Themes of reverence and revolution are present in Urban Chestnut Brewing Co.'s beers. Each one is brewed as either an homage to a classic style or a nod toward envelope-pushing experimentation.
And the brewery, which turns 1 year old this month, is about to release bottles that convey a sense of those themes. Urban Chestnut plans to launch Zwickel and Winged Nut — its flagship "reverence" lager and "revolution" chestnut ale, respectively — in 500ml bottles in mid-February.
"Reverence and revolution have become part of our brewery's personality, and we wanted that to come through in our bottles," co-founder David Wolfe says.
The reverence comes from sourcing German-made glass bottles in a size format that is prevalent in Europe but seldom seen in the United States. The majority of bottled beer here comes in 12-ounce bottles, equivalent to about 355ml. Urban Chestnut's 500ml bottles hold 16.9 fluid ounces — a true pint of beer.
"The revolution is the fact that you don't see this type of bottle every day," Wolfe says. "We hope they'll stand out."
Urban Chestnut's Zwickel and Winged Nut will come in four-packs and will retail for $8 or $9.
Wolfe says he and his business partner, brewmaster Florian Kuplent, have no timeline for adding other Urban Chestnut beer styles to their bottle lineup. They also are not planning to introduce other bottle sizes to their portfolio.
Urban Chestnut's expansion to bottled beer — Wolfe and Kuplent recently knocked down a wall in their midtown brewery (3229 Washington Boulevard) to make room for an old German-made bottling line — is just one of its growth opportunities for 2012. The brewery is about to add two brewing tanks and other new equipment, which Wolfe says should allow Kuplent to double the 1,600 barrels of beer he brewed last year.
Several other St. Louis craft breweries have been getting in on the bottling game.
The previously draft-only Six Row Brewing Co. (3690 Forest Park Avenue) now offers its Whale, Double IPA and Porter in 22-ounce bottles, which are available at about a dozen local retail shops including Friar Tuck and the Wine and Cheese Place. The brewery recently signed distribution agreements that will send its bottles to other parts of the state, including Kansas City and Columbia, starting this month.
Cathedral Square Brewery announced it will put its Belgian-Style Abbey Ale and Hail Mary Belgian-Style IPA in six-packs of 12-ounce bottles sometime next month.
Elsewhere around the area, Charleville Vineyard Microbrewery in Ste. Genevieve last year began packaging its Half Wit Wheat in six-packs of 12-ounce bottles. And look soon for 22-ounce bottles from 4 Hands Brewing Co., St. Louis' newest craft brewery, which opened last month at 1220 South Eighth Street.
To celebrate its birthday and the growing success of St. Louis craft beers, Urban Chestnut is hosting a party from 1 to 6 p.m. Feb. 4. Called Wolpertinger (that's a mythical Bavarian creature), the party will feature beer from more than 15 area craft breweries. A $30 ticket gets attendees as many samples of beer as they want served in a commemorative tasting glass. (Keep reading for a chance to win free tickets.)
"We figure, it's our birthday, but we want everyone to be a part of it," Wolfe says. "What fun would a party be if we didn't invite all of our friends? A lot of our friends just happen to be other local craft brewers."
Evan's pick: Urban Chestnut Old Tjikko Spruce Ale
Lowdown: Old Tjikko, named for a 10,000-year-old spruce tree in Sweden, is the only spruce beer being made in St. Louis. Marked by aromas and flavors of fresh pine needles and woodsy, peppery spice, this is a quintessential winter beer.
Price: About $5 a draft
Where to find it: Urban Chestnut Brewing Co., 3229 Washington Boulevard
Hip Hops is giving away four tickets to Wolpertinger, Urban Chestnut's one-year anniversary party on Feb. 4. The brewery has created a special Wolpertinger beer for the occasion — a 9 percent ABV chestnut ale aged in bourbon barrels.
For a chance to win a pair of tickets to the party (a $60 value), email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line "Wolpertinger" and describe what kind of beer you would brew for a party named after a mythical Bavarian creature.
Winners will be decided on Jan. 20.