A color spectrum of cans will be hitting shelves throughout the state; each with a flavor of its own and emblazed with one bold and minimalistic name right at the top: Ellison. Clearly written across the top, you’ll find little else than a color to separate each from the other, aside from the name of the ale that inhabits the aluminum casing and a seal toward the bottom; a nod to the capital city — the birthplace and home of Ellison Brewery and Spirits.
This minimalistic approach to packaging isn’t a result of lack of resources — in fact it’s quite the opposite. You’ve surely noticed the excessively absurd names and labels that garner most craft brewery bottles and cans, but the designs here are simplified and signify a direct dedication to the spirit of Ellison. It’s not about flair, it’s about a mindset.
Despite the heavy competition of Michigan’s beer industry, co-founder Eric Elliot doesn’t even flinch when he talks about brand expectations. He’s embracing the craft beer resurgence and knows Lansing is the perfect location to catapult the region into a hot spot for visitors.
“Being that we’re the Capital city, we felt it’s only right that we have one of the best breweries in the state,” said Elliot. “We want to be the best in Michigan. Our overall goal, what we’re trying to work with every single day, is to continue our craft and make it better. We want to be the best.”
Despite a traditional integrity, its offerings are unique and bar none. Co-founders Eric Elliot and Aaron Hanson are constantly pushing the envelope and always have their ear to the ground; often predicting trends before the masses realize they exist. While they don’t work specifically to set trends, their experimental nature and small taproom, create an environment that capacitates a near perfect sample group to test new varieties.
“When we’re creating new beer we’re trying not to follow the fad. In every industry there is some sort of leader – right now hazy IPAs are the number one, highest trending style right now. We made a hazy IPA (Relativity, an 8.0% Vermont Style IPA) a year and two months ago which is well above the curve. Basically in the last six months it’s been extremely popular; in the past three [months] every publication is talking about them.”
In addition to great beer on tap, brewed right on the spot and served as fresh as possible, the brand is also producing and serving a line of spirits, ciders and meads. In its inception Ellison was drafted as a distillery, but the process takes time and the brewery portion of the business has taken the wheel while new batches of spirits are concocted. Their roster currently includes vodka and gin, served in cocktail format in the taproom, but will soon be expanding.
With so much to offer, it’s no wonder that the brand has taken off so quickly. Launching in 2015 the brewery is constantly looking for ways to expand upon the culture it has created as a result of its dedication to craft. They are currently looking to make capacity improvements by working with local officials to permit a patio seating area and recently partnered with Old Town’s Meat in facilitating the launch of their mobile food truck.
“It’s been a great partnership and an element to this side of the business that we didn’t want a part of. We want to remain focused on our craft. Food is a whole other animal,” explained Ellison. “When something isn’t easy, or there are roadblocks, we feel they’re there for a reason so early on we accepted that we’d likely never have a kitchen to serve food of our own.”
Lansing and its surrounding communities are embracing the brewery; if you want a spot in the Mug Club you might be sitting on your hands for a while as all 450 spots have been filled since last year. Located in an industrial lot just off Grand River Avenue, a prime location that facilitates the silos and equipment needed for brewing and distribution, you won’t see signs promoting its taproom or its offerings from your car … because there aren’t any – this staple is built on the best advertising passion can buy: word of mouth. The utopia for beer and spirit lovers is nestled out of eye; subsequently allowing patrons to put their worries out of mind. Ellison Brewery is an escape from your typical expectations; it doesn’t exist to facilitate nightlife culture but it’s guaranteed to show you a great time.