1. Extreme Beer Fest. March 20 & 21, 2015 in Boston, Mass. Join us!
  2. The wait is over! Download the BeerAdvocate app on iTunes or Google Play now.
  3. Get 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine for only $9.99!

Harper's Restaurant & Brewpub

Not Rated.
Harper's Restaurant & BrewpubHarper's Restaurant & Brewpub
BA SCORE
76
okay

20 Ratings
Ratings: 20
Reviews: 17
rAvg: 2.92
pDev: 18.15%
Active Beers: 9
Beer Ratings: 41
Beer Avg: 3.13
Taps: 0
Bottles: 0
Cask:
Beer-to-Go: N
[ Brewery, Bar, Eatery ]

131 Albert Ave.
East Lansing, Michigan, 48823
United States
phone: (517) 333-4040

view map and get directionsMap 

Notes:
None, yet.

(Place added by: BeerAdvocate)
Place: Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Usefulness | Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Ratings: 20 | Reviews: 17 | Display Reviews Only:
Reviews by CortexBomb:
Photo of CortexBomb
2.31/5  rDev -20.9%

Harper's is a monster brew pub in the heart of East Lansing. Inside the atmosphere is somewhat in-between upscale and college with the brewing equipment on display next to the huge bar and copious seating.

In terms of quality, I rate them average in terms of brewpubs. I find that most brewpubs "brew down" to their expected clientele, and this is the case here, which negatively impacts the selection...they have 6 taps of their own beer, but the selection is heavily tilted toward quaffers. Usually there will be a seasonal beer that is decent, but the normal offerings are, frankly, dull. Basically, there might be one interesting beer here, thus, bad rating on selection.

Service is erratic here, ranging from average at best to really, really bad. The most entertaining example (in hindsight) is one time where I went there while the place was completely empty to get a growler fill. I stood at the bar, staring at the bartender and the various servers who wandered past, and none of them said a word to me for several minutes. At other times, I've received what I would call "normal" service in similar circumstances, but nothing exceptional. It averages out to 2.0 I guess, I've never had anything beyond what I would call average service here and on the wrong night it's as bad as you can get without an openly abrasive server.

The bottom line: Harper's is big and flashy, but the overall place is only so-so. It's one of the only places (the only place?) in Lansing to get growler fills, so I occasionally stop by, but the place is clearly brewing for a non-beer geek audience, and I prefer to spend my "quality bar time" down the street at Crunchy's.

CortexBomb, Nov 11, 2007
More User Reviews:
Photo of BeerGuyTy
3/5  rDev +2.7%

BeerGuyTy, Sep 05, 2014
Photo of BcOneSeven
2/5  rDev -31.5%

BcOneSeven, Jun 10, 2014
Photo of MattByMoonlight
3.5/5  rDev +19.9%

MattByMoonlight, May 11, 2014
Photo of spartan1979
2.83/5  rDev -3.1%

We were looking for a place to meet up with an old college friend and picked this as the only brewpub in town. I was surprised to find out it was in the old Dooley's building that I spent a lot of time in a a student long ago.

We were there Friday around 5:00 Pm and while I know it's summer in a college town, it was really dead. I tried the maibock and the wheat and both were decent, but nothing I'd seek out. My wife tried the pale ale it was okay. I had a tuna sub and it was nicely spiced and tasty. My wife ordered the burger with the pickled hops but just got a regular cheeseburger. Service was a bit slow, especially considering how dead it was.

While I wouldn't avoid the place I probably wouldn't suggest it either.

spartan1979, Jul 25, 2012
Photo of Spiekerbox
3.65/5  rDev +25%

I find myself surprised with the other reviews that I see here. My guess is that people don't understand that if you go into the downtown of a college town you will find college bars, even if they are brewpubs. I find the atmosphere great for a college bar and loved how it was smoke-free before the rest of Michigan. Their brews are usually pretty good, though some are not the greatest, but you can never go wrong with the Grove Street or Spartan Wheat. Wednesday is definitely the day to go with half off basically everything. I find the food pretty good for a bar also, though didn't rate it as I have not had enough of it to know well.

The one negative thing I can say about Harper's is that the service is terrible any time that they are somewhat busy, but that just means to buy pitchers instead of pints or just go straight to the bar, same as most college bars.

