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Plans filed for new microbrewery on Massachusetts Street, right across the street from Free State Brewery


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.

The Marsh Building at 623 Massachusetts St., the former home of M&M Office Supply which sits across the street from Free State Brewery, is slated to become Black Stag Brewery.

The Marsh Building at 623 Massachusetts St., the former home of M&M Office Supply which sits across the street from Free State Brewery, is slated to become Black Stag Brewery. by Nick Krug

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.


Clark Coan 1 week, 5 days ago

Free State has a loyal following and has been in business for 30 years, so I don't think Black Stag (not a very good name) will siphon off customers.

Donald Martin 1 week, 5 days ago

Bill and Becky Congratulations!!! Put your chemistry skills in place!

Scott Callahan 1 week, 5 days ago

Perhaps this new brewery will cater to a more moderate customer base.

Steve Hillyer 1 week, 5 days ago

Best of luck to them and hope they succeed, I belong to the crowd that believes the more brewpubs the better, having said that I'm not convinced Lawrence can support 5 of them but I hope I'm wrong.

Calvin Anders 1 week, 5 days ago

Well, the more the merrier I suppose. But I doubt this place well do well unless they make very good to excellent beer. Free State sets a higher standard than many are able to meet. And although not everyone around here is extremely discriminating about beer, being right across the street from this level of consistent excellence will give everyone a good yardstick. I would love for Black Stag to bring more excellent beer to Lawrence. They will have to if they are going to make it. And the name is fine. They can call it anything as long as they bring their A game.

Marvin Stein 1 week, 5 days ago

Always happy to see a small business giving it a go in Lawrence.

Not sure why there are so many doubters in the comment section. Free State Beer is good but most people I talk to refer to it as just that, "good" and "alright". No doubt it has a loyal following but I think there is a chance for other brewers to one up them in certain areas.

I say right on!

Frank A Janzen 1 week, 5 days ago

There goes that little bit of free parking. I have been non-alcoholic for more than 20 years.

Phillip Chappuie 1 week, 5 days ago

When I noticed it said Marsh Building I thought maybe Randy and Sharon had left Colorado to open a brewery in Kansas. Oh well. Stan would have liked Lawrence.

Richard Heckler 1 week, 5 days ago

Since when has flooding markets been smart business........

Free State produces some of the best beer on the planet and the food is awesome as well.

People in Fort Collins have more money to spend plus a few inches of snow for big fun and cooler summers for even more fun. Lawrence is not Fort Collins nor is it Boulder.

Free State will not likely go out of business BUT others might.

Martin Brody 1 week, 5 days ago

Black Stag will do well if they bring in an established brewer rather than a home brewer who wants to try his hand in the restaurant biz. Too many breweries are opening with brewers who were making beer for their buddies out of their garage or basement a few years ago and suddenly think they have what it takes. Lots of good brewery options is a great thing but there will be a bubble burst in the microbrewery industry in the years ahead and only those with the best product will survive. Free State will be fine. Lawrence Beer Company has potential but there’s room for improvement. The others in town are not looking good.

Sam Crow 1 week, 5 days ago

Why is it so many of you people see everything as a zero sum game.

Steve Hillyer 1 week, 5 days ago

Yep, I liked it a lot, on the west side of Mass St but don't remember the exact location.

Steve Jacob 1 week, 5 days ago

In the end another retailer gone and replaced with a bar/restaurant downtown. .

Mike Gant 1 week, 5 days ago

“Free State produces some of the best beer on the planet.”

Are you kidding me? I mean I’m all for hometown pride and all but that’s ridiculous. Have you been to Fort Collins or St. Louis where true craft beer communities thrive? Competition in those towns has bred collaboration, inspiration, innovation, and led to some truly world class beers. To just blindly call Free State world class is to speak from defensiveness, not experience, and to use their so-called greatness as a means to discourage the idea of more breweries is foolish.

Free State does make some decent beers, and sometimes some great ones, but automatically jumping to defensive hyperbole doesn’t do anyone any favors. They should be welcoming competition with open arms as to avoid stagnation - think the Beatles and The Beach Boys, neither would have been as great as they were without the other there to spur them on.

Calvin Anders 1 week, 4 days ago

Mike, you are right of course. "Best beer on the planet" is pretty hyperbolic. But the I think you have to admit that the consistent high quality across such a variety of beers makes Free State a standout. It's not like it's easy to find this kind of quality within driving distance. I'm sure there are other examples in other cities, but compared to what you can get around here, Free State is, I think, on a different level. My hope, is that Black Stag has the ambition and the means to bring a similar level of quality. Since it's a high bar, I'll be pleasantly surprised if Black Stag can do this. If they can come close, they will help to grow an enthusiast community in Lawrence. If they don't have the ability to produce that level of quality, then they will suffer badly by comparison. Picking that location is ambitious.

Geoff Ermlap 1 week, 3 days ago

Yes I have been to Fort Collins or St Louis or Boulder and several breweries along and up the west coast. Ive found many many outstanding breweries but the funny thing about your comment is it is doing exactly what you are criticizing the comments posted on Free States beer. You seem to be the one who is being defensive and hyperbolic.

Richard Heckler 1 week, 1 day ago

yes i have experienced Boulder, Annapolis, Phoenixville, Kansas City, Fort Collins, Seattle area, San Diego, Cincinnati to which I say .....

Free State produces some of the best beer on the planet. In essence you said the same thing ........

Chris Warman 1 week, 3 days ago

Nothing wrong with a little competition. Makes for a good pub crawl too. Bottoms up!

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