We arrived in St Louis at 1:30 in the afternoon and immediately walked into 4 Hands Brewing Co. If you are familiar with 4 Hands bottles, you know that their logo and bottle art is top notch artistic, and the brewery itself is no different.
The taproom is filled with repurposed wood and metal materials making up the bar and furniture. Label artwork is framed and lines the walls while prints and accolades fill in the gaps. The main table in the room is an old dock door that was covered in glass and laid on its side. One wall dominates the scene as a spray painted stencil graphic of the brewery logo covers the wall in metallic silver and black. Large windows, almost from floor to ceiling, look out into the brewery. This place has a really cool vibe.
Just as we got done taking in the scenery, 4 Hands Owner, Kevin Lemp, greeted us and immediately offered up a beer. After a moment of deliberation and looking over the tap list, Kevin disappeared into the back and emerged with a bottle of Madagascar, a barrel aged imperial stout with vanilla beans. The overall concept of the beer has been played with by many breweries, but this particular gem was something else. This had the perfect amount of vanilla bean to bourbon barrel stout ratio. It was incredible.
While sipping our way through Madagascar, the history of 4 Hands started to unfold in conversation. The backdrop of the brewery windows helped as a visual aid to explain the development of how the brewery has grown. Starting with the brew system and two 500 gallon tanks to the addition of several larger, stainless steel tanks that make up a fair amount of the facilities workspace.
"Transparency is key when it comes down to the process, barrels, ingredients, and everything that goes into making our beer," said Kevin as hakes a sip of his stout. "It's all about educating the consumer."
Wanting to continue the trip down memory lane, Kevin disappeared once again only to return with five more bottles from the cellar including two barrel aged wild ale saisons, two anniversary beers (which all have an overall theme of The Wizard of Oz), and another barrel aged imperial stout called Volume 1. We recently had Volume 1 on draft at our Darkside event in February, but there was something magic about this brew in a bottle. Chocolate, vanilla and bourbon barrel goodness trapped in a bottle just waiting to get out. Simply amazing.
As with a lot of breweries, talks of expansion and growth area a constant. The current 4 Hands facility sits at 12,000 square feet with another 8,000 in the works. The second floor of the building will be transformed into a wine and whiskey barrel room, which will help clear up some floor space in the brewery. Space is always a hot commodity in a brewery and between tanks, barrels, kegs and bottles, it gets eaten up fast.
The building itself has a history with many different things occupying the space. While taking a moment in the loft-style office in the back (couches, beer cellar and Playstation included), Kevin whipped out old ledgers with production entries from the early 1900’s found in a closet on the second floor. Steel beams and supports from the machinery used in the past are still a part of the landscape. It is cool to see something historic with modern machinery, design, and production taking place.
Sitting back down in the taproom, the place was now open to the public and a fair amount of people filled the room to grab a beer or a quick bite. We learned that the taproom plays host to a slew of weekly gatherings such as the bottle share that was happening later that night. Being out-of-towners, we were light on bottles to throw down but the kind folks at the brewery fronted us a few and invited us to stop by. We kindly obliged.
We learned a lot about 4 Hands Brewing, and the St Louis craft beer scene, all in an 8-hour period. It was a hell of a way to be welcomed into town. With some incredibly talented, nice people and an amazing lineup of beers, 4 Hands is all around wonderful. If you’re ever in the neighborhood, check them out. I know I’ll be back.