Lansing's Budding Brew Culture
“Are you the owner?”
The question came from a local resident on the southwest side of Lansing. He was just passing by and decided to stop in to see how the construction was coming along.
“I certainly am,” replies Dan Buonodono, as he swings the door wide and moves in to shake the man’s hand. “Come on in. Let me show you around.”
It’s easy to see why the building attracts attention. Recently repainted entirely in forest green, the former party store/apartment stands out from the neighboring residential community. But even if the new business venture were camouflaged, it probably would still draw a crowd.
Good beer usually does.
Buonodono is the proud owner of the newest addition to the Lansing area’s growing beer scene, EagleMonk Pub and Brewery
. Located on West Mount Hope just west of where the street crosses the Grand River, the converted space soon will be brewing up to 248 gallons at a time, and the local community is already buying into the project.
“People come in here all the time,” says Buonodono. “I show them around and everyone says they can’t wait until we open; that Lansing needs more breweries.”
Things are Finally Brewing in Lansing
The fact that Michigan is one of the country’s leading states in brewing is no secret. With more than 100 microbreweries across both peninsulas, one never needs to drive far to find a locally crafted beverage. Though Lansing has lagged a little behind the likes of Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, Detroit and Kalamazoo – each boasting three-to-five quality microbreweries – Michigan’s capital city is coming on strong.
In addition to EagleMonk, the Lansing area is welcoming a second new microbrewery into its collection this summer. When two friends born and raised in the Lansing area found themselves out of work at the same time, they decided to chase their dreams. After looking around the area, Brian Rasdale and Ryan Smith decided to settle in downtown Mason.
Using recipes perfected during several years of homebrewing throughout and after college, BAD Brewing Company
will be serving their concoctions in a historic brick building built in 1879. Most recently a floral shop until a few years ago, rumor has it that the building also served as a brothel further back in its history. After gutting the building and remodeling most everything themselves, the duo hopes to open in June.
And though EagleMonk and Bad Brewing may seem like competitors entering the market at the same time and in the same region, the owners don’t see it that way.
Hopes for More on the Horizon
“I think it’s a good thing,” says Rasdale. “There are plenty of people that are going to drink both of our beers. Plus, people make a special trip to go to Grand Rapids for the breweries. Maybe a few years down the road people will think, ‘Hey, let’s go to Lansing for the night and hit MBC, EagleMonk, Harper’s and BAD Brewing.’ And maybe even more will pop up here and there.”
Rasdale is right about one thing for sure; there are plenty of people that are going to drink the beer. Though not as developed as other Michigan cities brewery-wise, Lansing certainly has its fair share of establishments focusing on Michigan-made craft beer. Crunchy’s in East Lansing has long been known for their impressive tap list comprised of rare and hard-to-find beers. In downtown Lansing, the Waterfront Bar and Grill located in the Lansing City Market began focusing on Michigan craft beers when it opened in 2010. And then there’s the Soup Spoon Café on Michigan Avenue, which almost exclusively features Michigan microbrews.
Craft Brew Loyalty
Of its 12 tap handles, 11 are dedicated completely to Michigan beers, with the 12th
most always pouring it as well. The decision to focus on Michigan beers has paid off quite well, according to owner Nick Gavrilides, whose restaurant entered the craft beer market last year.
“Lansing has a great, huge loyalty to Michigan craft beers,” says Gavrilides. “We have a lot of knowledgeable people and a lot of quality beer drinkers. It’s a gem.”
Gem stones gain strength through the structures and bonds within, and so too are the budding brewing establishments.
Back at EagleMonk, Buonodono is working hard to get his brewpub ready, plugging away most every day since August, including several hours on Easter Sunday. While he certainly has the credentials for his venture – homebrewing for more than 30 years, President of the local homebrewing club for several of those, and at least one recipe proven to fly out of the keg a National Homebrewing Conference – operating large-scale equipment is a completely different ballgame.
Luckily, he’s friends with Scott Isham.
Head brewmaster at Harper’s, Isham has invited Buonodono to brew with him on several occasions. In fact, the two hope to form a strong collaboration during the coming years. By sharing yeast strains, types of grains, hops and shipping costs, they can accomplish more together than they could on their own.
“And if we had four or five breweries in the city, think of all the yeast we could share together,” says Isham, who has been brewing at Harper’s for 11 years and three other mid-Michigan breweries before that. “After all, we’re not in competition with each other. We’re in competition against average, bland beer.”
And it’s a competition that Lansing is winning, one microbrewery at a time.
Ken Kingery is a freelance writer for Capital Gains.
is the managing photographer for Capital Gains. He is a freelance photographer and owner of Trumpie Photography.
Ryan Smith & Brian Rasdale at Bad Brewing in Mason
Tanks at EagleMonk
The list of offerings at Harper's
Scott Isham, Harper's Brewmaster
Dan & Sonia Buonodono at EagleMonk
Kegs hold the product at Bad Brewing
Brewing Equipment at Bad Brewing
Bad Brewing's downtown Mason location
Photos © Dave Trumpie