An able St. Louisan who doesn't indulge in the occasional craft brew is nearly as blasphemous as a vegetarian in Memphis. (Although we commend the willpower of each.) And with our city's grandiose community of local breweries, diving into this Midwestern microcosm of beer culture can be overwhelming or kid-in-a-candy-store enthralling, depending on whether you look at that golden, foamy pint as half empty or half full.
Enter St. Louis Craft Beer Week, a festival including 60 events (and counting) at more than 30 locations. Now in its fourth year, the festival serves as an inclusive introduction to the area's hoppy offerings; think of it as a condensed session of Craft Beer 101, but unlike in college, the drinking focuses on quality, not quantity.
Michael Sweeney started the festival in 2009, before the Lou's brewing boom had found its footing. Sweeney had been operating STL Hops, a blog highlighting the local burgeoning beer culture, when he decided the scene needed a corresponding festival.
"When we started it, we didn't have the influx of breweries that we have now," Sweeney explains. "You didn't have all these new local guys opening up. That's changed how this has all gone down." Naturally the festival has flourished with the community it fosters, and St. Louis Craft Beer Week has more than doubled in size since its inception.
Most of the week's events are free, therefore the only involved expenses are for the brews you choose to consume. (And tipping your beertenders, of course.) And while the drinking of beer is obviously a large part of the festival's focus, the educational aspects remain at the forefront.
Learn about the production of small-batch liquid gold throughout the week, beginning with "B33r and Brats" at 33 Wine Shop and Tasting Bar (1919 Park Avenue; 314-231-9463) where Guerrilla Street Food will serve up brats to pair with 33's impressive beer menu. Other festival highlights include the first ever Midwest Belgian Beer Festival at Perennial Artisan Ales (8125 Michigan Avenue; 314-631-7300), featuring Belgian beer varieties from more than 25 breweries. The festival-within-a-festival takes place from 3 to 7 p.m. on Saturday, July 28; tickets are $35.
Fancy yourself an inebriation aficionado? Test your knowledge at Beer Geek Trivia Night, hosted by Bridge Tap House & Wine Bar (1004 Locust Street; 314-241-8141). $10 per person nets ten rounds of trivia with questions focusing on St. Louis' rich craft beer history as well as a blind tasting of beers. International Tap House in Soulard (1711 South Ninth Street; 314-621-4333) embraces alliteration for its free Firkin Fest at noon on Saturday, August 4, with two new casks tapped every two hours. On Sunday, August 5, Bridge also hosts the Schurcipefones Closing Ceremonies from Noon to 6 p.m. At this event, $25 gets you unlimited samples of beers crafted especially for the festival made by Schlafly, Charleville, Urban Chestnut, Civil Life, Perennial, Four Hands, New Belgium and 2nd Shift.