The Chesterfield/Town & Country area of St. Louis County has long been on the fringes of the craft beer movement the St. Louis area has been experiencing over the past seven years. While there are some places to get good craft beer, no breweries have set up shop out in that area to serve the residents a refreshing, made-in-house pale ale or saison in the warm months, or a full and warming stout or porter in the cooler ones. On Saturday, May 27th, 2017, a man named Dave Deaton changed that with the grand opening of Steampunk Brew Works. We sat down with him the day before for a quick Q&A as he made his final preparations.
For those of you new to the area or unfamiliar with the faces of homebrew and brewing here, Dave Deaton is the owner of St. Louis Wine and Beermaking, one of the area’s homebrewing and winemaking supply stores and an area fixture for over 40 years, albeit under a few changes in name and ownership. “In the 1970’s it opened up as Wine Art of St. Louis,” Deaton recalls, “then in the 1980’s the ownership changed and became Bacchus and Barleycorn. In 1990 it changed hands again and became St. Louis Wine and Beermaking. I bought the business in 2006 and moved it a couple years later from the spot it was tucked away in inside of the Lamp and Lantern Village to its current location across from Ace Hardware.”
It wasn’t until a few years ago when Deaton, a life-long homebrewer with a computer science background, made the decision he wanted to do something different with the shop. “I was looking for something else to do to make coming to the shop more fun” he said. “Back when we had the area for teaching brewing and winemaking classes, we had taps for samples of things we’d brewed during demos and people were always asking if they could buy a glass or fill a growler. And we had to tell them ‘no’ because we didn’t have the licenses to do that. It got to the point where I decided that’s what I wanted to do.”
Deaton wasn’t the first homebrew shop owner to have this idea however. There have been other shops who have followed suit, such as Boxing Bear Brewing out in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which grew out of Southwest Grape and Grain. “Ballast Point and Dry Dock Brewing are two other breweries that started off as homebrew stores as well, I’m hoping that we can continue to do the same thing as them and have the same level of success as well.”
One of the biggest challenges Deaton faced was the construction of the brewhouse and the dedicated room for it. “It was difficult to do as we have a really compact space here” he said as he remembered the year’s worth of building and hiccups. “We installed a 3-barrel brewhouse along with two 3-barrel fermenters, a 7-barrel fermenter and a 7 barrel bright tank. For the opening we’ll have seven of our own beers on tap, but usually we’ll have six with two guest taps for breweries that we’re friends with or helped us out.” Deaton doesn’t plan on having a specific style or genre of beers, although beers like his Gearhead Porter or Au Frau German Blonde will be brewed repeatedly. “I like a wide variety of beers. Customers like a wide variety of beers, and we’ll keep them rotating all the time. Plan is to have two light, two medium (amber) and two dark beers on tap.”
As for the name, Deaton felt it was a fitting choice for what he was doing. “Steampunk is steampunk. The genre is heavily industrial-focused and uses a lot of steam power in its mechanics. Breweries are an industrial business when you think about it and use steam for heating all the time, so it made sense to me. Plus all the other names I thought of were taken,” he said with a laugh.
We came back the next day for the grand opening around noon and walked into a full house that only grew more packed as the afternoon went on. Heavy Riff Brewing’s head brewer Jerid Saffel, a long time friend and repeat employee of Wine & Beermaking along with the shop manager Kerri Ernst were busy tending bar. “It just started getting busy and it’s been a steady flow of customers since the first pour,” said Saffel as he stopped for a breather. “It’s been a domino effect with the barstools filling up quickly.”
Members of the homebrew community also came out to support Deaton and his dream. Charles Uding, a member of the All Grain Underground homebrew club, known for its amazing Oktoberfest party each year, was excited to finally have a brewery out in the area.
“We’ve needed something out here for a while now. Who’s better to open a brewery than a homebrew shop owner?”
Paul Delong, the president of the St. Louis Brewminati Homebrew Club which also meets at Wine and Beermaking on a monthly basis, was in attendance as well.
“Now I finally have a neighborhood brewery as I live and work within a couple miles from here.”
Members of the local steampunk cosplay groups came out to attend the opening, and while they were happy to be there, they were excited for additional reasons.
“It’s a great thing to see” said David Rose, who’s been a steampunk cosplayer for about four years now and dressed the part for the occasion, including the traditional brass vest and top hat. “Anything people can do to promote the steampunk genre is a big help to us, it’s constantly gaining ground and popularity.”
Attendance was steady throughout the day and the opening was considered a success. Steampunk Brew Works will be open from 10-6 Monday through Thursday and Fridays and Saturdays from 10-8. The brewery will be closed on Sundays due to licensing, but Deaton plans to change that if demand is high enough, and the homebrew store will still be open on Sundays regardless. “One thing that will happen is there will be times when the brewery will be open but the homebrew section will be closed” said Deaton. “This was a tough decision, but we wanted to make sure brewery customers get the best service possible, as we won’t be able to serve them properly if we’re waiting on homebrewing customers. There needs to be some separation unfortunately.” The homebrew shop will still be keeping its regular 10-6 PM hours on Friday and 10-4 PM hours on Saturday.
For more information on Steampunk Brew Works and St. Louis Wine and Beermaking, check out the links below: