Urban Chestnut Brewing is expanding in the Grove entertainment district with a new consumer research and pilot brewery. The new facility is designed to brew small batches and sell experimental beers that drinkers can rate on their smartphones.
The company plans to open the two barrel research brewery across the street from its existing 70,000-square-foot brewery and bierhall in the Grove. Urban Chestnut opened that facility, at 4465 Manchester Avenue, in 2014.
The 3,500-square-foot research brewery, in leased space at 4501 Manchester Avenue formerly occupied by Joyia Tapas, is slated to open this year, co-founder David Wolfe told the Post-Dispatch. In addition to beer, it'll also sell pizza by the slice and customers will be able to provide feedback on the beer via smartphones or tablets.
SPACE Architecture+Design, which is based in the Grove, designed the new research brewery.
Urban Chestnut, which makes Zwickel, Winged Nut and other beers, is one of St. Louis' largest craft brewers. The company brewed 11,000 barrels in 2014 and grew its total production by several thousand barrels in 2015.
Founded by Wolfe and brewmaster Florian Kuplent, Urban Chestnut also operates a brewery in Midtown.
"One of the things we've never been able to do at either the Midtown or Grove locations is brew test batches," Wolfe said. "This gives our brewers more latitude and allows them to explore and be creative."
Wolfe said he and Kuplent have experience tracking feedback through taste panels when they both previously worked together at Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis.
Having beer drinkers use smartphones and iPads will allow Urban Chestnut to collect feedback that could lead to new beers the brewer sells in multiple states. "We said, let's not just have beer enthusiasts fill out forms, but let's capitalize on the technology that's other there," Wolfe said.
Other brewers are adding features to capture customers' views, including St. Louis Brewery, maker of Schlafly Beer. Schlafly recently added boards on the walls at its Tap Room brewpub downtown and Bottleworks brewery in Maplewood for customers to share their tasting notes on hop varieties.
With more than three dozen breweries within a 100 mile radius of St. Louis, developing new beers that resonate with customers is increasingly important, said Troika Brodsky, executive director of the St. Louis Brewers Guild. "Everyone is constantly tweaking recipes to get what people want," Brodsky said. "Pulling back the curtain and showing customers what you do is something that appeals to brewers, and it's fun for customers."