St. Louis is a beer town. According to beer historians, John Coons somewhat poetically opened the city's first brewery in 1809 at the site where the Gateway Arch now stands. But beer didn't really get going in St. Louis until German immigrants flooded the place in the mid-1800s. When Adam Lemp closed down his grocery store to open up a saloon and brewery, he had no idea that he was starting a trend. Soon there were 40 breweries in town, including one owned by Eberhard Anheuser. Adolphus Busch, Anheuser's son-in-law, would join him to help grow the enterprise.
In the 1920s, Prohibition sank a lot of breweries, including Lemp's, but a few managed to survive, including Anheuser-Busch. For much of the 20th century, we were a city in the shadow of Anheuser-Busch. And we loved it. Driving past the brewery, smelling the hops, taking a (then free) brewery tour was as St. Louis as asking someone where they went to high school.
Thankfully, though, someone wanted more for us, and that someone was Tom Schlafly, who opened the city's first modern craft brewery in 1991. Schlafly's success cracked open the scene, and breweries started popping up all over the place. An especially fruitful year was 2011, which brought, among others, Perennial, 4 Hands, Civil Life and Urban Chestnut — now all considered stalwarts of the St. Louis beer scene.
Our breweries and brewpubs are one of the chief reasons USA Today gave us the Best Beer Scene title in 2018 and 2019. (We came in second in 2020 and 2021.) But real beer lovers know that brewpubs are only half the scene. You also need beer bars. Bars where there are 40 beers on tap, and you can try sours, stouts and brews named after small German and Irish villages. You need a spot where, when you look at the beer list, you need a minute, OK?
So if you love beer, particularly St. Louis beer, and you want to know the best places to hoist a few, then this guide has got you covered. Not only do we take you into the best breweries in the area, but we also recommend where to go when food is just as important as the beer selection, when you need a good beer bar — or when you really just want the beer to be cheap. We also recommend some places that are farther afield but definitely worth the trip, and we introduce you to WellBeing, a nonalcoholic craft beer that's actually good.
So grab your favorite lager or ale and get to reading. Prost!