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narrowgaugeIt’s been a long time coming, but the boys at Cugino’s in Florissant are ready to officially launch Narrow Gauge Brewing Company this Thursday, June 16th. If you’ve been paying attention, there has been a lot of buzz developing about Head Brewer Jeff Hardesty’s beers. At the STL Hops Anniversary Party in March, Narrow Gauge nearly stole the show with their SHB (Single-Hopped Beer) Galaxy IPA and Zavtrak Imperial Stout. A few festivals later and more and more people having been asking when they’d be able to get more. Well the time is here!

The name Narrow Gauge is a tribute to the three owners’ hometown. In October 1878, the St. Louis and Suburban Railway, one of several independent rail car lines in the area at the time, started narrow gauge steam railway service from Midtown to Florissant and dubbed it West End Narrow Gauge Railroad.

Cugino’s tapped two beers earlier this month. Mordecai, a juicy American Pale Ale, and Old Town Porter, a smooth Porter with just the right amount of roast. Thursday they will also have full batches of Fallen Flag American IPA and SHB: Galaxy. You can also expect small, pilot batches of Copra (a Porter brewed with cocoa nibs, vanilla beans and coconut), Pineapple Mordecai and a few other SHB variants. And they’ll be filling 32oz growlers.

So get up to Narrow Gauge tomorrow night and kick these guys off right!

2ndshiftlogoAlmost seven years ago we were holding a little bottle share at my house and my buddy Izek asked if it would be ok to invite his buddy out. He told me that this dude was building a new brewery in New Haven. I remember Steve Crider rolling up with a bunch of his beers and I can’t honestly remember if I had any that night.

But I do remember over the following months Steve tinkering with his flagship IPA over and over and over again. Each time he’d tweak it, he’d put it in front of us beer nerds until finally I remember telling him, “Knock it off, this beer is delicious.” That beer was aptly named “Art of Neurosis.”

That’s how my friendship with Steve Crider and 2nd Shift Brewing began. A little later I met this firebrand of a bartender at 33 Wine Bar. She was awesome and knowledgeable but also didn’t take any crap. She especially didn’t take any of Crider’s crap which is probably what drew him to her. That’s how I met Libby Crider née Brown.

Over the past six years, through thick and thin I’ve always had a soft spot for 2nd Shift, mostly because Crider makes some of the best beers in the area, but also because Steve and Libby are two of the most earnest and honest people I know.

Some of you may not know, but I accepted the position of operations manager at 2nd Shift in April. It’s been an exciting change and now that’s I’ve buried the lead long enough, one of the reasons 2nd Shift brought me on is because we’re (it’s so amazing to say “we” instead of “they”) is about to expand.

I’m happy to announce that 2nd Shift Brewing has signed a lease to move from our current home in New Haven to the historic Hill neighborhood in St. Louis. Our new home will be at 1601 Sublette Ave near the corner of Manchester and Sublette.

What does this mean?  All kinds of awesome stuff.  The first thing is that we’ll have our own tasting room in St. Louis. We can’t wait to be able to serve our beer to you over our own bar.  We can’t wait to have a space that is indicative of all of our own crazy personalities. And for all of you asking for swag, we’ll have it available on day 1.

This also means we’ll have space to brew more beer. We’re hoping to double production this year and continue to grow the brewery to a size that’s comfortable for us.  It also means that we’ll be investigating new packaging options very soon.

And probably most importantly, it means we get to be apart of an awesome and historic neighborhood. I asked local beer historian Don Roussin about the history of beer on the Hill and it turns out we’ll be the first brewery to be located on the Hill.  Given St. Louis’ long history with beer, I found this to be amazing.

I’m sure your last question will be, “When do you open?” I’m always reticent to give out any dates because as soon as you do, you’ll miss them. But our build out should be really minimal and the eternal pessimist Steve Crider is pretty positive that we’ll be open later this summer.

I can’t tell you how exciting we all are about this. It’s an expansion that’s been a long time coming and we can’t wait for you all to be part of it.

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IMG_3377.JPGA major brewery deserves a major launch and Oskar Blues Brewery is providing just that. To celebrate this big occasion Oskar Blues has put together a week full of events to party in St. Louis.

