The largest St. Louis Craft Beer Week yet opened Saturday with B33r and Brats at 33 Wine Bar on Lafayette Square.
Kelly Herbst was in line outside the bar at 11 a.m., waiting with about 20 others to try one of the special beers being offered at B33r and Brats. She was looking forward to trying 2nd Shift’s Katy 15.
“They don’t have it everywhere, and it’s a sour beer,” said Herbst. “We like sour beers.”
Now in its sixth year, the nine day festival includes more than 100 events celebrating craft beer. In comparison, there were 45 events scheduled in 2009 during the first Craft Beer Week.
Craft Beer Week creator Michael Sweeney said the festival has grown because there are more craft breweries in St. Louis now, and because craft beer itself continues to grow in popularity.
“Every year it keeps growing substantially,” said Sweeney. “You’ll see that other industries within the liquor world are kind of going stagnant, and beer itself is going stagnant, whereas craft beer, though, it keeps growing by leaps and bounds, 10 to 20 percent per year.”
According to Sweeney, there are about 30 breweries within a 50 mile radius of St. Louis, with yet more in the works. He said he’s of two minds about whether or not St. Louis will reach a cap on the craft beer market.
“The curmudgeon in me and the cynic says, 'Probably.' But the hopeful person in me says, 'I hope not.' I hope that realistically this will keep going. We’re still talking about craft beer being a niche market. It’s very, very small. So even if you gain 2 or 3 percent more market, that’s a lot of beer that’s going to be brewed and drank.”
Sweeney is the craft beer manager for Lohr’s Distributing, the wholesale distributor for Anheuser-Busch in the city. He got his start in the craft beer scene by writing the blog STLHops.
For the past three years, Sweeney’s friend Carl Niermann has helped organize and promote the event. He said they are hoping that this year’s craft beer week brings more people from out of town.
“We’re doing it just to promote the craft beer scene in St. Louis, encourage other people to experience craft beer, and hopefully bring some people in from out of town, too. Which up to this point we’ve done on a small scale, but I think it’s growing,” said Niermann. “We’re seeing a lot of people from out of town I think at the events this year.”
In the back patio of 33 Wine Bar, beer week fans braved the 90-plus-degree heat to pick up their bratwurst. Like many of the beers in their hands, the bratwurst was made nearby. The pork in the brats came from Kluesher Farms in Marthasville, Mo.
The St. Louis Craft Beer Week ends on August 3. For a full list of events, see the STL Craft Beer Week website.