You Should Know About This Annual St. Louis Wolpertinger Beer Festival
Every year, Urban Chestnut Brewing Company in St. Louis opens its bierhall to celebrate their anniversary with its Wolpertinger Beer Festival. UCBC turned seven this year, welcoming more than 35 breweries to showcase their mainstays and seasonal specials Sunday, January 21.
Even the atmosphere of UCBC’s Grove Brewery & Bierhall felt effervescent. Countless beer-lovers milled throughout the facility holding glasses filled with shades of amber, goldenrod and deep maroon, the air heavy with the tantalizing aroma of butter and salt.
The brewers were jovial and eager to chat about the offerings. St. Nicholas Brewing Company in Illinois promoted a seasonal Pale Ale, Charleville Brewing Company & Tavern celebrated the recent opening of a new location near Lafayette Square, and O’Fallon Brewery explained the hops behind the Chinook’s unique flavor.
The Wolpertinger festival is a yearly highlight for those in the industry. Brewmaster Brian Owens, who was the first paid employee at O’Fallon Brewery sixteen years ago, stepped in to personally pour their samples for Wolpertinger 2018. He proudly described watching their operation grow from a tiny home-brew system to a fully automated facility. “We’re a small family,” he said.
Crowds wandered in front of multiple booths, talking animatedly and chewing on homespun pretzel necklaces strung on multicolored ribbon. Special guest La Cumbre Brewing Company brought seven unique brews to UCBC’s taps all the way from Albuquerque, New Mexico, and further down the bar, a pair of antlers sprouted from the tap of UCBC’s anniversary brew, a delicious barley wine appropriately named the Wolpertinger 2018. A man sauntered around in embroidered lederhosen and a tasseled fedora.
Exploring the recesses of the brewery felt like roaming a museum after-hours. In the packaging hall, intricate machines made of red metal lie dormant, cordoned off with caution tape. Tall glass windows saturate the space with natural light, an example of the building’s emphasis on sustainability, for which it received a LEED Certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).
Since opening their midtown brewpub in 2011, UCBC has established two more outposts in St. Louis, including the Grove location and the U.R.B. (Urban Research Brewery) just across the street. The U.R.B. houses a pilot brewery and a New York-style pizza counter, which just recently earned a spot on Sauce Magazine’s Best New Restaurants of 2017.
The crowd perked up its ears as the garage door shielding the packaging hall from Manchester Avenue ascended with a rattle. From behind the corrugated metal—like an action hero emerging from a cloud of fire and smoke—the Wolpi entered the hall in a wheelchair, his arrival heralded by an eight-piece band. The crowd closed in around him, cheering and hollering as the tuba tooted the unmistakable notes, “Oompa, loompa, loompety do.” The mythological winged, fanged jackalope—Wolpertinger’s mascot—had been parking himself at mysterious locations around town all week to give away tickets for the event to whomever could solve the day’s riddle. As the band broke out into a rousing, funky anthem, the Wolpi bounded out of his wheelchair and began to dance. The crowd cheered with delight.
As the evening wound down, brewers began to pack their kegs into the vans idling in the parking lot, clapping each other on the back and discussing their standouts of the day.
Someone summed it up: “I love this community.”