Beginning today, a full team of Oskar Blues and Major Brands folks will be here to party at the following locations:

Monday, Nov. 10

  • Dressel’s, Oskar Blues Beer Pairing menu, 5 p.m., yummy menu items paired with OB beers all night.

Tuesday, Nov. 11

  • SoHa Bar & Grill Happy Hour, 5-7 p.m.
  • Eclipse – 5:30 p.m. Happy Hour (Mama’s Little Yella Pils draft, Dale’s/Old Chub Nitro/Ten FIDY/Deviant/G’Knight CANs).
  • Three Kings (Drafts: Dale’s and Ten FIDY. CANs: Deviant and Mama’s).
  • The Wine and Cheese Place – Beer Tasting, 4-6 p.m.
  • Nick’s Pub – “Meet the Oskar Blues’ Guys Night.” Dale’s, Mama’s, Old Chub, Ten FIDY on draft.  CANs: Dale’s, Mama’s, Old Chub Nitro 7:30-9:30 p.m.

Wednesday, Nov. 12

  • Cicero’s Beer School – 5:30-6:30 p.m. and 7-8 p.m.
  • Llywelyn’s Food Pairing Event, 3 p.m. (Draft: Dale’s, Deviant, Ten FIDY. CANs: Mama’s, Old Chub).  Pairings: Mama’s – Steamed Mussels, Old Chub – Pot Roast, Dale’s – Monarch Burger, Ten FIDY – Steak and Cheese, Deviant Dale’s – Chicken Curry.
  • Old Standard – 5-7 p.m.- Beer Can Chicken event.
  • iTap Chesterfield and Soulard. Every beer on draft all night.

Thursday, Nov. 13

  •  iTap – CWE Trivia  Night, 7:30 p.m. (Every beer on draft all night).
  • Friar Tuck Crestwood, Tasting, 4-6 p.m.
  • Flying Saucer – Tap Takeover. All beers on draft 6 p.m.
  • Craft Beer Cellar – 5-7 p.m.
  • Shamrock’s, 7 p.m., Tap Takeover. All beers in CANs too!

Satuday, Nov. 15

  • Crafty Chameleon – “Welcome to the Neighborhood” Party, 6 p.m.

Oskar Blues has brought their full line-up of beers including Dale’s Pale Ale, Ten Fidy, and G’Knight. Draft beer and cans have already made their way around town, but expect to see more this week with this major kick-off event.

IMG_3377.JPGBeginning in November, Oskar Blues Brewery out of Longmont, CO will be available in Missouri. Just announced in a press release, Oskar Blues has chosen Major Brands to distribute their beers in the Show-Me State.

The launch events will take place the week of November 10th with kick-off events all around the state featuring the Oskar Blues and Major Brands teams. Here’s the press release:

Longmont, CO, and Brevard, NC–Oskar Blues Brewery, creator of the first American craft beer in a CAN, has partnered with Major Brands, Inc., of Missouri, to start distribution of the brewery’s full line-up of beers, in both CANS and on draft, in November.

“Major Brands is excited to be Oskar Blues’ choice in Missouri and we are ready to show Missouri what Oskar Blues is all about. Our companies’ shared passion for excellence and for giving back to our communities will ensure a successful partnership,” says Sue McCollum, Major Brands CEO.

The official Oskar Blues brew launch will take place during the week of November 10th with kick-off events and a market blitz featuring a full team of Oskar Blues and Major Brands folks.

“There were a lot of good options and great distributors that we talked with in the state but partnering with this third generation beverage distributor, led by Sue McCollum, was the right move for us,” says Oskar Blues Director of Business Management Chris Russell. “We are confident that we are positioned for a successful partnership with Major Brands, and we look forward to getting our beer into the hands of excited beer retailers and beer drinkers in the great state of Missouri very soon.”

Oskar Blues is bringing all of its award-winning beers to bars, restaurants, grocery stores, and bottle shops throughout the Show-Me state.

Dale’s Pale Ale, Mama’s Little Yella Pils, and Old Chub CANS will be available in 12-ounce six-packs and a variety 12-pack called CANundrum. Dale’s and Mama’s will also be sold in 19.2 single-serve Imperial pints or stovepipe CANs.

