In it’s fifth year, the St. Louis Brewer’s Heritage Festival once again successfully hosted a celebration of the Midwest city’s rich brewing history. The popular festival, held in early June, was housed in the middle of Central Fields at Forest Park, with three enormous white tents set-up in the wide open space. My boyfriend and I attended the first session (out of three) Friday night. After checking in, receiving our tasting glasses and fest guides, we decided to walk around and scope out the set-up.
The largest tent held the 17 local breweries’ 80+ beer styles in booth after booth along the back of the tent. The second largest tent held four local restaurants’ fare, and the third tent held the five homebrewer associations’ offerings. Despite the large crowd forming near the homebrews, this is where we began our samplings. Serving out of coolers and behind homemade signage for the rotating cast of drafts, the homebrew tent had the most energy and the most interesting submissions. One stand out was a Wheat Wine, or as it was described to me “like a barleywine brewed with wheat instead of barley.” We tasted several other unique choices before heading to the big tent.
Under the big tent, the local breweries are identified by name, but their beers are only identified by the style; “Island Lager”, “Fruit Beer”. Though the crowds under the tent are large and tended to congregate near the booths instead of out near the cocktail tables at the entrances, finding a beer to sample wasn’t difficult, as the lines were almost non-existent. Starting on the lighter side of the tent, for us, it was more important to take advantage of so many new styles being in one place than trying everything, especially the ones with which we knew we were already familiar. It was fairly easy as a native St. Louisian to recognize many of the brand names by their ‘beer styles’, such as AB’s “Island Lager,” or Bud Light Lime, and Schlafly’s “Fruit Beer,” or their Raspberry Hefeweizen.
There were a ton of different beer styles available, allowing attendees to stick with a certain style, or try something new. I enjoyed the lagers, wheats, witbiers and stouts. For Brad, it was the ales, pale ales, and IPAs.
Every year, the breweries are given a recipe bill and asked to brew the same style as a festival beer. This gives attendees the chance to see how the same style and recipe can be different from each brewery. This year’s recipe was a “Belgian-style Dubbel,” and five breweries came armed with their version. One St. Louis’ newest breweries, Urban Chestnut, was my favorite of the five.
The event was clearly a success. The live music kept the atmosphere even more lively than a beer fest might already assume, and the heat didn’t effect anyone too much – as long as you made it outside of the hot air trapping tent once in awhile. We may not have made it all the way through the line of booths (I missed my beloved stouts), but we were able to sample plenty of new discoveries. It certainly added a few more local breweries to our list to visit in the future.