by Nancy Stiles
The St. Louis Brewers Guild is celebrating its eighth annual festival, and, much to our delight, there are more and more breweries every time. This year, there will be over twenty local breweries and more than one hundred different beers to try, plus local vendors, live music and local home brewing clubs, too.
"There's a great [brewing] community, and we like to celebrate together," Schlafly ambassador brewer and president of the St. Louis Brewers Guild Stephen Hale tells Gut Check.
There are a few changes this year -- Hale says they wanted to stir things up. Instead of one or two large tents, breweries will be split up into six tents, grouped by beer styles (i.e., an IPA tent, a pale ale tent, etc.) with the brewers pouring their own beers so you can talk to them about, well, beer.
The home-brewing clubs will also be interspersed and walking throughout the festival, which is another change from last year. Hale says the inclusion of home brewers isn't standard for these kinds of festivals, but he feels it's very important.
"Most of us came from those [home brewing] roots," he says. "I'm not afraid to say that sometimes home brewing is better than commercial beers. It doesn't have the stigma that it used to, and the quality has gotten so much better over the years since I started in 1979. The ingredients and information wasn't what it is today."
Of course, all of these brewers are competiting against each other in the business sense, but Hale says it really is like a family. If somebody needs an ingredient, several other brewers will offer it up to him just to help out.
Hale also notes another change from last year -- the weather. As of this writing, it should be sunny on Saturday with a high of 85 and partly cloudy on Sunday with a high of 88. Last year, it was pouring down rain, and, despite a "rain or shine" guarantee, the festival was forced to shut down. Beer lovers were not happy: At least one man was arrested for resisting police, and dozens more took to social media the next day to complain.
To appease the angry mob, the Brewers Guild couldn't exactly refund ticket money (it's a nonprofit and the festival is a fundraiser) but instead offered festivalgoers two free draft beers at a number of the participating breweries. Hopefully that won't happen this weekend, though, as the forecast is clear for now.
Hale says the festival is not just for beer geeks -- it's a great place to go and learn about beer. "Brewers are a friendly lot. We may growl and have big beards, but are cuddly teddy bears," he laughs. "We're a friendly lot, and we love to talk about beer."
The festival is at Forest Park Friday, June 13, and Saturday, June 14, from 6 to 10 p.m. Tickets are $35 for general admission and $75 to $100 for VIP. There may be tickets available at the door for $45, but only if they don't sell out before Friday. You can buy tickets and find more information on minor and designated driver admission here.
Gut Check is always hungry for tips and feedback. E-mail the author at Nancy.Stiles@RiverfrontTimes.com.
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