Urban Chestnut to Open Urban Research Brewery (The U.R.B.) in The Grove

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Urban Chestnut Brewing Company (UCBC) is announcing today that it will be opening a new brewery in The Grove. The Urban Research Brewery (The U.R.B.) will be focused on consumer research, offering flights of four 2oz samples of the latest experimental brews for $1.

The U.R.B. will occupy 3,500 sf immediately across Taylor Avenue at 4501 Manchester from the UCBC Grove Brewery & Bier Hall. The new brewery will have its own 2 bbl pilot brewery occupying the central space, with a consumer research bar area and small pizza-by-the slice counter on either side.

The space at 4501 has been vacant since Joyia Tapas closed in April of last year. That effort lasted nearly a year and a half and followed at least two other restaurants that experienced short runs at the location.

UCBC_theURB_logoA true research brewery, The U.R.B. will ask consumers to provide instantaneous feedback on test beers using a cell phone, tablet, or other smart device. As UCBC has grown rapidly over the past four years, Co-Founder & Brewmaster Florian Kuplent has wanted to find a way to gain more feedback.

“Two things our brewers have never been able to effectively do: 1.) brew small test batches and 2.) interact directly with beer drinkers regarding experimental beers”, Kuplent says. “Having a small pilot brewery adjacent to our production brewery will provide our brewers the ability to create, research, and develop new beers that may ultimately end up in the UCBC portfolio.”

The brewery will cater to beer enthusiasts, but also aims to be a comfortable place to hang out. After sampling test beers, patrons will be able to purchase a standard pour, depending on supply, as well as other UCBC beers.

The two existing UCBC locations in St. Louis are frequently packed with beer drinkers and host large events such as Wolpertinger, an annual celebration of beer, being held January 24th this year at the Grove location. The U.R.B. will give the brewery the option to do smaller events.

“The new brewery will provide UCBC with an ideal location to host taste panels, home brewer discussions, focus groups, etc.”, says David Wolfe, UCBC Co-Founder.

UCBC opened in January 2011 in an 8,000 sf renovated service station in the city’s Midtown neighborhood. Just more than two years later, the effort by the former Anheuser-Busch employees expanded in a big way, opening the 67K sf bier hall in The Grove.

URB2{The U.R.B. will be located across from UCBC at the western end of The Grove}

The larger brewing facility in The Grove has quickly become a destination, something Brooks Goedeker, Executive Director of Park Central Development Corporation, celebrates.

“The Grove has quickly become one of the region’s premier food and entertainment destinations. The Urban Chestnut Bierhall and the new U.R.B. facility will solidify this for years to come,” Goedecker said. “It is great to see the Grove’s visitors walking up and down the district and partaking in several businesses every time they come to The Grove.”

The area’s early identity may have been 3a.m. bars, but what’s emerging is a mix of national and regional destinations, along with a wide range of restaurants, more professional offices, and a significant number of longtime businesses.

It’s not uncommon to see a tour bus and lines out the door at Sweetie Pies, made famous by the reality TV show “Welcome to Sweetie Pies”. People take photos of each other outside UCBC. Dozens of people sitting on the sidewalk outside the Ready Room to attend a show is a weekly occurrence.

And the retail growth appears to be going hand-in-hand with residential growth. A custom contemporary home recently sold for $750K and new infill is moving at $400K. Residential development is expected to pick up with infill south of Manchester, and development of the large Commerce Bank lot coming soon.

URB1{the 2 bbl pilot brewery will occupy the central bay at 4501 Manchester}

For existing businesses, The U.R.B is more good news. “Since opening the new brewery in 2014 UCBC has been a great neighbor and supporter of The Grove. This project shows their ongoing commitment to the neighborhood and will continue the momentum of The Grove towards being the funnest and most welcoming area in St Louis,” said Roo Yawitz, owner of The Gramophone. “Plus the beer is gonna be awesome.”

