“Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy”
Poor Richard was probably one of America’s first microbrewers. It was rumored that he was rather fond of the brew, believed it kept a man stout and healthy. By the 1970’s the beer scene in America was becoming a very boring one. The different traditions and styles brought here by immigrants from all over the world were disappearing. Only light lager appeared on supermarket shelves and in bars. Flat, tasteless low calorie light lagers began shaping the taste of American beer drinkers. By the end of the 70’s there were only 44 brewing companies left, and the experts predicted that soon there would only be 5. In response to this, there was a small, but growing, grassroots home brewing culture emerging. A few of these home brewing aficionados decided to start their own small brewing companies. A lot of these started in pubs. The tanks were in the back and it gave an ideal way to sell the beer fresh up front.
The 1980’s was truly the decade of the micro brewing pioneers. In a time when the industry experts refused to recognize them as a serious threat, the pioneering companies stuck to their vision with a passion and overcame adverse market conditions to carve out a niche that is unique to America. By the year 2000 there were 1,392 breweries in the United States. Though still only a small (about 3-4%) share of total beer sales, the American Craft Beer industry has never lost market share since 1978. Here are some of the best microbreweries in the St. Louis area and some of their best seasonal brews:
The St. Louis Brewery-Schlafly Beer.
In 1991, Anheuser-Busch had brewing plants in 12 cities and produced enough beer to fill 28 billion bottles. That same year a burned out building in downtown St, Louis not far from Busch was resurrected as the city’s first new brewery in five decades and Schlafly Beer was born. The brewery currently brews a wide range of traditional and seasonal beers.
Scotch Ale (January) This big, malty ale is dark and sweet with enough strength to make it a winter warmer. (A lot of winter brews are higher in alcohol content, some up to 10%. Most regular beers are about 5% alcohol.)
Chocolate Porter (February 14th) Just in time for Valentine’s Day, this rich and sweet chocolaty deep-brown ale uses real cocoa in its ingredients.
Smoked Porter (January) One of my favorite seasonal beers, this porter is mild, with rich, roasty overtones. It blends well with the subtle, smooth flavor of the smoked malt.
Poor Richard’s Ale (January) This could be very similar to the type of beer that Old Ben may have fancied. A well-rounded moderately strong ale.
Boulevard Brewing Company-Kansas City, Missouri.
Founded in 1989, Boulevard Brewing Company has grown to be the largest specialty brewer in the Midwest. They have four different beers year-round: Pale Ale, Unfiltered Wheat Beer, Bully Porter, and Dry Stout. Their seasonal beers include Irish Ale in the spring, ZON in the summer, Bob’s 47 in the fall and their winter brew, Nutcracker Ale. The Nutcracker Ale is deep amber in color with an almost-sweet molasses flavor. The ale uses salty hops for a perfect balance.
Flat Branch Pub and Brewing Company.
Flat Branch opened its doors in 1994 in historic Columbia, Missouri. Flat Branch gets its name from a nearby creek, which was the water source for the town’s first settlers. Here are some of their best seasonal offerings:
Old Cave Dweller Barley Wine. (February) Barley Wine is a rich winter ale that is equally a dessert beer. It is very nicely balanced and brewed more toward the American style with a dark copper color and a hoppy taste. The finish is semi-dry and not quite as sweet as other Barley Wines. The alcohol content is 9.5%, which makes this a very good winter warmer.
Bare Knuckle Bock. This is a true dopple bock. Bare Knuckle is smooth and rich with lots of malt flavor
Winter Spice Ale. This is a rich and malty brown ale with lots of spice added. Cinnamon, nutmeg, and some others that they won’t tell you about make for a nutty, raison, and current flavor. A great beer for the Holidays.