Harper's Restaurant & Brewpub
Active Beers: 7
Beer Ratings: 36
Beer Avg: 3.25
Taps: - / Bottles: -
Cask: / Beer-to-Go: N
Ratings: 17 | Reviews: 17
Reviews by bigkingken:
2.6/5 rDev -11.6%
vibe: 3 | quality: 2 | service: 2.5 | selection: 2.5 | food: 4.5 | $
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.
02-05-2010 19:16:13 | More by bigkingken
More User Reviews:
2.83/5 rDev -3.7%
vibe: 2 | quality: 3 | service: 2.5 | selection: 3 | food: 3.5 | $
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.
07-25-2012 18:20:16 | More by spartan1979
3.65/5 rDev +24.1%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 2.5 | selection: 4 | $$
I find myself surprised with the other reviews that I see here. My guess is that people don't understand that if you go into the downtown of a college town you will find college bars, even if they are brewpubs. I find the atmosphere great for a college bar and loved how it was smoke-free before the rest of Michigan. Their brews are usually pretty good, though some are not the greatest, but you can never go wrong with the Grove Street or Spartan Wheat. Wednesday is definitely the day to go with half off basically everything. I find the food pretty good for a bar also, though didn't rate it as I have not had enough of it to know well.
The one negative thing I can say about Harper's is that the service is terrible any time that they are somewhat busy, but that just means to buy pitchers instead of pints or just go straight to the bar, same as most college bars.
So to conclude if you want a college bar that is a brewpub, Harper's is perfect, but don't go if you arn't ready for a bar with lots of college kids, drinking, and a DJ or live music that is often loud.
06-08-2010 01:12:57 | More by Spiekerbox
2.78/5 rDev -5.4%
vibe: 2.5 | quality: 3 | service: 2.5 | selection: 3 | food: 2.5 | $$$
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.
06-18-2009 22:19:22 | More by BehindtheFinBrew
2.94/5 rDev 0%
vibe: 2.5 | quality: 3 | service: 3 | selection: 3 | $$
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.
02-26-2009 14:22:47 | More by MasonBeerMan
2.9/5 rDev -1.4%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 1 | selection: 3 | $
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.
04-02-2008 02:42:57 | More by jeremyd365
2.73/5 rDev -7.1%
vibe: 3 | quality: 3 | service: 2 | selection: 2.5 | food: 4 | $
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.
03-05-2008 05:01:10 | More by toolbrew
3.2/5 rDev +8.8%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 3.5 | service: 2.5 | selection: 3.5 | food: 3 | $$$
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.
02-25-2008 19:41:50 | More by ElGrecoVerde
2.31/5 rDev -21.4%
vibe: 3 | quality: 3 | service: 2 | selection: 1.5 | $$
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.
11-11-2007 15:39:27 | More by CortexBomb
2.88/5 rDev -2%
vibe: 4 | quality: 3.5 | service: 2 | selection: 2.5 | $
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.
02-17-2007 15:28:13 | More by drxandy
Harper's Restaurant & Brewpub in East Lansing, MI
77 out of 100 based on 17 ratings.