EAST LANSING — In a college town where beer prices rule what gets drunk, Scott Isham tries to help introduce the youthful beer drinkers into a more eclectic range of beverages.
Isham brews at Harper’s Restaurant and Brewpub in East Lansing, dealing with competitors offering $3 pitchers across the way.
But he hasn’t let the prices affect his way of brewing.
“It’s hard to sell a pint for $3.50,” Isham said. “Having said that, the college kids are really open, they come in with almost no preconceived notions. They don’t fall for the marketing hype, just because a beer is soaked in a bourbon barrel, it doesn’t mean it’s good to them. They have really good feedback, if they like the beer, they’ll drink it again, if they don’t, they won’t.”
Isham has found a nice balance of how to make beers for quality and price and finds it hard to deviate from that path sometimes.
“(I try to) just make a nice drinkable beer, free of defects, I don’t try to do anything special anymore,” he said. “It’s almost automatic and I have to slow down and think, ‘What did I just do?’ because sometimes I don’t even think what I’m going to do anymore. Ultimately drinkability is the number one thing I’m shooting for.”
With six beers on tap at the restaurant, Isham has four staple beers — Spartan Wheat, Raspberry Wheat, Grove St. Pale Ale and Harper’s Ale — plus two rotating ales, currently Belgian Whit and Blackstrap Porter.
When making his brews, he tries to stay close to British influence and not copy other brewers.
“We try to have one every month, assuming they sell,” Isham said. “We try to mix it up and keep the favorites. Every now and then we throw in a new recipe.”
Although Isham has brewed in East Lansing since September 2000, his job never gets old, thanks in part to the students.
“There’s not a whole lot (left to do).” he said. “You get a whole new bunch of 21-year-olds, so even though we tend to make the same styles, it’s new to the new customers. It’s always nice to introduce a kid to a foreign extra stout.”