In the first full year of production measured, July 2011-June 2012, UCBC brewed 1,808 barrels. The brewer totaled 3,551 in 2013, 7,152 in 2014 and for fiscal year 2015 (July 2014-June 2015), 11,714. The larger location in The Grove has capacity for 15,000 barrels with room to greatly increase that number. For comparison, The St. Louis Brewery (Schlafly), long the area’s largest small brewery, brewed 35,484 barrels this past year.

UCBC graph

Kuplent and Wolfe both spent time at Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis before co-founding UCBC. The brewery is known for its modern American beers (Revolution series) and classically-crafted European styles (Reverence series). UCBC operates a third brewery, Urban Chestnut Hallertauer Brauerei, in the Hallertau region of Bavaria, where it brews its Hallertauer Serie, small batches of locally sourced, Bavarian bier.

UCBC is leasing the space at 4501 Manchester from Restoration St. Louis, a St. Louis based real estate developer who’s been very active in development of The Grove, aka Forest Park Southeast neighborhood. Restoration St. Louis just announced it will restore the Adler & Sullivan designed 705 Olive Building in downtown St. Louis as a boutique hotel. The U.R.B. is being designed by Space Architecture + Design, also located in The Grove.

The new brewery’s launch date is pending delivery of specialized brewing equipment from a European manufacturer, and on federal and local licensing, both of which are expected to be finalized this spring.

*disclosure: the author works at SPACE Architecture + Design and really likes Urban Chestnut beer

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  • STLEnginerd

    What a weird business model. I thought the Midtown bier garden location was going to be their small batch brewery. Now they have 4 separate breweries to manage (including the one in Germany) all brewing different beers, plus a lot of production distribution. I just don’t understand why this function couldn’t have been integrated into their current facilities. I hope Florian and Co know what their doing (aside from how to brew which i think we can all agree they have figured out).

    Maybe its just a matter of locking down real estate with an eye to eventual expansion. In the mean time they want to get some use out of it…? Just a guess.

    • Ashley

      if their business model is profitable, then im pretty sure they have the means to experiment. this idea is something new and unique, as i don’t know anyone who does this. except alpha kind of has that tiny brewery feel and for $20 you can go on their “tour” and drink beer from their brewing room.

      i think they are making this new location kind of an “activity” destination, rather than just a place for friends to meet up for a beer. that’s what the bierhall serves. this will be an activity for friends to do on weekends, out of towners to try before they head to busch stadium. i think it’s a great idea

      • John R

        It looks like to me it’s a relatively inexpensive creative venture for them that should pay off; if not, it’s not going to break them.

        It also is a bit of what I had in mind for my space I was going to have called The Lab at that old building on Sarah and Duncan that was the HQ for the US Metals… it would have had an Edison era theme/decor and serve experimental drinks. But then Cortex and Wexford crushed my dreams!

        • Chicagoan

          Yeah, I highly doubt the space was expensive to acquire/rent. It helps them give stability to an attractive storefront that’s seen a lot of turnover in recent years for what I’m sure is a reasonable price.

    • Can’t overlook the value of “strength of place”. It sounds like this location has had trouble holding tenants — neighboring vacancies do impact the neighboring business, so perhaps this is UC just brute-forcing the stability that wasn’t there previously.

  • Pizza Guy

    “small pizza-by-the slice counter on either side.”

    Way to bury the lede

  • Daron

    So what would it take for UC to open up a rooftop beer garden?

  • Deep Dish

    Still waiting for them to start distributing in Colorado. I bring back a few beers every time I visit St. Louis, and everyone I share them with loves them and asks where they can buy some.

  • Michael B

    It’s wonderful to see a solid tenant go into that location. I was a frequent customer at Joyia’s but unfortunately it was never able to gain consistency. With UCBC’s booming brewery across the street, the flow of customers into The U.R.B. should be relatively easy to maintain. Hopefully this will spur further development into the west end of The Grove, which has always been the quieter end.

  • Chicagoan

    Just had a Schnickelfritz at a trendy pizza place here in Chicago last night, I love their beer. I’ve been to the bier garten in St. Louis before, had an Oachkatzlschwoaf and a pretzel. You feel like you’re in Bavaria when you’re drinking your beer there, with the great scenery and the beautiful old church across the street.