So to conclude if you want a college bar that is a brewpub, Harper's is perfect, but don't go if you arn't ready for a bar with lots of college kids, drinking, and a DJ or live music that is often loud.

Spiekerbox, Jun 08, 2010
Photo of bigkingken
2.6/5  rDev -11%

Walking up to Harper's I feel a swell of hope rising in my chest despite the awful reviews I have read from fellow beer connoisseurs. A wide stairway of stone steps leads to two gigantic wooden doors below a large, colorful sign on a gorgeous brick building featuring gigantic half-moon windows. Unfortunately, the reviews would prove to be correct.

This place has so much potential, but it wastes it catering to the college party crowd.

As I open the door and step into Harper's I'm immediately blasted by the sound of a DJ pumping up a small crowed of drunk co-eds. Putting this setback aside, I survey the place. It's dimly lit with two sets of brewing equipment shining proudly; one towards the back and one off to the right behind glass walls. Most of the place features beautiful, light woodwork and dark bricks. There are plenty of tables, televisions and space. An oddly-shaped yet gorgeous circular bar sits in the center and is lit by Christmas lights hanging overhead. A giant semi-private room sits to the right. It looks like a great party room. Picture frames hang from the ceilings and wall with objects inside rather than pictures.

Overall, I love the feel and décor of the place. I hate the loudness, dirtiness, stickiness and the feeling of low class it exudes.

Believe it or not, the food is damn good. It was half-price pizza night so I ordered what sounded like a delicious combination of spinach, goat cheese, pine nuts, red onion and feta cheese on top of a pesto sauce. It comes out not quite sliced all the way through, but absolutely delicious. The crust is crispy on the bottom and chewy in the middle, and quite flavorful on its own. Some of the best bar pizza I've ever had.

The beer, however, greatly disappoints. I order a sampler of their six beers which comes out in a weird assortment of misshapen PLASTIC glasses of roughly four ounces each. These are like small wine or champagne glasses. Weird.

Harpers ale looks like Bud. Dry. It is not sweet, which is surprising. Low hops with no citrus notes. It is very close to a German pilsner but seems to be missing German malts or maybe German hops, which give good pilsners that distinctive taste.

Spartan Wheat has but one note - sweet. It lacks any true citrus flavor and is low on hops. Okay fine, on a second taste, it has a single orange note as well. But it's terrible.
Raspberry Wheat takes the original terrible Spartan Wheat and adds way too much fruit concentrate, serving only to make a bad beer undrinkable.

The Pale Ale is actually not too bad. Though the board says it is malty, it really isn't, though compared to the rest of their beers I guess it is. It is again a little low on hops. There is not much bitterness though it does have some floral notes. So far, it is the only beer I'd order a pint of.

The Brown starts promising, full of nutty goodness, but soon fades as the brew is thin and without depth. It is the best so far, but still not up to par.

The Stout is the best of the bunch simply because it is nearly impossible to make a non-malty, flavorless stout. There is enough of dark, malty goodness here to qualify it as drinkable, though it still does not linger on the palette for any respectable period of time.

The service wasn't bad. I was often checked on even though it was late and the kitchen was nearly closed.

All in all, this place could be so much more if it would just aim higher. The location is prime. The building is beautiful. Even the décor is great. But it tries to be a club. It produces cheap, thin beer so that college kids can drink plenty of it without filling their belly or emptying their wallet. The one saving grace - besides the building - is the food. It is definitely worth a stop for some top-notch bar grub.

bigkingken, Feb 05, 2010
Photo of BehindtheFinBrew
2.78/5  rDev -4.8%

While attending MSU I frequented Harpers for their half-off Wednesdays which were quite handy for a poor college student. This was my first trip back since I graduated.

The exterior is interesting with a nice view into the brewhouse as well as several outdoor seating options. The sign could use some updating as well as the paint. Upon entering there is an evident stench of old beer (and broken morals), undoubtedly spilled by the countless drunks the night before. There is a crowded feel to the main room with as many tables packed around a circular bar in the center as possible. They've even installed a second tap-area in the back corner since the last time I visited. Given the nice weather and foul stench, my group opted to sit outside.

