The craft beer scene continues to grow by hops and bounds.
The independent craft beer community has permeated St. Louis, creating a bumper crop of talented brewers—and just like foam on a good ale, they’re rising quickly and spilling over into new venues throughout the metro area.
Take Lauren Pattan and James Rogalsky of The Old Bakery Beer Company, the first craft brewery in Alton, IL. Both Pattan and her husband learned the business behind the scenes at Urban Chestnut: Pattan worked as the general manager of both UCBC locations and husband Rogalsky was an assistant brewer. The couple is hoping to tap into a niche with all-American, organic ingredients in their beers and a unique industrial setting in the former bakery from which the company takes its name.
Pattan says they weren’t initially looking to locate in their hometown of Alton, but when they toured the bakery, they knew it was the right place for their brewery and restaurant. After a year of rehab work (“The whole building had to be sandblasted; all new electric and drainage had to be added,” she says), plus the licensing process, the pair hopes to be open by early 2015. They’ll have four beers on tap: wheat IPA, rye pale ale, mild brown ale and American-style pilsner, plus a constant stream of seasonals and experimental brews.
On the southern end of the metro area, in Festus, another fully rehabbed space now houses the Main & Mill Brewing Co. Denny Foster, former brewing production manager at Crown Valley Brewing, is in the process of opening the venture with his father, intitally offering a coffee stout, pumpkin dark ale, India pale ale and a light blonde ale.
They’re two examples of what industry watchers say is a continuing strong market for innovative craft beers. Old Bakery and Main & Mill both have the added advantage of geography—Main & Mill, for example, is Jefferson County’s first new commercial brewery in more than 120 years.
And then there are those that have forged a place within the city limits. Modern Brewery has done it with beers like Citropolis, a citrus-scented American ale that debuted in August, and Mon Pre?cieux, a Belgian golden strong/tripel hybrid. Unlike some of the competition, owner Beamer Eisele and Vice President of Brewing Operations Ronnie Fink didn’t come up through the local ranks. They both have degrees from the Master Brewers Program at the University of California-Davis and have worked in the industry in other cities.
While all craft brewers have in-house capacity to brew their own beers, Chesterfield-based Brew Hub is betting that the ever-growing market will cause demand to outpace supply enough that microbrewers will need to operate at full capacity soon. The company’s $20 million regional craft brewery operation will be up and running by 2016 with the ability to turn out 75,000 barrels, or 1 million cases, each year.
In the meantime, at least two local craft brewers have big expansions in the works. Two-and-a-half-year-old 4 Hands Brewing Company has upped production to 24,000 barrels a year, and O’Fallon Brewery—already the city’s second largest—is increasing annual output to 25,000 barrels next spring, adding a tasting room and more than doubling its staff.
But for now, having a capacity shortage is still a dream for Pattan and others who are just opening. Old Bakery, for example, has a 15-barrel brewing system and several 15- and 30-barrel fermenters.
“It’s hard to tell if the market is saturated because the craft beer market is increasing every year,” she says. And with Old Bakery’s focus on sustainability—including reclaimed wood furniture from eco-conscious, trendsetting builder Mwanzi—plus organic American ingredients, being different will no doubt help them to ride the current wave of industry newcomers.
Photos by David Vassalli
4 Hands Brewing Company