Home openers in St. Louis, whether it be the Cardinals or Blues, are always a day of celebration. The rumble of the crowd, team alumni from seasons past, music, and as always, an abundance of beer. There was plenty of that on July 21st over at Center Ice Brewery, St. Louis’s first hockey themed brewery, on Olive Street as they opened the doors to the general public.
Throughout the day, owner Steve Albers had in guests such as area native and former Bluenote Cam Janssen to do his radio show, and 3D artist Steven Walden was on hand to commemorate the event with his work. By the time 7:00 approached, the atmosphere and crowd in the bar and brewery area reached a pitch seen only at playoff games.
Albers thanked the crowd for making the day such a special one before three very important player banners were raised over his fermenters. One was for Todd Ewen, a Blues alumni, enforcer, local youth hockey coach and friend of the brewery who died in 2015, another was for Dion Penberthy, a good friend and teammate of Albers who passed away earlier this year. The third banner was for a 4-year-old boy named Chase Pottorff, in whose memory the Frozen Cup, a charity outdoor hockey tournament, was founded.
“Chase was a very special little kid with autism that my wife Olivia worked with after he was diagnosed,” said Albers in a YouTube video explaining the tournament. “When he passed, we wanted to do something to honor his memory and help raise money for families affected by autism.” The annual tournament has continued to be a success in raising funds for autism awareness and treatment, which has an average cost of $60,000 per year to a family with an autistic child.
The Party Begins
As family members raised the banners, Albers realized he didn’t have a flag for the National Anthem. Steven Walden stepped in and quickly painted one on a fermenter as Albers introduced the singer. And it was none other than Charles Glenn, the Blues’ National Anthem singer and their secret weapon. Glenn led the crowd in a stirring rendition, and then Albers held a ceremonial puck drop between his wife and father to officially christen the start of the party.
As Center Ice is a hockey themed brewery, the next entertainment for the crowd was a St. Louis Blues roundtable. Former Blues players Jamie Rivers and Cam Janssen took part, and then Albers introduced a special third guest: outgoing Bluenote Ryan Reaves, who received a standing ovation from the crowd.
Reaves took the crowd back to his first years in the Blues farm system and getting drunk while Janssen showed him nearly four hours of his fights, Janssen recalled his time with the New Jersey Devils and nearly getting kicked off one of their minor league teams after a prank was pulled on him, and Rivers spoke of how Grant Fuhr’s eating habits drove Mike Keenan crazier than he already was.
Reaves was also asked how he’d fare against legendary NHL enforcer Bob Probert, saying he’d make a match out of it, with Janssen chiming in with “You’d have the reach on him, Reaver.”
As the roundtable wrapped up, Albers led the crowd in a chant of “Let’s Go Blues” as a final send-off to Reaves. His response of “I don’t play for the Blues” was met with laughter and applause.
Afterwards, all three players took time for pictures and autographs. Janssen said the whole event was “fantastic”.
“I’ve known Steve for a long time now,” he said. “I’ve played hockey with him and watched the whole process. It’s been amazing seeing it all come together. Reaves already got a chance to brew with him so I gotta get in there now.”
What’s on tap?
Current beers on tap are Offseason Saison, Center Ice Golden Contract (a one-time contract brew by Charleville), and a chocolate stout named Summer Eclipse, which debuted this past week. They’ll also be kegging off their Center Ice American Golden and Hop Shelf IPA very soon.
The two pro brewers who helped Steve get up and running, Dave Wohldmann of Square One (who has likely set a record on Saint Brewis website and podcast mentions at this point) and Denny Foster of Main and Mill, were also in attendance and glad to see how well the opening went.
“I’m excited to have a hockey themed brewery here in St. Louis,” said Wohldmann, “Glad to see Steve finally achieve his dream.”
“I know how hard something like this is to do” said Foster, “We’ll be here to support Steve no matter what, really happy for him.”
Center Ice is now open Wednesday and Thursday from 11 AM to 11 PM, Friday and Saturday from 11 AM to 12 AM, and Sunday from 11 AM to 7 PM. For more information and a listing of beers currently on draft, visit Center Ice on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or online at www.centericebrewery.com.