How a Saint-Louis brewery shaped the German-American beer revolution | Food and recipes
Yes german beer has an epicenter in the United States, it might just be St. Louis, Missouri.
A magnet for German immigrants in the 1800s, Saint-Louis today retains much of its Old World heritage – in culture and in beer. A German-American named George Schneider started the Bavarian brewery in St. Louis in 1852; another pair of German immigrants, Eberhard Anheuser and Adolphus Busch, would make this venture into the empire known today as Anheuser-Busch. The company’s German-influenced beers ended up dominating the US market to the point that in 2018 AB InBev products (parent company of Anheuser-Busch) took six of the top 10 spots on the best-selling beer list. in the USA. All of these beers, including Bud Light, Budweiser, and Michelob Ultra, are variations of the German lager style.
A significantly smaller brewery now carries the torch of the German beer tradition to the Gateway to the West.
Ask any beer lover in St. Louis where to grab a pint and you’ll likely get directions to one of the Urban chestnut brewing company two locations, The Grove Bierhall and Midtown Biergarten, two lively gathering places in the heart of the city.
Equally important, both feature tap lists filled with some of the most authentic German beers you are likely to find this side of the Atlantic.
A real German braumeister
Urban Chestnut co-founder and master brewer, Florian Kuplent, is of German descent. While German ties to major commercial breweries like Anheuser-Busch and Yuengling have been diluted over the past century, Urban Chestnut is still deeply rooted in Kuplent’s legacy. In fact, Kuplent returned to Germany five years ago to open an urban chestnut operation in the municipality of Wolnzach in Bavaria.
Kuplent has always been a bit of a globetrotter. Although he is originally from Bavaria – the urban chestnut tree in Wolnzach is not far from where he grew up – Kuplent’s brewing education spans both sides of the pond. Initiated to beer in Germany, he came to the United States for a year of brewing internship in Connecticut, returned to Germany to obtain his master’s degree in brewing science, gained more brewing experience in England and Belgium. , then moved to the United States. permanently to work with who else but Anheuser-Busch.
This mix of experiences informs the brewing DNA of Urban Chestnut. Just over a decade ago, Kuplent was running the central Anheuser-Busch yeast propagation facility when he and his colleague David Wolfe hatched a plan to start their own brewery. In 2011, they brewed their first beer and opened the original Urban Chestnut location in the Midtown neighborhood.
New world, meet the Old World
Ten years later, Urban Chestnut’s “Beer Divergence” approach remains unique, marrying modern beer ideas and innovations with classic European brewing traditions.
“[Beer Divergency] was something we envisioned from the start, ”says Kuplent. “I’m obviously from Germany, and most of my brewing knowledge is German. I knew we were going to be cataloged a bit in German styles, and having worked in various places in Europe and the US, I didn’t want to just make German style beers. Beer Divergence allowed us to do very classic European styles – not just German, but also English, Czech and Belgian – and to be a bit more experimental.
The seemingly conflicting styles of beer coexist on the tap list in three different categories. The Reverence Series features beers crafted in the style of classic European brewing traditions, the Revolution Series is a fresh take on American craft beer trends, and the Hallertauer Series is an exclusive group of beers brewed at the Bavarian Urban Chestnut site and available in Germany, Sweden and Italy.
Until now, Kuplent says most customers still think of Urban Chestnut first and foremost as a German brewery. The best-selling beers come from the Reverence series, including flagship Zwickel, a Bavarian lager that accounts for around 50% of the brewery’s output, and Dorfbier, a Munich Dunkel. However, the Revolution Series is gaining ground, mainly thanks to Hallertau Haze, a trendy hazy IPA.
The Brewmaster notes that much of the authentic German flavor customers taste in Urban Chestnut beers comes from the ingredients themselves. For example, Zwickel uses malt from the Bavarian region of Franconia, hops from the Hallertau region and German yeast. For good measure, the Urban Chestnut brewing system is also German made.
The German seal of approval
Located in Hallertau, a stone’s throw from where farmers grow the hops that produce many Urban Chestnut beers, the Wolnzach brewery put the business to the test. It’s one thing to sell German-style beers to American drinkers and embrace the concept of a German beer garden in St. Louis. It is quite another to pass the test of authenticity in the country that created these traditions.
Fortunately for Kuplent, the Wolnzach brewery has been widely adopted by the local community. Given the circumstances of its founding, this is no small feat.
“We took over a brewery that had practically gone bankrupt,” he explains. “It belonged to several hundred locals who had bought shares. It was a very unique model that didn’t work very well because there was really no leadership to get it in the direction it should have gone. When we took over the brewery, it didn’t have a very good reputation. We knew we had to start from scratch and decided to use our name and not try to hide [our American roots] was the right way to do it. Looking back, using an English name for a brewery in Bavaria was definitely a risk. But we have locals operating the brewery, and I think that helped develop the business there. People really like beer too.