With the couple hundred of breweries opening up in Michigan, we at 8º Plato thought it would be fun to start visiting as many as we can and sharing their inside scoop. This week I visited Ellison Brewery and Spirits in East Lansing, who have been pumping out some unique and delicious brews that have passed through Plato a number of times with a great response.
Tucked in a small warehouse off of Grand River in East Lansing hides the hidden gem that is Ellison Brewery and Sprits. Upon arrival I was welcomed with smiles and an immediately inclusive attitude. Eric Elliot, Co-Founder of Ellison was happy to introduce me to the facility with a beer and warm greeting that made me feel like I was already ‘one of the guys’.
While Ellison may be a bit off the beaten path, everything inside is not. On your first step through the front door you can see that nothing is hidden. The fermenters, cooling systems, brewhouses, and even barrels for aging are right behind the bar. It’s rustic, real, and in your face. It’s almost like you’re part of the process yourself, which in a way you are, being the last and most important step of the brewing process, THE DRINKER.
“When a person comes in they can see us processing and milling the grain, moving the ingredients from step to step, and serving the end product as fresh as possible from our facility. It’s like you have exclusive backstage access to a beer being made that most people don’t see. You really feel like you’re a part of something, not just a customer.”
After talking to Eric, I ran into the Associate Brewer and friend of mine from back in the day, Tommy Hodges, who was happy to give me an in-depth tour of the facility and insider’s perspective on what happens during your average day here. From what Tommy has gathered, the warehouse that is now Ellison used to be an old printing facility for the Lansing State Journal. When they first bought the facility newspapers were littered everywhere, the walls smelled like ink, and there were still some run down machines left. “We laid in the drains, set up the brewing systems, and poured all the new flooring ourselves. It took a lot of work to develop it into what it is now, but it has all been worth it,” says Tommy.
I sipped on Ellison’s Relativity as I followed Tommy around, a big, full bodied Vermont-style IPA made with only Michigan hops that packed a high-gravity punch. Tommy told me that besides some of the trademark hops from around the globe, Ellison gets more that 90 percent of their hops from Michigan from a farm in Goodrich called Top Hops.
“People are looking for something handmade, something that’s essentially farm-to-table, that isn’t mass-produced by one of these giant corporations that use computers to do most of their brewing,” says Eric.
The flagship beer at Ellison is called the Crescent Fresh IPA. Chock-full of American hops that are added at every stage of the brewing process, Ellison’s brewers say this beer can please even the pickiest of hop heads. The rest of their lineup is quite diverse including saisons and weissbiers, to kolschs, blondes, stouts, and ambers. And of course there are plenty of IPAs and pale ales on the menu to please those who are looking for a that classic hop bite. The brewery expects to pump out at least 2000 barrels before their anniversary in August.
The brewers are continually working on new recipes and concoctions to add to the line up. Ellison uses a home brewing method to test and check these new flavors with their staff and some of the local regulars. While Ellison’s concentration is on beer, they also produce a variety of ciders, wines, and spirits. Tommy also says that meads will be coming soon and that the beer that has been barrel aging is almost ready.
“The coolest part about working here and brewing somewhere that is brand new is the creative freedom. Everyone gets an equal contribution to the tap list and we all get to develop Ellison’s flagship beers.” says Tommy.
8º Plato will be holding a tap feature for Ellison on November 4, 2016, so go check it out before we throw our event to see what you like. Have some fun during trivia and industry night on Monday, or visit whenever you want. Ellison Brewery and Spirits is located at 4903 Dawn Avenue in East Lansing and from my experience, they’ll be delighted to have you.
Until the next brewery, drink well, live well, and don’t forget to support your local Michigan breweries. Cheers!
Written by Zach Green