Microbrewery coming to Belleville, a city with a rich beer history

News-DemocratJanuary 25, 2014 

A Belleville restaurateur is bringing a microbrewery and restaurant to town, where beer making has been a rich part of the city's 200-year history.

Todd Kennedy has owned the long-vacant building at 4204 W. Main St. for the past 13 years and has seen a succession of restaurants occupy the space in that time. Now, work is underway to renovate the site and create a microbrewery and restaurant, which Kennedy anticipates opening by May.

Kennedy will bring a brewmaster on site to brew eight craft beers at his Main Street Brewing Co. The brewing will be done behind glass so diners can watch the beer making. Kennedy said the former banquet room in the back will be converted to a bottling area that will also be lined with glass panels for more public viewing. Kennedy said customers will be able to watch the entire brewing process, from grinding the grain to bottling the beer.

"You'll be able to see it all," Kennedy said. "It will be kind of neat to see."

The new venue will seat 108 in the dining room, 60 at the bar and another 30 seats around the tables to be located outside. The restaurant will feature a couple different menus. One will be a more upscale for those who sit in the dining room and another "Applebee's-type" menu for those who sit and eat at the bar.

"It's going to be a unique and fun environment," said Kennedy, who owns four Golden Corral restaurants, which are in Collinsville, Alton, Carbondale and the Lake of the Ozarks.

The craft brewing movement has been gaining in popularity as many of these small independent breweries have opened up throughout the country, including some "brewpubs," or those that also operate with in a tavern or restaurant, like the one Kennedy plans to open in Belleville.

According to the Brewers Association in Boulder, Colo., 2,347 craft breweries were in operation in 2012, and more than 310 new microbreweries and 99 new brewpubs opened that year. Association staff economist Bart Watson said this growing industry reflects American consumers emerging tastes.

"We are seeing beer lovers demand more full-flavored beers," Watson said. "They also want to support their local businesses. They want to stay local and spend their money locally."

The microbrewery will be first brewer in town in more than a quarter of century. Many Belleville residents remember the Stag Brewery, which had operated off 17th Street until it closed in 1988.

The first Belleville brewery was launched in 1832. By 1860, Belleville was home to seven breweries.

Today, many independent brewers have set up shops and restaurants across the river in St. Louis and beyond. In the metro-east area, the consumers have been visiting the Kaskaskia Brewing Co. in Red Bud, which brews eight different beers a day and has served them on Friday and Saturday nights since October 2012.

"We always have regulars who come in and a lot of new people come in all of the time who are interested in trying new things," said Matt Schenck, who works in the Red Bud microbrewery's tasting room. "They are really interested and ask a lot of questions. They seem pretty open to trying new things and we try to brew different things to keep their interest and have different beer for people to try."

In Breese, the Exel Bottling Co. has been bottling and manufacturing soda since 1936. In 2012, the company created Excel Brewery and brews five different beers.

A new microbrewery is getting ready to open next month in Granite City. Six Mile Brewery and Smokehouse will be making beer and serving food at 1324 Niedringhaus Ave., inside the former Guardian Savings Bank. The building was initially built in the 1920s for First National Bank and has been vacant for six years. The new business' name is a tribute to the city's history as the community was initially known as Six Mile Prairie because farmers traveled six miles to market their corn in St. Louis.

Contact reporter Will Buss at wbuss@bnd.com or 618-239-2526.

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