If you happen to visit a brewery in Rome and spot a Schlafly Beer sticker, chances are you can thank Jesse and Laura Stansberry.
To call the couple craft-beer enthusiasts might be a bit of an understatement. Jesse travels around the state frequently for work, and likes to get to know each city by checking out its beer scene. "Every night when I get in my hotel, I pull up Google Maps or the Untapped app, find a brewery I haven't gone to, and I head over to the brewery and hang out there, because I just love the community that breweries have," he says.
That's a passion he shares with Laura: For their first two dates, they visited local breweries. On a typical Saturday night, you can find them checking out a brewery they haven't yet visited. At their wedding last month (hosted at Old Bakery Beer Co. in Alton, Illinois, naturally), they even handed out pretzel necklaces to guests as if they were attending a beer festival. The couple has a giant wall plastered with brewery stickers, and take the extras with them when they travel; last year, they visited breweries in Milan, Bologna, Rome and Verona and left behind stickers from Schlafly, Old Bakery and Cathedral Square Brewery.
"That's kind our thing," Jesse says. "It's just pretty much ingrained in us because we love the community of craft breweries."
During their travels in the states, the couple attended a few brewery tours around the Midwest and found themselves drawn to the concept. They quickly realized the concept would be well-suited to St. Louis. "St. Louis has such a great beer history and such a great beer culture," Jesse says. "So we decided to give it a shot."
This weekend, they're doing just that. Jesse and Laura have launched Brew Hop STL, which will offer educational tours of a handful of St. Louis craft breweries. The tours include transportation to and from the breweries, plus a behind-the-scenes look at each brewery's operations and, of course, plenty of beer.
The first tour kicks off this Sat., Oct. 13, featuring Charleville Brewing Co., 4 Hands Brewing Co., Alpha Brewing Co. and Wellspent Brewing Co. The tour will start and end at Charleville.
Each tour will last between three and a half to four hours, including four stops at breweries that are located relatively close to each other. Each of the four stops will last between 30 and 45 minutes, and guests (from a group of 8 to 14) will receive one full pour from each brewery on the tour. Tours will always start and end at the same brewery.
To start, Brew Hop STL will offer tours twice a month on Saturdays only, featuring two tour times: 12:30 to 4:30pm and 5 to 9pm. A few tours are already slated for this fall, including:
- Sat., Oct. 20 at noon: Third Wheel Brewing Co., Good News brewing Co., Friendship Brewing Co. and Two Plumbers Brewery + Arcade
- Sat., Oct. 20 at 5pm: O'Fallon Brewery, Greer Brewing Co., Steampunk Brew Works, Kirkwood Station Brewing Co.
- Sat., Nov. 10 at 5pm: Square One Brewery & Distillery, Schlafly Taproom, Urban Chestnut Brewing Co., Wellspent Brewing Co.
- Sat., Nov. 17 at 5pm: Charleville Brewing Co., Perennial Artisan Ales, Earthbound Beer, 4 Hands Brewing Co.
In the coming months, Brew Hop STL hopes to incorporate even more local breweries, including Illinois spots like 4204 Main Street Brewing Co., Peel Brewing Co. and Recess Brewing Co. The goal is to not offer the same tour twice in a quarter, and to not visit the same brewery more than once every two months. "We want to get to as many breweries as we can, however we can," Jesse says.
Brew Hop STL, brewhopstl.com