or about 1,000 square feet — to be converted into an outdoor dining and beer garden area. The remaining spaces in the lot could allow for a pull-in area that could be part of a valet parking system that the group is considering offering.
Construction hasn’t yet begun, but the restaurant has signed the lease for the approximately 11,000 square feet of space, which includes a basement that may be renovated into a large meeting room. Hampton said plans also have been filed with the city, and he hopes renovation of the building will be complete in late September.