St. Louis: Homebrew is Illegal at Heritage Festival

Written by Evan S. Benn for stltoday.com

Hundreds of gallons of beer that were set to be poured this weekend at the sixth annual St. Louis Brewers Heritage Festival will have to find a new home after the city’s excise commissioner ruled Monday that serving it at the festival would be illegal.

“We discussed the fact that homebrewers’ beers have been available for patrons to sample at the Heritage Festival as well as other area festivals in the past,” Schlafly CEO Dan Kopman wrote after his meeting with St. Louis Excise Commissioner Robert Kraiberg. “While everyone acknowledges the value to our brewing community of having the homebrewed beers available, the fact is that we have concluded it is illegal for us to serve these beers at the Festival.”

Members of local homebrew clubs, including St. Louis Brews, Garage Brewers, East Side Brewers and others, have more than 1,000 gallons of beer kegged and ready to tap at this weekend’s festival, which runs from Friday through Sunday at the Ballpark Village site downtown.

“I’m sitting on 10 gallons of beer that I brewed for this, so this news is pretty disappointing,” says Chip Stone, a Maplewood resident and St. Louis Brews member. “I’m hoping we don’t have to get laws changed just to pour our beer at festivals.”

But Kopman says that may be the case.

“The good things is, we now have clarity from the Excise Division that homebrewed beers from unlicensed brewers are not legal at paid beer festivals,” he told the Post-Dispatch on Monday night. “The bad news, of course, is that this was a very cool part of Heritage Festival, and we may have to introduce a bill in the state legislature or else find another solution.”

Although no homebrewed beer will be served at this year’s Heritage Festival, Kopman says organizers will honor their agreement to give a free ticket to any homebrewer who had committed to donate at least 5 gallons of beer to the festival.

In addition, he says, organizers will work with the clubs to arrange a free, private gathering where the homebrewers can pour their beers and chat about the hobby with interested, would-be brewers. The personal Twitter handle of a local beer-distribution employee noted late Monday that 4 Hands Brewery would host a homebrew event next month.

“It’s unfortunate that this came up so late,” Kopman says. “We’d like to have a private event for homebrewers, friends and families. And we’d like to do it soon — because there’s been a lot of beer brewed for this festival.”

Evan S. Benn is the assistant editor of Go! magazine. He also writes about beer and food, and he is author of the 2011 Post-Dispatch book “Brew in the Lou: St. Louis’ Beer Culture – Past, Present and Future,” available here. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.