The beer history of St. Louis is long and storied, in the early 1900’s St. Louis, Missouri was home to as many as 100 breweries. Some of the names were lions in the Beer Industry: Lemp, Falstaff, Griesedieck, and Anheuser Busch among others. The brewing business thrived here until January 16, 1919, the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, which allowed for prohibition. Soon thereafter, Congress passed the Volstead Act and the dark ages of prohibition set in. During this time, few breweries were able to survive financially, and many of the well known breweries began to shutter. Proud brewing cities like St. Louis, Cincinnati and Milwaukee were hit especially hard. Several breweries tried making everything from cabinets to bakers yeast, yet only Anheuser Busch survived the drought from 1919 until the ratification of the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1933, which repealed prohibition.
Anheuser Busch managed to survive and flourish in St. Louis, Missouri in the years after prohibition, becoming the first brewery to distribute beer nationally. As “The Brewery” (As it is known in St. Louis to locals) grew, so did its ties to the community. People in St. Louis grew up dreaming of working at “The Brewery.” No other production breweries even existed in the St. Louis area until 1991 when Tom Schlafly and Dan Kopman founded the St. Louis Brewery, which brews beer under the Schlafly name. These gentlemen had their work cut out for them though because the average St. Louisan exhibited extreme brand loyalty to “The Brewery.”
The landscape changed again on June 12, 2008, when a bombshell exploded on the St. Louis beer scene. Anheuser-Busch, the American icon had been sold to the Belgian/Brazilian company InBev. Many St. Louisans lamented that a part of the city had died. By all accounts, this was tantamount to the Apocalypse in St. Louis. Could the city recover from this devastation? Would InBev shut down the world’s largest brewery? While the citizens of the city were lamenting this terrible event, several craft brewers saw opportunity. Perhaps now the city would not be as brand loyal to Anheuser Busch if there were good alternatives.
In the aftermath of the InBev sale, several craft brewers are now flourishing in the St. Louis area. Among these fine purveyors of local craft brews are Schlafly, The Morgan Street Brewery, Square One Brewing, Cathedral Square Brewing, Urban Chestnut Brewing, Six Row Brewing, Kirkwood Highlands Brewing (Soon to be renamed, see here), Ferguson Brewing, The Stable/Amalgamated Brewing Company, Buffalo Brewing, Augusta Brewing, O’Fallon Brewing, Trail Head Brewing, and an outpost of the chain Granite City Brewing. Several new breweries will be debuting later this year as well, such as Exit 6 Brewing, Perennial Artisan Ales, The Civil Life Brewing and 4 Hands Brewing. So what happened to cause this shift from a one brewery city to a hotbed of craft beer activity?
I would suggest that three independent causes contributed to this shift in the beer mentality of this river city.
First, the InBev purchase of Anheuser Busch ended many peoples’ blind brand loyalty to Budweiser and other Anheuser Busch products. For the first time in almost a century, St. Louis was willing to try something new.
Second, the craft beer revolution in the United States was going full tilt at the time of the Anheuser Busch sale. This momentum swept right into a city who had a void to fill.
Third, St. Louis simply returned to its brewing roots. It was a huge beer city before prohibition. Most of the production was light German and Austrian lagers because a large portion of the population had emigrated from Germany.
I believe that a combination of these factors created a perfect storm which has turned St. Louis into one of the top beer cities in the United States. I suggest a trip to St. Louis for any beer geek. Just like most places you will find the people working the tasting rooms and brewpubs to be friendly and eager to talk about their beer.
Are you a beer geek? Use the links below to plan your trip:
St. Louis, MO
Where to Stay close to the beer:
Luxury: The Four Seasons, The Chase Park Plaza
Mid-Range: Hilton at the Ballpark, Marriott Union Station, Hyatt Regency
Value: Hampton Inn Laclede’s Landing, Drury Inn Convention Center
Local Brews to Try:
Schlafly – American IPA
Urban Chestnut – Winged Nut
Six Row – Whale
Morgan Street Brewery – Golden Pilsner
Square One Brewery – APA
Cathedral Square – Hail Mary Belgian IPA