The servers were friendly and mostly attentive, although my water glass was not refilled throughout the course of drinks and my meal. I purchased a flight and their so-called "Peppered burger," a burger topped with bleu cheese and pickled hops, the key to my selection. The flight, annoyingly brought in large white wine glasses, consisted of an American adjunct ale (Harpers Ale) clearly designed for the BMC crowd as it resembled Budweiser, their infamous Spartan Wheat, a Raspberry Wheat, a pale ale which had little balance and no maltiness as advertised, a seasonal Maibock, and what was claimed to be a milk stout. Not sure who was wrong, the brewer or the server, but that was no milk stout. Roasted malt bitterness was the prime character with little to no sweetness. The Maibock was honestly the only respectable beer had.

As for the food, my burger arrived topped with blue cheese but no pickled hops. After informing the server, I was told "Oh, I'm sorry we don't have anymore," and she quickly scurried off as if I was supposed to know this. I begrudgingly finished the burger sans hops, which all-in-all was fine but not what I ordered. I requested to speak to a manager as we left and after waiting for 3-4 minutes before he emerged I simply stated why I had ordered the burger, the waitresses indifference to my complaint, and that it should not be advertised as such if still being served. I was given a quick "Thank you for bringing this to my attention" as I walked out the door. Where's Gordon Ramsay when you need him? Some places just don't get it.

Harper's has great potential but all in all, they're out to make money and exploit the mind-less mass of students who don't care what goes in them, just as long as it get's 'em drunk. The beer is lack-luster as is the food. With a little more attention to detail Harper's could be a great local spot to be proud of. Instead, it's a place increasingly known for its mediocrity and a place I will never go again.

BehindtheFinBrew, Jun 18, 2009
Photo of MasonBeerMan
2.94/5  rDev +0.7%

Definitely a college bar first and brewpub second. The beer that I have had here is decent, nothing really has ever stood out. It seems to be made for the college kids. It is a nice place with ok service. I can't ever remember getting food here, but the times I have come, it was toward the end of the night, after drinking for quite awhile. This is not my type of bar, as I like laid back places, with real good selections. But if you like the college scene and decent beer, it is not a bad choice. I would go to Crunchy's or Dusty's first if I had to choose.

MasonBeerMan, Feb 26, 2009
Photo of jeremyd365
2.9/5  rDev -0.7%

I've lived in the relative area of this place for a long time but never realized it was a brewpub (not just a bar/restaurant) until now so I finally checked it out.

Place looked very nice outside and in--very new, clean, with brewing equipment on display inside. Very spacious inside also. I went when it wasn't busy at all so it was no problem finding a seat.

I only came to check out their homebrew selection and to catch up with some old friends. The selection seemed interesting but less dark beers than I had hoped for. I tried their Pale ale and was pretty pleased with it.

However, the service was horrible--especially for not even being busy at all. It took a long time for my party to place an order and then to actually receive the drinks. When mine came, it wasn't even what I ordered (it was some fruity beer that I had no interest in whatsoever). So once I finally got the beverage I wanted it was quite good.

The prices were really good, I had happened to come (unknowingly) on a day where all drinks were half off. So my pint of the good stuff was only $1.50. What a night to be the DD, right? So the cheap prices may have been partly to blame for the bad service, but not from what I've heard from others.

The atmosphere was nice, however it quickly go way too loud inside. Now, this place is a Restaurant and pub, so I was expecting to be able to converse and actually hear the other people that I came with, but no. A band started to play and they were so loud that I couldn't continue a conversation with my friend next to me. So we decided to then exit.

So all in all, Harper's has definite potential with their nice facility, seemingly quality brews (if there's a next time I'll have to try the food), and low prices. However, the service and volume made it unpleasant enough that I may take my time revisiting.

jeremyd365, Apr 02, 2008
Photo of toolbrew
2.73/5  rDev -6.5%

Harper's is a different brewpub than any other I've patronized. The atmosphere changes on a nightly basis. I've been there when it's been dead and when it's been packed to the gills with a long line out the door.

The beer there is so-so. I wasn't too impressed with anything they have to offer, but I can see where their clientele of college kids would be blown away.

Their service is lackluster - waitstaff just doesn't seem into what they are doing. If you go to the bar you can end up waiting 15 minutes before you get service.

Food wasn't bad. Better than typical bar fare.

