It has been quite some time since Earthbound Beer’s grand new space was unveiled inside the old Cherokee Brewery stockhouse. I decided to go check it out and see how things were going. How does it feel to operate a modern brewery in an old building that is over 100 years old? What lessons can the Earthbound founders have learned from this space?
To find out about what it was like to brew beer at one of the oldest breweries in St. Louis, I met Stuart Keating and Jeff Siddons. Rebeca Schranz, the third founder, has left Second Shift to concentrate on her brewing. Robin Johnson, her business partner, has moved to Portland, Oregon. Robin Johnson still designs Earthbound’s labels. Kristina Goodwin (Keating’s partner) was busy in the kitchen frying Spam for the evening’s service.
First, I was able to tell Keating and Siddons (and you) some new facts about the Cherokee Brewery’s early years. We know for a long time that the Meyer brothers had purchased Cherokee Brewery from Ferdinand Herold and George Loebs in 1866. This was shortly after they had constructed the first brewhouse as well as rudimentary buildings.
The original contract between the Meyer brothers and Herold & Loebs is still in existence. I discovered many surprising facts when I went to look at it. There were three Meyer brothers, Jacob, and Joseph. All three of them were married: Elizabeth, Mary, and Barbara were their wives, respectively. It’s good to have this information, but not too shocking. The price was what shocked me about this sales contract: In 1866, Herold and Loebs bought the brewery from the Meyer brothers for $48,500. Although we assumed the Meyers were bankrupt for a long time, there is no evidence of a courthouse sale. The high price suggests that sellers are not in financial weakness but rather, they are bargaining from a position where they have financial strength.
The original plat covered lots 1-5, 6-10 and 10 of Sub-block 1of Block 61of 2 nd subdivisions of the St. Louis Commons. That plat won’t be checked. These lots were sold by the City of St. Louis as a single lot, but they remained together until the sale to the WJL Companies.
According to the contract, the Meyers only purchased the land in 1865 from John Ockle. They hoped to build the brewery and infrastructure and then to sell it to Herold and Loebs at a profit. The current owners were not surprised by this. Keating stated that such an arrangement was not unusual for a modern-day brewery.
Keating and Siddon are always a pleasure to talk to. They don’t take themselves too seriously, not in interviews and certainly not online. When Schnucks on Arsenal was advertising its “World’s Record for Largest Pineapple Display”, someone from Earthbound put a few four-packs of their beer in the fruit pile, took a photo, and immediately rechristened it “NEW WORLD Record: World’s largest pineapple display and Earthbound beer display.” “Proud to partner with you on such an important occasion, @SchnuckMarkets!”
In September, Earthbound will celebrate the second anniversary in Cherokee Brewery’s old stock house. The fifth anniversary in the small space down the block will take place in November. It’s been a learning experience for Keating as they adapt to the larger production capacity of their new brewery.
He says, “You’re going be figuring out how you’re doing it for a long while.” “We have a rough idea of how much business will we do each week …”
Siddons recalls the days when their brewing equipment was in a closet. “Now, I have to climb up and down the stairs carrying buckets full of water and chemicals.
The amazing renovation was the focus of both Earthbound staffs as well as the general public when the new brewery opened. Keating recalls, “All we thought was this building.” “And it was just [long queues of] people outside the door for four to five months, which was amazing.”
As with any new business, the novelty faded and Earthbound’s partners realized that they needed to market their business to continue to grow it. Keating says that after the first year of operation, there was a retreat for staff. Keating states that it was important to not only get people in the taproom but also on Cherokee Street.
Pop-up meals became very popular on Sundays when a chef came in and served one meal (often while looking for a brick and mortar location).
Earthbound offers a basic menu, with a lot of it, centered around Spam. Keating was shocked when I admitted that I had never tried Spam. It was delicious, I must admit. While I was eating, Keating rattled off a bunch of Spam facts.
The brewery’s food is affordable, with the sandwich at $3. The restaurant is profitable and does not distract from the main focus of Earthbound: beer.
Earthbound currently sells 80 percent of its beer “over the bar” at their Cherokee Street location. The remaining 20 percent is sold through Show Me Beverages, Earthbound’s distributor. Keating is thrilled to be working with the distributors, who are approximately the same age as Earthbound’s partners and have a focus on microbreweries.
Siddons has been keeping his eye on the canning lines, which has helped bring Earthbound beer to a wider market, even in Kansas City.
Danielle Snowden is a new assistant brewer and doubles as a gardener/tour guide.
Will they continue adding to their historic, larger space now that they have settled in? Nope, says Keating. “Making beer and selling beer, not expanding.”