It's been an endeavor several years in the making, but Rockwell Beer Co. is officially slated to open in St. Louis in September.
Owner Andy Hille, a Perennial Artisan Ales alum, first announced plans to open Rockwell in April 2016. He signed a lease for a space at 1320 S. Vandeventer that fall, but financing complications stalled the project.
Now, though, Hille says Rockwell is on track for a September opening. The 12,000-square-foot space, developed in partnership with Green Street St. Louis and architecture and design firm JEMA, features a 15-barrel, three-vessel brewhouse, a 2,000-square-foot tasting room and its own retail space selling glassware, apparel and other items.
Hille has brought on a handful of familiar faces to fill out the Rockwell team. Earlier this year, he announced that Jonathan Moxey, another fellow Perennial alum, will be Rockwell's head brewer. He'll work with Hille's cousin Peter Hille on the production side; although Rockwell won't have any flagship beers, guests can expect to see the return of a few favorites from festivals and events over the past few years. Specifically, Hille says Fabricius (a saison brewed with mandarin oranges), Bird Up! (a hoppy rye pale ale) and Major Key (an East Coast-West Coast hybrid double IPA) will likely be available both on draft at the taproom and in cans.
"We don't have to [have a flagship], which is nice," Hille says. "We want to be flexible and feel out the market we're in. I think the thing we're probably most excited about is to get on a larger professional scale with some really good temperature-controlled beers and start brewing some lagers. That's something that is really hard to replicate on a small scale or pilot system."
Rockwell is aiming to produce 1,500 barrels in its first year, and Hille says a majority of that will be driven through the brewery's own tasting room and retail store. Rockwell will feature its own canning line – a rare feature for a startup brewery – and will also bottle a few beers designed for bottle-conditioning, like some traditional Belgian styles. "That's important for us: To have a full-service facility so that we can really optimize what we are making and, in that matter, be more flexible with what we do," Hille says.
Rockwell also has big plans for its 2,000-square-foot tasting room, which faces Vandeventer. Last winter, Hille announced that powerhouse restaurateur Gerard Craft will be operating the food service inside the tasting room. Hille says the setup will be similar to other restaurants operating inside breweries, like Peacemaker Lobster & Crab Co. inside 4 Hands Brewing Co. or Guerrilla Street Food inside 2nd Shift Brewing Co. Guests will order from the bar and pick up food from the counter; the kitchen will be located inside a bright blue shipping container.
The menu is still being finalized, but Hille describes it as approachable pub-style food meant to pair well with beer. "To have beer and food together is really kind of a match made in heaven and we’re not looking to do anything completely over-the-top, either," he says. "We're not going to be too fussy with anything; it will be things you've seen before but done in a really approachable and balanced way."
And another familiar face will be managing the tasting room itself: Hille has tapped Ryan Nickelson, co-owner of Craft Beer Cellar (and a former Feast columnist) for the role. Fans of Rockwell know Nickelson has helped with the brewery's events over the past few years, so Hille says it was a no-brainer for Nickelson (who will remain a co-owner of Craft Beer Cellar with his brother, Brandon) to come on board in a more official capacity.
"It was very exciting to have his involvement with the tasting room and seeing where he has a vision for Rockwell, too," Hille says. "For me personally, as we’ve added staff it’s exciting to see that Rockwell is developing into something that’s not just inside my head but organizationally is taking a bigger form. Other people have their own thoughts and beliefs of what it should be."
The tasting room, which guests will enter through brightly colored shipping containers, will feature a bar with 16 taps. Twelve will be dedicated to beer and four will flex, offering cold-brew coffee, kombucha, cocktails, soda or wine. Two retractable glass garage doors separate the tasting room from the brewhouse; on weekends, Hille says they plan to open the doors so guests can wander around into the brewing facility when it's not in use.
One unique feature of the brewhouse will be a custom design from Foeder Crafters of America (based in O'Fallon, Missouri) with horizontal foeders. "We're going to make a triangle with them, so it will be a stack of 3, 2, 1 to really optimize the space and create an almost sculpture of sorts of our oak tanks. They're so beautiful already; it's something we definitely want to showcase," Hille says.
To tie the tasting room and brewhouse together, the ceiling in the tasting room will feature a design made from Foeder Crafters oak scraps that would normally be thrown away. The brewhouse will be home to six different oak foeders, including one with a cold plate to brew oak-fermented lagers. "It's something that's not relatively common in the area but is becoming more prevalent," Hille says. "It was an old-world style of fermenting in oak over the course of the winter, and we can replicate that by actually having a cold plate in the oak foeder."
Hille says equipment is beginning to arrive now and will be installed in August, putting Rockwell on track for a September opening. "It's been a long time for us to get to this point, but for us to have the time to think through everything – I think it's really going to benefit us in the long run," he says.
Rockwell Beer Co., 1320 S. Vandeventer, Botanical Heights, St. Louis, Missouri, rockwellbeer.com