Oskar Blues newest CAN, Old Chub Nitro, is available in 16.4-ounce over pint four-packs.

The Imperials, Deviant Dale’s IPA and G’Knight Red IPA, will be sold in 16-ounce four-packs.

Fall/Winter Seasonal, Ten FIDY, and Spring/Summer Seasonal, GUBNA, will also be available in 12-ounce four-packs of CANS.

The Missouri launch follows additional Oskar Blues distribution in Kansas, Nevada, Delaware, Minnesota, Idaho, southern Alabama, and central California in 2014, bringing the number of states that Oskar Blues distributes in to 36 total.

Look for more details on the Missouri launch and specifics of Oskar Blues kick-off events in the coming weeks.

More about Oskar Blues Year-Round Brews:

Dale’s Pale Ale: As Oskar Blues’ flagship beer, this American Pale Ale delivers balanced rich flavors of malts and hops (6.5% ABV, 65 IBUs). The award-winning beer was named the “Top U.S. Pale Ale” by The New York Times and is the number-one selling pale ale in Colorado.

Mama’s Little Yella Pils: This Bohemian Style Pilsner is a refreshing balance of Saaz hops and specialty German malts while providing a gentle flavor (5.3% ABV, 35 IBUs). Like summer in your mouth.

Old Chub Scotch Ale: Strong Scotch Ale, brewed with rich malts, specialty and smoked grains to deliver flavors of semi-sweet cocoa and coffee (8% ABV).

Old Chub NITRO: Old Chub, but on NITRO, which adds a creamy, velvety mouth-feel. And a little less ABV (6.8%). Watch the NEW OLD CHUB NITRO Video HERE. #oldchubnitrocan

G’Knight Imperial Red IPA: The dry-hopped double-red IPA embodies a strong aroma and malty hopped flavors while providing a rich finish (8.7% ABV, 60 IBUs).

Deviant Dale’s IPA: American-style India Pale Ale, exemplifies aromas of citrus, grapefruit rind and piney resins to deliver a full-flavor (8% ABV, 85 IBUs).

heavyriffAre you ready to drink? Are you ready to rock? Judging by the amount of people who keep asking, the fans are ready to bring down the house and ready for Heavy Riff Brewing to open its doors. Well, I have good news, after what’s seemed like forever, I’m happy to announce that Heavy Riff will be open on Monday, September 16th.

And if you think it’s seemed like forever to you, just imagine what it’s felt like for owners Jerid and Justin Saffell? They certainly had a few setbacks that couldn’t be helped, but it’s time to stop looking back and now we can all look forward to them having their doors open.

For those of you that may not remember, Jerid brings plenty of professional brewing experience as he was assistant brewer at Mattingly Brewing Company, brewer at Buffalo Brewing Company, and cellerman at Highland/Kirkwood Station Brewing.

Located in the heart of Dogtown (6413 Clayton Avenue) Heavy Riff is looking to create a neighborhood brewery in an area that really bands around the businesses in the area. The Saffell brothers are looking to eventually feature 8-10 taps of Heavy Riff beers, Missouri wines, and locally made Dogtown Pizzas along with some simple snacks such as artisan cheese/sausage plates.

Heavy Riff beers will not be available right when the doors open, but the first beer Velvet Underbrown, an oatmeal milk brown, should hopefully be available 10 days after opening with another yet to be named hoppy lighter beer available 10 days after that. We will also see some casks eventually as well.

As their brewery is not quite up and running so Heavy Riff will be working with some of their local comrades to create their beers including Excel Brewing and Charlville Brewery. In the meantime Heavy Riff will be featuring some kickass beers from local and regional breweries and a beautiful tasting room in a great neighborhood. Hours will run 2PM-12AM Mon-Wed and 12PM-12AM Thurs-Sat.

Oh, and they’ll have free shuffleboard and great music. This was worth the wait.

ucbcWhen Evan Benn mentioned last night that he had some exciting news about the St. Louis craft beer scene, I thought for certain it would be able a local brewery choosing a site for their next brewery.  What caught me by surprise was that it wasn’t the brewery I expected.

