UPDATED WITH SHOW PHOTOS: Talking Lawrence Beer Company’s opening party with the brewery’s Matt Williams and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ Dicky Barrett
Friday, the Lawrence Beer Company kicks off its existence with a big street party, featuring veteran ska-punk act the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. It’s the culmination of a journey that started in 2015, when company president Matt Williams and his partners first filed their business plan.
“At the core, we wanted to be just a neighborhood brewery that makes beer for the local community, where most of the beer is drunk on-site,” explains Williams as we sit at Decade, a coffee shop just a couple of blocks north of the LBC HQ, which took shape inside the former SeedCo. building in Lawrence’s Warehouse Arts District. “We want people to come hang out, and we get to know everybody.”
Williams has a long history with beer, beyond just drinking it and liking it. He managed bars and restaurants during his time at the University of Kansas, and then worked for a beer distributor afterward, where his exposure to Odell, New Belgium, and Sierra Nevada taught him his first lessons in craft beer.
“For the last seven or eight years, I’ve worked with start-ups all the way up to $30 million breweries — I’ve seen the whole range,” says Williams of his work so far. “And, obviously, I like drinking beer, but it’s more about the creativity and the collaboration. It’s just a group of people who wouldn’t be happy doing anything else.”
The Lawrence Beer Company building is modeled after the breweries where Williams always found himself most comfortable: places where he could sit on the patio with a beer and watch the community roll in. It’s about being a neighborhood hub — a clubhouse, essentially. The building in which Lawrence Beer Company is housed was under construction for nearly a year, a process that included taking off the roof.
Williams and his partners have put up siding and cut metal, and they’ve helped put this together from the ground up, which has resulted in a building loaded with windows, as well as details such as subway tile throughout and sound-baffling ceilings made from a century-old Lecompton barn. Plus, taking off that roof allowed the building to have a second story.
Now, though, comes the party — which, Williams tells me, is his company’s way of giving something back to the community for putting up with a year of loud, messy construction.
“We’re just trying to have the raddest opening ever,” Williams says. “I am a lifelong Bosstones fan: The first concert I ever went to was the Bosstones, the Urge, and Hepcat at the Granada. Mike Logan at the Granada and I have been friends since college, and he knows that I’m a fan.”
Logan sent Williams a screenshot of the Granada’s upcoming calendar, and there it was: the Mighty Mighty Bosstones on Friday, August 25. Williams was excited, and eager to attend, and then Logan said to him, “I’m kind of thinking street party. I’m kind of thinking: Pennsylvania Street.”
“We really had to sit together as company ownership and try to figure out whether we could reasonably do this, timeline-wise,” Williams says. “In the end, we were like, this is an opportunity and we can’t pass it up. At that point, we were 75 percent certain we’d be open.”
The bet seems to have paid off. The brewery has partnered with Durango’s Ska Brewing to produce a collaborative beer, and the Bosstones’ frontman, Dicky Barrett, says he’s pretty hyped for the show.
“That sounds like us,” Barrett says of playing in front of a brand-new brewery. “We have a huge, huge spot in heart for Lawrence, Kansas. We were part of the old Outhouse gang.”
The singer goes on: “We’re not bringing people together to have a bad time or to get too heady or introspective — I think they’re [our shows are] just for the sole purpose of to be entertained, to feel good, to leave the place saying, ‘Gosh, that’s fun!’ That’s what we’re doing on this tour, and it’s always sort of been our creed. We’re not one of those bands that’s like, ‘We draw our energy from you.’ We’re fuckin’ gonna blast you whether you respond or are feeling it. It’s the way we set up ourselves it’s the way we look, the music we make — it’s designed to be fun, and at some point we wear you down.”
And if people end up staring into their new beers and staying still?
“If they want to stand there and do nothing, it’s their right,” Barrett says. “We try to make it impossible for them to do that, though.”
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and opener the Architects play the Lawrence Beer Company opening party on Friday, August 25. Details on that show here.