With the sheer amount of craft beers and craft alcohol in general being produced in the United States today, it’s no surprise more alcohol distributors are needed. St. Louis itself has four of them. Now a newcomer has stepped onto the field. Over on 3rd Avenue down near the riverfront in an unsuspecting location lies Craft Republic, St. Louis’s newest beer distributor and one committed to carrying independent craft beer brands only.
Once arriving at their open house, I was greeted by the delicious and spicy smells of Mission Taco‘s food truck, parked outside the loading dock and getting ready to feed the soon-to-be less sober party. I ran into a familiar face with Brett Newcomer from Total Wine, who immediately began passing me some amazing beers from Evil Twin Brewing. The Pink Lemonade and Geyer Gose were solid beers that made good gateway brews to those new to IPAs and sours respesectively. The Styrbjørn however, a collaborative brew with Side Project, blew them away. While Craft Republic will not be distributing Side Project beer, their close relationship to the brewery made it a fun addition to the night’s offerings. A barrel-aged Belgian quadrupel (Belgian Dark Strong if you want to get technical) aged on fruits and Brett yeast, there is a ton of stone fruit, sherry, and some slight sour funkiness that you won’t forget anytime soon. Just the right amount of carbonation brings this full-bodied beer’s dark and dried fruit flavors life, and a tinge of tart cranberry notes in the finish from the wild yeast leaves your taste buds wondering which direction to go.
Later on in the evening, Erica Ivers, Craft Republic’s Central Command, sat down with us to explain a little more about the company, its history.
“Craft Republic was founded by Brian Dix, a craft beer enthusiast with 25+ years of experience in distribution. He saw an opportunity to serve the unique challenges that all craft breweries face and decided to launch his own distributorship. It was important to him to build a team of passionate and knowledgeable people who understood the industry from a variety of angles – from the brewery, from behind the bar, and, most importantly, as consumers.
We strive to understand each brewery, each beer, and how we can best place them in the market. We are staying on top of what’s new and exciting, as well as continually educating ourselves on best practices for caring for every style of beer. This way we are able to confidently guide our retail partners to products they know and love, and their customers can get excited about.
Launching any new company is daunting, and choosing a location proved challenging. With our eyes on Kansas City, we first spotted a location in West County but ultimately chose a move-in ready space in Soulard, keeping ourselves in the heart of the city. We were fortunate enough to pick up IBU Distributing, which gave us a great place to start, with brands such as Evil Twin, Omnipollo, Stillwater Artisanal, Blackberry Farms, Urban Family, and Big Muddy. Since then, we’ve picked up Nebraska Brewing, Perennial Artisan Ales (in St. Charles county), and the cult favorite mineral water, Topo Chico.
We’ve got several more suppliers in the works that we’re pretty pumped about, and might be introducing a new brand every month for the rest of the year! But in our first months, our primary focus has been on reaching out to and keeping stocked IBU’s loyal customers, as well as getting a firmer footing in Kansas City. We expect to grow pretty rapidly in the coming year, and strive to do so only as much as we can while continuing to maintain our own high standards of quality and service.”
One thing Dix wanted to make sure of when building up the Craft Republic brand was that the team he put in place was knowledgeable and passionate about craft beer. Ivers herself started as a server and bartender at the original Goose Island Brewpub in Chicago, eventually becoming the GM prior to her departure after 8 years. Her husband Brian was a brewer at the Goose Island production facility before signing on with Side Project after the couple moved to St. Louis.
After wrapping up the talk, I took the chance to enjoy some tacos and try a few beers from Nebraska Brewing Company. I tried them for the first time at the Missouri Beer Festival earlier this year. The offerings they brought then were good, but one of their beers Craft Republic had available was definitely a surprise. Their Mélange A Trois, a stronger Belgian blonde ale that received a Chardonnay barrel aging, initially greeted me with a buttery aroma brewers usually work to prevent in beer but highly desired by winemakers in a chardonnay. I’ll admit to being a little apprehensive, but the first sip convinced me otherwise with the pomme fruit tartness from the Belgian yeast blending well with the white wine notes from the chardonnay barrel. If you’re a craft beer geek who also enjoys wine, this is one to keep an eye out for.
Representatives from some bottle shops and area liquor stores were among the attendees and playing Mario Kart, so be sure to keep an eye on their availability lists in the coming months. For any additional information on where to find the products they carry, feel free to email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.