South County Times April 21, 2017.
Craft beer and homebrew enthusiasts take heart! The St. Louis area offers a generous beer culture to explore and to inspire homebrewers to create unique beers, ciders or meads.
“The beer culture is active and thriving in St. Louis,” said Kent Robertson, owner of Missouri Malt Supply in Fenton. “We are a model for a lot of other cities, and there is a good working relationship between homebrewers and craft brewers.”
There are several homebrewing clubs in the area. St. Louis Brews is the oldest and largest, according to club president Peter MacKercher. The club started 32 years ago and has nearly 150 members who are mostly homebrewers.
MacKercher said many craft brewers start out brewing beer as homebrewers. He said the craft breweries remain a part of the culture by holding homebrewing competitions, tastings and offering spaces for clubs to hold their meetings.
“Craft breweries are thriving and growing. It’s going crazy,” MacKercher said. “There are nearly 50 craft breweries in St. Louis with another one popping up every few months. And there are hundreds of homebrewers.”
Craft brewery examples would include local breweries, such as Kirkwood Station Brewing and Schlafly Bottleworks in Maplewood. The St. Louis Brews club holds its monthly meetings at Modern Brewery, located at 5231 Manchester in St. Louis.
The American Homebrewers Association estimates “over 1.2 million people brew their own beer at home in the U.S.”
Statistics from the Brewers Association show there are more breweries in the U.S. today than in the late 1800s. There was a total of 4,131 breweries in 1873. The number of breweries in 2016 grew to 5,301, with the largest part of that number being craft breweries (5,234). Besides the low ebb of brewing during the Prohibition years, the number of U.S. breweries slumped to just 89 in 1978.
Purchasing ingredients needed to brew beer was difficult a decade ago, according to MacKercher. Today that has changed, and the type of ingredients available have evolved with the popularity and rise of craft brewers.
Kent Robertson has been brewing beer at home since 2002. He said all-grain homebrewers did not have an easily accessible source for supplies at that time. After coordinating group orders of grain for fellow homebrewers, he decided to open his own store in 2008, Missouri Malt Supply, located at 2275 Cassens Drive in Fenton.
The business started as a warehouse for bulk grain. By 2014, the business had grown enough to open a storefront and showcase grains, hops, yeasts and equipment. The store is open limited hours currently, but Robertson hopes to be open full-time hours in the future.
Robertson said in one of his best years since opening, he sold 80,000 pounds of grain. The general batch of homebrewed beer is five gallons. It takes roughly 10 pounds of grain for each five-gallon batch. And each batch can produce 48 to 50 12-ounce bottles of beer.
Robertson said homebrewing is a rewarding hobby.
“It’s something you can teach others, so it’s a sharing type of hobby,” he said.
“Brewers are very helpful to one another. No two brewers brew exactly alike and learning from one another is really an essential part of the brewing culture.”
A large part of the culture involves helping each other by sharing knowledge about processes, recipe development, ingredients and technique. And, of course, sharing the final product – a home brew.
Robertson describes brewers as “creative people, ” and that creativity shows in the beer they craft and the recipes built with the vision of how they want the final product to taste. He said to make a good consistent beer it takes devotion to the hobby and devotion to learning the process.
“In brewing, the more you learn, the more you realize there is to learn,” Robertson said.
Robertson shares his expertise and answers a multitude of brewing questions Thursday and Friday evenings and on Saturdays at his shop in Fenton. For more information, visit http://momalt.com.