Craft breweries aren't hard to come by in St. Louis -- and thank goodness for that -- but Denny Foster found it's a little different in Festus. The nearest brewery was 45 minutes away, and it's primarily a bottling and distribution center. Enter Main & Mill Brewery (240 East Main Street, Festus; 314-603-0924).
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"We're not too naïve to think we can have a brewery that's all focused on high-alcohol beers and barrel-aged programs and things like that," Foster tells Gut Check. "We're wanting to have a very approachable take on craft beer, initially and for the foreseeable future, to make sure the community embraces what we're doing, and we want to evolve with the community's palate."
Main & Mill has just launched a fundraising campaign using Dreamfund.me, a local startup, rather than Kickstarter. "They launched the same day we did, and we're trying to stay local with everything as much as we can -- they're from Chesterfield," Foster says. Main & Mill isn't quite halfway through its fundraising time frame yet, and Foster says it has been going pretty well so far.
"We're putting more money in the building than the appraiser's going to say it's worth when we're done. We're doing this [campaign] to bridge that gap," he says. "it's a lot of money and we're hoping it's successful, obviously, because it will be really helpful in getting our doors open in a respectable time frame."
For the past three years Foster has worked at Crown Valley Brewery (13326 State Route F, Ste. Genevieve; 573-756-9463); he started out as a volunteer. "I have a background in finance, not so much in brewing," Foster says. "I had this whole idea that I kinda wanted to start a brewpub in mind, but I wanted to make sure I had the background to do it and make sure it's something I really wanted to do, too."
At Crown Valley, Foster studied under Carl Wiersma and Jim Crone, who came from Anheuser-Busch and Pabst, respectively. He worked on his Main & Mill business plan for six months before getting his father, Barry, on board. They bought an 1880s brick building in Festus and have been working on it for months.
Foster is intent on maintaining the integrity of the original building with exposed brick (that's been covered with concrete for decades) and the two-story layout, which has been used since it was built. It will need a new roof, though, as there was a fire some years ago that wasn't repaired correctly. Hopefully that will happen in the next few weeks, when the building will be completely open -- last year the bad roof did little to keep out snow.
As for the beers, Main & Mill will start with a lighter beer and then focus on maltier brews.
"What we're really wanting to do in Festus is make a place that's really approachable for anybody that really likes beer in any way," Foster says. "Once you get somebody's mind changed that craft beer isn't something they can't drink but something that's really good, then the whole gamut of every beer starts opening up and you allow yourself to start going through liking porters and liking stouts, and you start getting into the bitter beers and evolving."
Still, Foster warns that Main & Mill won't just be "craft beer for beginners." He plans a little bit of something for everyone.
"We're hoping to have a barrel room open before we open, so we're hoping to have some special releases for people who are really into craft beer already," Foster promises. "We'll have some barrel-aged beers, high-alcohol beers, every once in a while, special releases. We'll have an IPA on tap -- things like that for people that really love craft beer."
The Fosters are aiming for a May opening date, or possibly even earlier than that depending on funding. Reaching the $40,000 Dreamfund.me goal is something they hope actually happens, but doors are opening either way -- they'll just have to find another avenue.
"This will have everybody that's involved get a feeling of ownership and feel like they had a hand in getting us started and off the ground," Foster says. "Fifteen dollars is a lot of help in the grand scheme of things. It's showing us support, too, and we'll really try to do everything we can to show our gratitude for people that are donating it. It gets the community activated and involved."