Lawrence's new brewery on same block as Free State adds to city's craft brew draw

Black Stag Brewery

For five years, the owners of the new Black Stag Brewery have been looking for a Lawrence spot that would accommodate a brewery, preferably in the downtown area.

Kathryn Myers was born and raised there and has three degrees from the University of Kansas — an undergraduate degree in advertising, a master's in business administration and a law degree.

Her husband, John Hampton, has lived in Lawrence for 33 years. The biologist had worked in fermentation in the bio-pharmaceutical industry, but recently left to focus on the brewery full time. He has been a homebrewer for several years, saying the process is almost identical to his former day job, but fermentation in the bio-pharmaceutical industry is on a much larger scale.

Now the couple have teamed up with Myers' father, William Myers, and signed a lease for 11,000 square feet in a two-story building at 623 Massachusetts St.

They said the former car dealership with its reinforced floors and high ceilings just works for a brewery. They will have the basement and first floor. The brewpub will have a "rustic chic" decor with a fireplace and lounge, a beer garden and small parking lot with valet parking.

Black Stag Brewery's flagship beer will be a black lager, one of a dozen beers on tap, mostly German and Belgian-style beers and a selection of IPAs. But the brewery also will have some small-batch experimental beers.

Hampton will be the head brewer and has hired a local chef for a menu that will focus on locally sourced steaks, seasonal wild game and pasta. The brewpub, which will have about 50 employees, plans to open in September.

Black Stag Brewery will be on the same block as the famed Free State Brewing Co., which opened in 1989 at 636 Massachusetts — at the time the first legal brewery to open in the state in more than 100 years.

"Don't think I didn't think 'Do we really want to go across from Free State?' But then we would travel to Oklahoma City, Fort Collins and Omaha, and mainly what stood out was the number of breweries in close proximity," Hampton said. "With my job I spent a lot of time in Germany and there are breweries on every corner and they do just fine, like hundreds of years fine."

Kathryn Myers also researched breweries across the country and found that an area could typically support one brewery for every 15,000 people.

The Crossroads, for example, is home to several breweries including Torn Label Brewing Co., Double Shift Brewing and the new Casual Animal Brewing Co., and more are coming.

"The whole idea of this is to make Lawrence a destination for craft brewing, more than it already is," Hampton said.