Local filmmaker Bill Streeter is known around town for his work producing corporate videos through his company Hydraulic Pictures, creating Lo-Fi St. Louis, and for his 2011 documentary “A Brick By Chance and Fortune.”
Now, his next documentary is making a splash at the opening night of the St. Louis International Film Festival on Nov. 3 — and it isn’t even finished yet. What subject could call such a prestigious opening, you ask? You guessed it: beer and the history of local brewing.
“We’re trying to tie the modern craft brewing movement, which is huge and growing crazily nowadays to the history of brewing in St. Louis, which is huge and deep and broad,” Streeter said.
At the screening on the festival’s opening night, viewers will get to see four extended cuts from the film, about an hour in total footage of both the history of legacy beer brands like Budweiser, Lemp and Falstaff, and the rise of craft brewers like Schlafly, Urban Chestnut. Viewers will even learn a little bit about the story of St. Louis’ smallest craft brewery, Earthbound Brewing Company, which will soon move from its tiny space on Cherokee Street to a historic brew house building.
For those of you thinking that the InBev buyout of Anheuser-Busch in 2008 signaled the end of St. Louis’ beer dominance, think again. Streeter points out that, at its height, St. Louis was home to 40-something breweries in the 1870s.
Today, there are more than 50 breweries in the St. Louis area, bringing the region to a new peak in craft brewing.
“To be frank, St. Louis was actually kind of behind the curve in terms of craft brewing for a long, long time,” Streeter said. “I think that had to do with the fact we were a brewery town: we were the home of Anheuser-Busch. I think that scared off people from starting craft brewing here. It probably scared off some consumers because of their brand loyalty to Anheuser-Busch. Once A-B was bought out by InBev, I think some loyalties changed a little bit and they opened their minds to try new beers. And people who left Anheuser-Busch after the buyout went on to start other breweries.”
One of Urban Chestnut’s founders was a former A-B employee, Streeter points out.
The documentary draws attention to such other interesting facts as:
- Anheuser-Busch and Lemp Brewery were among the first breweries to distribute their beer nationally in the 1800s. In Lemp’s case, they distributed internationally — back to Germany.
- Although many local craft breweries don’t have national distribution, you’ll find special releases of the beers collected all over the country. Streeter said that he’s seen special bottles from Perennial and Side Project have sold for upwards of $300 on the black market to beer collectors all over the country.
- The Falstaff brand of beer outsold Budweiser in St. Louis for many years. It was initially brewed by Lemp Brewery, but the company sold the beer to Griesedieck when prohibition went into effect in the country, thinking that alcohol would never be legal again in the U.S.
- The Wainwright building in downtown St. Louis was initially constructed for offices for Wainwright Brewery.
At this point, about 90 percent of the footage for “St. Louis Brews” has been shot or procured. Streeter said there are a few events he is waiting on before finally finishing the documentary. If you want to know more about such history in the meantime, however, you can check out a book by the same name, “St. Louis Brews,” from Reedy Press. Some of the authors lent their expertise to the film.
On Thursday’s opening night event, several subjects from the documentary will be on hand to discuss and answer questions about the St. Louis brewing scene, including writer Chris Naffziger, writer Dan Roussin and Earthbound Brewing principal Stuart Keating. Streeter even said he would reveal a key fact about the history of American lagers at the event that will debunk the idea that those light beers were cheapened in order to mass produce the product.
The St. Louis International Film Fest is celebrating its 25th year this year and runs Nov. 3-13 at a variety of show times and venues around the city. You can find out more about the festival in general here. In addition to screening a variety of local creations, documentaries and Oscar bait, the festival will also give out eight awards over the course of its run honoring Charles Burnett, Jerry Lewis, Gordon Quinn, Kim Tucci, Brian Hohlfeld, Marlon West, Kim All and Kimberly Steward.
What: St. Louis International Film Festival's Opening-Night Reception and St. Louis Brews
When: Thursday, Nov. 3 at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Tivoli Theatre, 6350 Delmar Boulevard St. Louis
St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.