Brewer Chat: Stuart Keating Raises the Bar for Craft Beer at Earthbound Brewing

Stuart Keating of Earthbound Brewing. | Mabel Suen
Stuart Keating of Earthbound Brewing. | Mabel Suen

Stuart Keating had his mind on the bar when he was in law school -- just not the same one as his fellow classmates. "When I got to law school, I quickly realized that they were not interested in the kind of law I wanted to practice," the Earthbound Brewing (2710 Cherokee Street; 314-504-3532) co-owner and head brewer explains. "So instead, I pursued and developed other interests: gardening, hosting bar trivia and beer-making."

See Also: Bottled Wisdom: An Oral History of St. Louis' Craft-Beer Movement

After graduation, Keating worked for an environmental nonprofit, but quit because it was too corporate. He saw this as a chance to begin brewing in earnest, opening Earthbound on Cherokee late last year with business partners Rebecca Schranz and Jeff Siddons. "We built everything ourselves -- the equipment, the space," Keating says. "We're really tiny. Small breweries are where the innovation is."

Earthbound is indeed innovative, even "weird" as Keating himself has described the microbrewery. But he's quick to note that he wants to be known for quality as well as quirkiness. "We don't want to only be known for zany beer," Keating says. "We're capable of producing solid, more traditional styles as well."

What he does want to be known for is approachability -- not necessarily on the palate but in the way he and his team interact with their patrons.

"Beer is a populist drink," he explains. "I think that some of the attitude in craft brewing comes from the idea that it started out as oppositional. It had to position itself against the big breweries by adding mystique." The unfortunate byproduct of this, he muses, is an elitism that has come to be associated with craft beer. He has a message for novices who may be put off by this phenomenon. "Those people aren't better than you," he says. "Sure, there's certain information you must possess -- it's bewildering, but that's why it's our role to share as much information as possible, to just talk with people."

Keating took a break from the brewery (and his law practice) to share his thoughts on the St. Louis food and beverage scene, his fondness for Stag and what's never allowed in his brewery.

What is one thing people don't know about you that you wish they did? I am absolutely not a beer snob and hate beer pretension -- beer is supposed to be a populist, democratic drink.

What daily ritual is non-negotiable for you? Reading and coffee with my sweetie!

If you could have any superpower, what would it be? The power to destroy systemic oppression.

What is the most positive trend in food, beer, wine or cocktails that you've noticed in St. Louis over the past year? I love the movement towards special-release beers and craft-beer in cans in St. Louis.

Who is your St. Louis food or drink crush? That one lady from Southwest Diner.

Who's the one person to watch right now in the St. Louis food and beverage scene? I'm excited to see what Nick DiGiovanni does with the bar program at Público. And Joel Burton over at Taste is always doing neat stuff. Someone else to watch is Troika Brodsky, who's the executive director of the St. Louis Brewers Guild. He's got some really awesome plans for ensuring everyone in the country knows that St. Louis is a top-tier beer city.

Which ingredient is most representative of your personality? Water. Water hates being bored. It's always flowing, always finding ways through or around barriers. Water is probably the most creative ingredient in the brewing process, in that it combines with virtually anything to create something new, given the appropriate conditions.

If someone asked you to describe the current state of St. Louis' food and beverage climate, what would you say? St. Louis' food and beverage climate is...changing! Haw haw haw. Seriously, there's some awesome DIY sort of stuff happening in the food and drink climate, where people are just attempting crazy ideas on small budgets and seeing what sticks. It's super cool!

Name an ingredient never allowed in your brewery. Elitism.

What is your after-work hangout? If I'm on the production side and out by 5 or 6 p.m., I typically go home and cook dinner and read. If I'm bartending, I usually end up at Master Pieza (if I made a lot of tips) or Whiskey Ring (if I didn't).

What's your edible or quaffable guilty pleasure? I would say Stag, but I am not in the least bit ashamed to enjoy some golden quality (since 1851). I'll have to go with Toaster Strudels. If I'm feeling depressed or stressed out I'll eat an entire box in a single serving.

What would be your last meal on earth? What with the runaway global warming, it's likely my last meal will be dirt and burning garbage mixed with my own tears. But under happier circumstances I'd have to go with a pork chop (though a pork steak would do) and some Brussels sprouts braised in heavy whipping cream. And a couple of beers.

Follow Cheryl Baehr on Twitter at @CherylABaehr. E-mail the author at [email protected].

Cheryl Baehr

Cheryl Baehr is the restaurant critic for the Riverfront Times and an international woman of mystery. Follow her on the socials at @cherylabaehr
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