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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Beertender: Henry Herbst and St. Louis History

Posted By on Wed, Oct 28, 2009 at 11:30 AM

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St. Louis lost one of its beer legends this month: Henry Herbst was St. Louis' preeminent beer historian and collector, an invaluable repository of our proud past. If you've ever been to the Missouri History Museum or waited for a table at the Schlafly Bottleworks, you've enjoyed pieces from Henry's collection. As I wasn't fortunate enough to have met Mr. Herbst, I will let others eulogize the man. What I do know is what the man's work has meant to my city.

In the decades following Prohibition, St. Louis lost all of its breweries save one. Their ghosts remain, of course. I walk around the empty Griesedieck Brothers brewery site near Gravois and I-55 and envision the short block abuzz with trucks and brewery workers. I visit the Falstaff site north of downtown, repurposed as apartments, thinking of the children of brewers walking down the street to St. Stanislaus. Every day that I drive down the Parkway past Grand, past the building festooned with the words Bottling Plant, I try to imagine Midtown smelling as good as Soulard.

Luckily, after reflecting on what we've lost, I can comfort myself with the thought of our current bounty. A score of breweries and brewpubs now dot the area, from downtown out to wine country. The men and women who have brought us these new businesses, who have reclaimed our identity as a brewing city, were inspired by those who looked back and told stories of how it used to be. In part, that's what the craft beer -- and the broader Slow Food -- movement is about: rediscovering what was lost in our rush to homogenize.

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