While all of our new local breweries seem to be growing at a crazy clip, without a doubt Urban Chestnut Brewing Company has got to be the fastest growing brewery. So while I wasn’t expecting them to announce building a new brewery in St. Louis city, I shouldn’t have been surprised. UCBC began with 3500bbls in 2012 and plans to double that this year.

The new location, located at 4465 Manchester Ave, will be built in the former Renard Paper Company. (A quick aside, as a longtime fan of the now departed Newstead Tower Public House, I would drive by Renard on a regular basis.  The exterior of this building is still nice enough that it’s only today that I learned that the company no longer exists.)

Urban Chestnut is partnering with Green Street St. Louis to not only build the new brewery, but also make sure that it’s a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified building as well. “People might ask why open a second facility and ALSO locate it in St. Louis? Well, first & foremost 95% of the beer we sold last year was in St. Louis, and like Schlafly and many of the other small, local brewers, we’re dedicated to the evolution of St. Louis as a craft beer destination,” remarked David Wolfe, co-founder of UCBC.

The initial capacity of the new brewery will be about 15,000bbls, but with over 70,000 square foot of space in this new facility, UCBC expects to be able to expand up to 100,000bbls.  The additional space will also allow them to feature a tasting room on-site.

But this doesn’t mean they’re abandoning their original spot.  They still plan to use the original location for smaller production beers and test beers. There is no specific time-table for the new location to be open, but if UCBC continues the trend of moving at light-speed, I’m sure we’ll all be enjoying a few beers there soon.

question_mark.jpgA buddy of mine is starting up a new brewery in Massachusetts and was asking for some advice as he moves forward with selling his beer. While a lot of what I say seems pretty obvious, it’s amazing how many start-up breweries make some of the critical mistakes I mention below.  I apologize for the slightly bawdy language.

Hey Mike,

We’ve really started to get rolling with our brewery and was wondering if you could offer any insight as far as gaining traction, getting accounts, keeping accounts, etc. – things that I don’t already know.

I know you need to sell the bar managers, educate the staff, host tastings, blah blah blah. But when you really get down to it, is there a piece of the puzzle that I might be missing? How much should I truly give up to get accounts (merchandise, glassware, swag..) ?

Any and all help would be great.

Thanks man,
Nate

In the days of craft beer, loyalty is difficult. While you guys are probably experiencing tremendous growth, a lot of that is going to be due to a “newness” factor. Craft beer drinkers and bars are always looking for what’s new. This doesn’t mean you’re not going to have growth, but just be aware that at some point things will cool a bit. You’re no longer the cool new toy.

But what that means is that you’re going to need to be the best toy out there. You’re going to want to make the best beers possible, because why else would someone want to keep drinking your beer? You need to be your toughest critic and you need to surround yourself with opinions that will be tough but fair.

I’m always shocked by breweries making sub-par beer that seem to think they’re making some of the best beer in the world. I don’t understand how someone making a sub-par IPA doesn’t taste something like Firestone Walker’s Union Jack, or Odell IPA, or Green Flash West Coast IPA and think, “Damn, why doesn’t my beer taste as awesome as these?”

Part of this is taste. You should absolutely brew to your taste, but your taste isn’t everything. The consumer will dictate more about your beer than your tastebuds ever could. Always listen to opinions. Doesn’t mean you need to change the beer to fit everyone’s taste, but if enough people are saying something, then you probably need to take a hard look at your beer.

The best way to maintain loyalty is to remain loyal to the places that are selling your beer. While all of the POS in the world will certainly help a lot (because who doesn’t like getting free shit?) having face time with bar owners, restaurants, and beer drinkers will mean more to some people than a stupid tchotchke.

Face time also means sampling. Get as many people as possible to try your beer. A sell sheet (an informational pamphlet used to sell beer) means jackshit to most people because most people still say stupid shit like, “I love stouts, but I don’t like ales.”

But honestly, the biggest piece of the puzzle I’ve found is that you need an army of people requesting your beer. There is no better way to convince a bar or restaurant manager into bringing in your beer than having 3 or 4 people asking for it. Creating a buzz is easier now because of social media, but it’s still important to emphasize to your fans to request your beer in places where it currently isn’t on.

There isn’t a single secret to selling beer, but having great beer will be much easier to sell than mediocre beer. Good luck.