From Belgian beers to rabbit stew, a new brewpub opens in downtown Lawrence

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo

Co-owner John Hampton stands on a stage area in the Black Stag Brewery. The brewpub plans to have occasional live music. The brewery also has a small lounge area that features a fireplace and casual seating area.

Stop me if you have heard this one. A chemist and a lawyer walk into a bar … and then they decide to open one. More specifically, they decide to open a brewpub and become the newest player in a growing craft beer scene in Lawrence.

Black Stag Brewery opened this week at 623 Massachusetts St. If you are having a hard time picturing the location, it is in the old M&M Office Supply building. Yes, that is right across the street from Free State Brewing Co. No, that’s not a problem, especially if you believe Lawrence ought to be the Craft Beer Capital of Kansas, said Black Stag co-owner Kathryn Myers.

“That’s really what Lawrence should be,” Myers said of the craft beer capital designation. She said there are many states where craft beer is big — think Colorado, Washington, Connecticut — where a town smaller than Lawrence may have up to 10 local brewpubs.

“I think we are still under-served,” Myers said of the Lawrence craft beer market. “I think the craft beer scene can bring tourists to town, people who want to come here and sample them all for the weekend.”

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo

The bar area is shown in the new Black Stag Brewery in downtown Lawrence.

Myers is the lawyer in the bunch, and she did a lot of the market research for the business. Her husband, John Hampton, is the chemist in the duo, having worked as a biochemist in the pharmaceutical industry in San Francisco, Boston, Germany, Italy and elsewhere for about 30 years. Hampton is coming up with the brew recipes and has hired another chemical engineer who has turned brewer to help with the actual brewing process. The third owner in the business is Kathryn’s father, longtime Lawrence resident Bill Myers, who also has a chemistry background.

The trio plans on creating a chemistry inside the brewpub that is a bit different than your normal bar scene. Take the menu, for instance. Not every bar is serving rabbit stew and beef stroganoff as entrees.

“We want to have some items on the menu that you can’t really get anywhere else in town,” Kathryn said.

Other menu items include some more traditional dishes, such as a hamburger or the classic pub combination of fish and chips. Some other dishes are a bit familiar but with a twist. For example, the restaurant doesn’t serve a grilled ham and cheese sandwich, but rather serves a ham and brie. Sides include traditional British-style triple cooked chips, but also simpler fare such as honey-roasted carrots or roasted cauliflower. Black Stag hired Dane Morris, a Lawrence-raised chef who last worked at the Leawood farm-to-table-style restaurant Rye, to lead Black Stag’s kitchen.

As for the beer at Black Stag: When we first reported on Black Stag when it filed plans with the city back in May, Hampton said the brewery would have enough equipment in it to eventually keep 12 beers on tap. The brewery is starting with eight beers. Kathryn said there is an emphasis on German-, Belgian- and English-style beers. There are also some that will appeal to seasoned craft beer enthusiasts and some lighter ones for people who are just getting into the scene.

Kathryn said the brewery’s ’88 Helles Frozen Over — a helles is a mild, southern German-style of beer — is one that even new people to the craft beer scene will like.

“I call it a lawnmower beer,” Kathryn said. “It is the kind of beer you can drink right after you mow the lawn.” (If you don’t mind running over an occasional hedge, I bet it is also good while mowing the lawn.)

The menu also includes an English-style blackberry porter, a heavy oatmeal stout, a couple of IPA varieties, a traditional pale ale, and a Belgian-style wit, which is a type of beer that often is heavy on the wheat and has a bit of an orange zest profile to it.

But perhaps the most unusual beer on the menu is something called C3P0. I don’t know if you can drink it with your Darth Vader mask on or not, but while it shares a name with a “Star Wars” character it mainly is about the three ‘c’ style ingredients — chipotle, chile and chocolate.

“It definitely has a chipotle aftertaste,” Kathryn said. “It pairs well with steak.”

Steak is a big part of the menu at Black Stag. The menu currently offers five cuts of steak, ranging from a flat iron to a ribeye.

Currently, the brewery and restaurant are open only in the evening, with hours beginning at 5 p.m. Kathryn, though, said she expects the restaurant to be open for lunch in the next two to three weeks, as the kitchen gets up to full speed.

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo

The Black Stag Brewery has seating for about 200 diners, but the restaurant plans to begin construction this spring on an outdoor dining area that will accommodate approximately another 50 diners.

Work also will begin on an outdoor seating area once the weather warms up. The restaurant has space for about 200 diners inside, but will also include an outdoor patio that can seat about 50 more. The old M&M building that Black Stag is in is one of the few on Massachusetts Street that has its own private parking along Massachusetts Street. Black Stag plans to take half of that parking area and convert it into outdoor seating, she said.

Black Stag is the latest brewery to open in Lawrence, but it won’t be the last. As we’ve reported, work is underway to open Fields & Ivy Brewery in the old lumberyard space at 706 E. 23rd St.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the name of the Black Stag chef.


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