If you go on a Wednesday night, everything (food and drinks) is half-off. You can get lots for little money, but you are there with all kinds of MSU students.

toolbrew, Mar 05, 2008
Photo of ElGrecoVerde
3.2/5  rDev +9.6%

The atmosphere here changes nightly, from a jazz club feel one night, to a college club the next, to a pool hall the next, etc. They have live bands a lot that vary greatly as well.

Overall quality is nice. I enjoyed going here on some of the slower nights. On busy nights, order your drinks three at a time because service disappears.

They usually have a decent selection of home brews ranging from wheats to stouts. Some are good, some aren't. They cater more toward the casual college drinker, so don't expect to get your socks blown off.

In the end, it's a light change from the typical bar scene. Not bad, and depending on the band, sometimes very enjoyable.

ElGrecoVerde, Feb 25, 2008
Photo of drxandy
2.88/5  rDev -1.4%

Harper's, very hit and miss. The selection lacks as is noted by other reviews, but I find myself coming back monthly or more to see if they've changed up their 2 seasonals. Last batch they had a delicious milk stout that was WELL worth a growler refill or two.

After visiting last evening, i've noticed that they currently have "Finnigans red" and a stout (which neither are as satisfying as i would have liked them to be). The red is pretty average and the stout tasted far too thin.

One of my favorite things about the place is the very reasonable prices, happy hour pints for $1.75, growlers at first fill for $9(i think) with refills being $5. I find myself coming every so often to get mine filled, pretty much only because it's the closest brewpub to me, and I find myself in the east lansing area fairly often.

Oh, one last note - it really is embarassing to go into a brewpub and have a majority of the people in there drinking bottles of domestic swill like bud/miller light.

drxandy, Feb 17, 2007
Photo of david131
2.13/5  rDev -27.1%

I had some high hopes for this establishment due to my friends loving this place. At first it didn't seem too bad- the lighting was low, it wasn't too smokey, the pool tables were a good distance from the main part of the restaurant/ bar. The bar sits near the middle with seating most of the way around and a massive screen shows the latest game or whatever. It is not too loud either.

The beers were served in thick, opaque plastic cups, but sometimes I got lucky and got a glass one. The food was not too impressive, mine was served pretty cold, but at least the meat quality was decent. For being as large as they were, I was surprised at what little selection there was- in terms of beer. There was a pale ale, a wheat beer, a raspberry wheat, a porter, a red ale, and an export stout. I was kind of hoping for something just a little more exotic. Oh well.

I saved the worst for last. I was absolutely appalled at the service. From when I first walked in and was asked for my ID and asked for cover I was treated like I was there to cause trouble. The waitress we had tried pretty hard and did alright most of the time, considering it was her first night. Things did seem to get out of hand though when she lost my friends credit card and then the manager proceeded to tell us that it was found but it was locked in the office and he would have to come back tomorrow to retrieve it. So then when we were ready to leave, we had to wait about half an hour for our bills and the bus boy was making snide comments at us for not leaving. I have to say I have never been treated like that at a restaurant and I will never be going back. I will end the review here to keep it clean.

david131, Feb 12, 2007
Photo of HopHobo
2.48/5  rDev -15.1%

This is a brewpub that I used to frequent when I was in college at Michigan State University. It is actually the first bar I ever went after turning 21. Basically, Harpers is a high end bar for East Lansing, with menu prices that can reach over $30 for a meal. Most of the food is not what you would typically expect from a bar. They always have 6 beers on tap with the ability to buy any domestic you want. Four beers are mainstays (Spartan Wheat, Grove Street Pale Ale, a Lager and a Rasberry wheat). The other 2 beers are rotated prolly ever couple of months to keep things interesting. Some of there beers are good and some are bad....I would say that there wheat is pretty good, the pale ale is kind of weak, the lager tastes like a Labatt or similar and the Rasberry wheat is extremly sweet ( I can only stomache like one of these). The bar itself is really nice and big with a nice size patio. I have never been impressed with the service at Harpers mainly because they hire college students based on there looks not there experience. The have been times when I've had to wait over 45 minutes to get a beer...basically your better off walking to the bar and hoping the bartender can squeeze you in for a drink, in between serving pretty girls. The best night to go to Harpers is Wednesday when everything is half off. However, you better believe that everyone in EL is there so its really, really busy. If your in East Lansing in the summer the crowd isn't as bad (no students). Friday has also become a good night to go because pints start at $1.50 and go up $0.50 every hour and a half. Regardless the most you'll spend on a beer is $3.

