Competition doesn't worry craft beer brewers

ST. LOUIS - The more competition the better. That's the sentiment of brewers involved in the booming craft beer business in St. Louis.

In 1991, Schlafly was the only microbrewery in town. Now there are 23 within an hour of St. Louis, with several slated to open soon.

Many of those local micro-pubs are making a showing at the annual Microfest underway in Forest Park this weekend. Organizers say this is the biggest year yet for the festival, more than 85 breweries coming in from across the country. They say it's a sign that when it comes to beer, St. Louis is one of the top spots to be.

"The craft brew industry's been growing for quite a while. Micro-breweries are popping up all over Midwest," said Microfest organizer Joe Miller.

The industry's growing especially rapidly in St. Louis. Less than 25 years ago, Schlafly was the only micro-pub in the area. So, it's watched the beer scene change drastically, and has welcomed the growing competition.

"They increase advertising for the industry. The more we all stick together and brew similar types of beer, we support one another," said Schlafly Beer Amassador Brewer Stephen Hale.

The industry's momentum doesn't seem to be slowing down, with places like Urban Chesnut, which opened three years ago, to brand new companies like Modern Brewery. The momentum doesn't seem to be slowing down.

"Everyone is pretty welcoming in the beer community. Everyone wants to see everyone do well because the craft market is really a small piece of the beer market. But together we think each year we're going to keep getting bigger and bigger," said Ronnie Fink, of Modern Brewery.

So, feeding off the success of one another, the growing number of micro-breweries are depending on the growing palates and curiosities of St. Louis beer drinkers, with confidence that when it comes to craft beer, more is more.

"The customers will tell us when enough is enough, and we haven't hit that saturation level yet," said Hale.

The industry is also helping create jobs. Schlafly alone tells us it employs around 200 people. The Microfest continues at Forest Park Saturday.


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