This story is part of our special Craft Beer Guide, publishing Sunday in the Post-Dispatch.
Title: Head brewer and president, Earthbound Beer
Hometown: Oklahoma City
Family: Wife, two dogs and a hedgehog
What is the first beer you tried? Natural Light
What is the first beer you loved? Weihenstephaner Kristallweissbier, a German wheat beer
What beer can’t you stand? Beer that has heat-staled; it smells and tastes like cardboard
Where do you drink on your day off? Anywhere on Cherokee Street; Tick Tock Tavern, Publico, Randolfi’s and Parker’s Table
What do you drink that isn’t beer? Whiskey, pastis, mezcal cocktails
Stuart Keating’s pet peeve is returning to a bar only to find that it is offering the same beer selection as when he was there last.
So when he and two friends opened Earthbound Beer in November 2014, they committed to a rapidly rotating menu.
“We made a conscious decision to change the beer list once a week, Keating says. “It’s a really insane proposition. But we make small batches of wildly different beers.”
Beers like the chocolate malt Tomahawk Slam Dunkel, the red-hued Session Evader IPA and the tropically tart Splash Party Saison.
“We have no permanent styles,” says Keating. In 2015, Earthbound’s first full year in business, he and his partners, Rebecca Schranz and Jeff Siddons, made 76 different beers over 120 brew days.
That’s a number that will soon be growing exponentially. Earthbound is set to move just down Cherokee Street from its 1,000-square-foot home with eight taps and seating for 50 to a 160-year-old brewery building that can hold 250 and will have about two dozen lines.
“It was our original pick, but we couldn’t afford it,” says Keating. The new location includes space for packaging and will also allow Earthbound to sell food and offer nonbeer drinks. Unique malted beverages, however, will always be the bar’s focus.
The partners got into the brewing business because of their love for craft beer. The men were buddies from their University of Oklahoma days; Schranz worked as an intern at Keating’s environmental nonprofit.
“I was really aggressively into home brewing,” says Keating. “And we all wanted to do something tangible, with our hands. I think we all enjoy coming to work every day, doing adventurous things.”
That includes experimenting with different styles of beers and unusual ingredients. Gruits, beer made without hops, have been a new focus. Herbs and other ingredients have to be used to give the beer its bitterness.
Earthbound often reaches outside the United States for its inspiration: “There’s a semi-refined sugar from India called jiggery that has great flavor, aroma and texture. Ashburne Mild Malt is a British malted barley that’s sweet and light … We lean toward well-made and eclectic,” Keating says.
Two popular beers this summer have been Thai Basil IPA, which adds the Thai basil at the end of the boil, and the Blushing Cowboy, a salty, sour German beer made with coriander and strawberry.
The agility that comes with brewing small batches, about 45 gallons at a time, lets Earthbound respond to seasonal tastes by adjusting the barley malt, hop blends and adjunct ingredients.
“It’s pure experimentation,” he says. “Beer is largely situational: what you’re eating, what the weather is like, what mood you’re in.”
That’s why Keating doesn’t think the plethora of craft breweries in St. Louis is overkill — there’s something for every kind of drinker.
“The market is beginning to differentiate, which is what we needed to see,” he says. “To fit into the current ecosystem, you have to have excellent beer. There’s a lot of beer to be made.”
Earthbound Beer • Where 2710 Cherokee Street • More info 314-504-3532; earthboundbeer.com