St. Louis beer lovers, rejoice!
Having entered the local brewing scene a scant two years ago, Urban Chestnut Brewing Company (3229 Washington Avenue; 314-222-0143) announced a major expansion earlier this week that, when completed, will make the craft brewery the second-largest overall beer producer, and largest craft brewery, in town.
The plan involves a $10 million investment in a new central facility to be located near the Grove neighborhood, with an initial production expectation of roughly 15,000 barrels annually -- though output will increase significantly in the coming years with the potential to kick-out 100,000 barrels, or double the current capabilities of the Schlafly Bottleworks (7260 Southwest Avenue, Maplewood; 314-241-2337). The augmentation is momentous given that 2012's overall production came in at about 4,000 barrels.
UCBC has targeted 70,000 square feet of space located at 4465 Manchester Avenue, the site of the former Renard Paper Company, to house the new brewery, with expectations pointing toward an opening date sometime in early 2014. UCBC is partnering with the Green Street St. Louis real estate firm to ensure the renovation is LEED certified (i.e., an environmentally friendly "green" project). A UCBC spokesman Gut Check managed to corner for comment (it wasn't easy) stresses that "the goal was to stay in the city" and says the brewer considers the Grove to be "an exciting, developing neighborhood." Beyond the brewery itself, UBCB foresees an onsite, indoor/outdoor tasting room, which figures to blend in nicely with the south-city area's burgeoning commercial activity.
Ownership at UCBC expressed excitement and optimism, not just for its own future but also for the local beer scene in general. Last year 95 percent of the brewery's sales were local, suggesting a robust and growing market of beer consumers -- no surprise, given the city's ongoing craft-beer renaissance.
Along with UCBC's growth, the local-beer scene continues to thrive, with several craft-brewery projects in the works. But the question of oversaturation doesn't seem to be a concern. The UCBC spokesman believes that "breweries in St. Louis have tons of room to grow," and points to Denver and Portland, Oregon, where multiple breweries fruitfully coexist on the same block.
Those concerned about the future of the brewery's current location on Washington Avenue in midtown and its popular outdoor beer garden can rest easy. UCBC intends to maintain the site primarily for future testing and small-batch experimenting. In addition, the company emphasizes its continued goal of creating a dual identity, one of reverence and revolution: a mix of the old world, exemplified by the brewery's German tradition, and innovation, which is best signified by the modern-style project now in the works.
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