A sunny day in Saint Louis with temperatures in the 70s brought out thirsty beer fans to the 2000 beer festival at Saint Louis Brewery Tap Room. Advance ticket sales topped 800, nearly three times the 1999 figure, with total attendance pushing 11,000. The brewery's west parking lot was put to good use as tables and chairs joined the stage and the large tasting tent, all set up to accommodate the appreciative crowd. Three bands entertained throughout the day with music ranging from swing to funk to disco. A bagpipe band even accompanied the ceremonial tapping of the special cask-conditioned beer. The band often practices at the brewery and celebrates Burn's birthday over pints of the house Scotch Ale. FM-101 broadcast live radio coverage and encouraged listeners to visit and partake in the festivities. Staff and volunteers ran the food booths offering Wurst - $4, Jumbo Cocktail Shrimp 4/$3, and House Pretzels - $1. Smoking cigars and cigarettes was allowed but didn't prove too bothersome. Rinse buckets were plentiful as was bottled water and pitchers of water. Port-a-Potties were wisely place a distance away on a nearby lot.
Tom Schlafly has created a great festival model that could be emulated by other small brewpubs around the country to bring widespread exposure to the house beers in a self-sufficient fashion. Kegs of each brew are set aside throughout the year and brought out for this one occasion where patrons can sample the year's brews all in one setting. The Winter Seasonal was amber, with a nice malty aroma and flavor, medium body and light hoppiness along with a smooth bitterness. The Smoked Porter was very smoky, with a dry maltiness and slight phenolics. The Belgian Trippel was surprisingly crisp. The Nut Brown offered a medium body with a nice mouthfeel and smooth, dry maltiness. The Oktoberfest was very dry but with a rich (Munich?) maltiness. The IPA also had a rich malty flavor that was dominated by its hops. The Dortmunder presented an overall dry, malty flavor. The Wet Mountain IPA is contract-brewed for Il Vicino restaurants and featured a great pronounced hop flavor with supporting big maltiness and body. The Alt was true to style as a dry, malty brew with good mouthfeel. The Dunkelweizen was a hazy amber with a slight clove aroma and flavor. Light-bodied, it had a smooth mouthfeel, hint of chocolate, and a dry finish. The Welsh Ale showed a medium body, amber color, nice malt-over-hop flavor, and overall impressive ale drinkability. The Porter offered dark malt characteristics with a flavor balance toward the dry side. The Barley Wine had mellowed very well, with the alcohol complementing the big maltiness. The Kolsch was crisp and light, with its medium body and smooth mouthfeel making it a perfect summer thirst quencher. The nice Maibock was very clean, with its dry, malty flavor supported by a mellow sweetness. The Schwartzbier was a deep brown with a dry maltiness matched with a slight hop bitterness. The Belgian Dubble was a hazy dark amber, with a medium body, smooth mouthfeel, nice malty sweetness, and overall estery character. The Wit Bier appeared crisp, light and dry, as if coriander might be a contributing factor. The Irish Stout was pushed by CO2 but still had a creamy head, medium body and clean, even flavor balance. The Papal Porter was a special event beer done in honor of the Pope's visit to St. Louis. There are no plans to resurrect this one.
A behind-the-scenes look at the brewhouse is afforded those who sign up for the brewery tours every fifteen minutes throughout the saturday afternoon event. A merchandise booth offers souvenirs for visitors and also helps offset the costs of putting on such an intense event. Everyone gets involved, but their positive attitude shows that they're having fun and the staff both enjoy beer and enjoy their work. Persistence seems to have won out as the brewery now gets actual support from the City for their event. Unlike in the past when the City would appear on scene to ticket weekend festival visitors, downtown parking meters are now marked FREE PARKING in support of this business event. Having fought hard to obtain the first "micro" license in Missouri (Boulevard is technically a regional) the Saint Louis Brewery remains in the forefront of fighting for equitable treatment of hard-working breweries who make less beer in a year than is spilled by the world's largest beer factory, also located in St. Louis. Don't miss the 2001 Hop in the City event planned for September 15, 2001.
Reviewed by Tom Ciccateri -