HopHobo, Oct 12, 2006
Photo of GregoryVII
2.2/5  rDev -24.7%

The patio is excellent in the summer, as just about any patio with beer is. The inside is fine during the day when it isn't too crowded, but at night they have one too many cover bands and a distinct college "frat" atmosphere, evidenced by such colorful prefixes to their beers as "Burning Couch." Their beers are usually solid, if not spectacular, but they have had more than their fair share of failures. Their Raspberry Wheat is a crime against beer. When they made their version of Poor Richard's Ale it was well worth the money and their Summer Wheat is usually refreshing. Grove Street Pale Ale is another consistently good brew. Other than that, their service tends to border on horrible thanks to a rotating shuffle of new and untrained staff.

GregoryVII, Jun 23, 2006
Photo of mattcrill
3.75/5  rDev +28.4%

Despite it's mediocre reviews, I really enjoyed this place. We had a nice evening on the deck. The inside was dead but the bar and the brewing equipment looked impressive. Service was a little slow but the waitress was nice enough and we weren't in a hurry. The tap list seemed a little "dumbed down" as others have said. A hefe, raspberry hefe, a light beer, a pale ale, and their foreign export stout. All misses for me except for the export stout. That was a solid offering and the brewer should build on that. Our dinner salads were a little overpriced but nicely done. Overall, it's worth the stop if you know what you are looking for. Definitely in the thick of the college scene but I'd go back again.

mattcrill, Apr 29, 2006
Photo of Silphium
3.45/5  rDev +18.2%

I expected something a bit smaller and out-of-the-way before moving to Lansing. Much to my surprise, this place is huge, and a popular destination. There were ~7 beers on tap, and they were weighted towards the "light" end of the spectrum, unfortunately. That said, the three beers I tried were respectable. The food was mediocre and overpriced, unfortunately. Part of the fun is pulling into the lot across the street (you'll pay ~$3) and finding the last remaining parking space before the person following you has a chance to pull into the opening. Heh heh. Overall, Harper's is worth another visit, despite its bourgeouise atmosphere.

Silphium, Apr 19, 2005
Photo of nortmand
3.25/5  rDev +11.3%

Harper's is an interesting phenomenon. It is a brewpub nestled among a dozen of so Busch bars in the heart of a Big Ten college town. They have a great brewer, who incidentally used to brew for MBC, who is not given alot of artistic license. Probably their best beer is their light, which is actually a very well done Kolsch. The Pale Ale is nice, and some of their rotating beers are pretty good too. Their beer is pretty accessible to most, but it's better than the bar that it replaced. Also they serve bottles of macros, which breweries are not supposed to do.
The service is TERRIBLE and has this reputation. If you go, sit at the bar. It's the only way to get prompt service. I went there with a group of about 8 and they had some kind of pub crawl passing through in a side room, so all of their waitstaff concentrated on them. They put a white shirt on one of their kitchen staff to serve us and he barely spoke English. One person asked for their trippel and the waiter said "I'll see if they can make that." He didn't know that it was one of their six on tap beers.
They rotate beers outside of their normal 4 pretty slowly, and the food is pretty good.

nortmand, May 27, 2004
Photo of yen157
3.84/5  rDev +31.5%

Huge place. Harper's must make a fortune being right in the downtown area adjacent to the MSU campus. Clean, contemporary brewpub look with their highly polished copper behind glass and a tidy sprawl of tables-for-four with a bar (very big) a few steps lower in the middle of the place. Fun place when they have a band.

The beer was what I would expect for a college town: lackluster. Solid, well-made brews, but nothing I'd want to take home in a growler (not even sure if they offer beer to go). They offer a variety of styles ranging from Lite toThey know that they are in a college town and as a result they can get away with serving uninspired beer. At least the young, naive patrons can have a good expereince with fresh, hand-crafter beer.

yen157, Dec 02, 2002
Harper's Restaurant & Brewpub in East Lansing, MI
76 out of 100 based on 20 ratings.