Savvy South City Craft Brewery
Tucked away at Morganford and Fyler, just south of historical Tower Grove Park, you’ll find the eclectic Alpha Brewing Company. On any given day after 2 p.m., you will likely see and hear patrons (and sometimes their pooches) dancing and laughing to music on the patio while enjoying 20 of the in-house tap selections, ciders, ale, kombucha, and a variety of fun mixed beverages. Venture inside the joint, owned and operated by head brewer, Derrick Langeneckert, to enjoy an effervescent dining atmosphere featuring an oblong bar backed by copper taps and a wall of art that, for a moment, reminded me of an upscale beachside tavern off the Northeast coastline.
Story: Elizabeth LeBrun
Photos: Cory Weaver
Chef Eric’s Country Fried Pork Steak
This wide selection of liquor is provided along with unique handmade culinary treats—and some mandatory St. Louis staples—from Chef Eric Ramon Perez.
“I’ve been with Alpha Brewing since Spring of 2019, when I moved to the St. Louis area from Nashville, Tennessee, where I was chef de cuisine at sit-down venue,” explained Perez. “I saw on Facebook that Alpha Brewing was trying out some new chefs, and I’ve been here since then. I currently serve as the one and only full-time chef.”
Originally from Austin, Texas, Perez said that he’s really enjoying raising his family in the St. Louis area. “We like to support the local community and buy a lot of our food from neighboring farmers’ markets,” says Perez. “The only things that we don’t make from scratch are basically ketchup, mustard, buns, and fries. There are no pretensions here.”
Perez draws inspiration from his Puerto Rican heritage, and really enjoys offering Alpha Brewing patrons a variety in the changing monthly menus. He said he feels lucky that Langeneckert has allowed him the freedom to be creative with the menu.
“We want to eventually move to the next level where we could collaborate with local restaurants on barrel-aged sauces and some pickled items,” Perez said. “I currently prep food four to six hours each day and am able to create some great sauces for dishes by incorporating certain in-house brews into the mix.”
His dream is to grow large enough to have two separate kitchens—one for current pub customers and one for commercial purposes. “While Covid was rough on everyone, things are looking up,” he said. “Our customers are awesome, and we like to see the same folks back again enjoying quality food and drink.”
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Chef, Eric Ramon Perez
On Wednesdays through Sundays, patrons can enjoy excellent food and drink along with live local music and an ever-changing variety of artists and bands ranging from rock to country to blues and jazz. The last Thursday of each month also offers an open-mic night for budding stars.
We sat down with Derrick Langeneckert to talk about the brewery, how it’s going and his vision for the future.
Q: You left downtown STL in order to expand your space and welcome additional patrons. Have the past eight years seen the expansion numbers that you were hoping for, and does this include past patrons, as well as new?
A: We opened up a small concept brewery in April of 2013 in a 2,250 square foot space on Washington Avenue downtown. We loved our neighbors and the growth potential we saw in the neighborhood, but it became apparent very quickly that we were stymied by our own ambitions, as we didn’t have the space. Nearing the end of our five-year lease term, we decided it was either grow or die. After an exhaustive search we purchased the current property in 2017, where construction quickly began on the immense space. The Tower Grove South neighborhood is a thriving business district just five blocks from the best park in St. Louis, and our patronage has definitely changed from the original location. Before, downtown’s loft dwellers and Cardinals fans and tourists were our base. Now, it’s the neighbors who are mostly young families and dual-income/no-kids residents living in their first homes…so our numbers have exploded. Revenue is up 400% over our downtown days, and that’s easier to accomplish with 4,000 square feet of taproom and kitchen space, a private event space, and our 10,000 square-foot production facility.
Q: Are you brewing the 3,000 barrels annually that I’d read that the Tower Grove location has the capacity to do?
A: Our brewing system is designed to brew about 3,000 barrels a year if we were just brewing pale ales, which are generally easy and fast to brew. Our process is more complicated combining unique yeasts and often times fruit and oak. In 2020, production was down for obvious reasons. We had a lot of restaurant partners shutter or close due to pandemic. Sales were down across the board. 2021 has seen an explosive rise in sales from our own taproom, to adding our new can line and package sales, and restaurants re-opening for draught sales. I expect to hit 1,000 barrels for the first time this year in production.
Q: Tell me more about The Sipster Program
A: Our Sipster Program is a rewards program developed to pass out cool swag to our favorite patrons. It’s a $25 lifetime membership, every brew you drink is tracked in your membership book. After 50 beers, you get a growler that always costs $5 to fill. After 100, you get an official Sipster Tee Shirt. Milestones are reached for every couple hundred drinks. At 1,000 brews (which three people have already achieved) you get a house party filled with Alpha Beer.
Q. As far as music is concerned, are you concentrating on a certain TYPE of musician (i.e., rock/funk/jazz/etc.)? Do you find that the area/your patrons have a favorite? Are you planning to further expand the music scene here, and if so, would you be concentrating more on local musicians, or include some out-of-state ones as well?
A: Each day has its own theme, kinda. We like to focus on local singer/songwriters. We have live music five nights a week, Wednesday to Sunday. Friday we have a piano-only happy hour. Sunday is Jazz. Every once in a while, we entertain a touring musician—often at the recommendation of a regular artist. We have one of the biggest music programs of any bar outside of BB’s on Broadway and the Duck Room! We hope to host more big shows and are working slowly on plans to open another location, which is more of a venue and private event space to host larger scale events.
“We stay current to trends, buck them when needed.”
Brew master, Derrick Langeneckert
Q: How many staple brews do you stick to? How many new ones are tried per year?
A: We generally have six regular brews on our menu:
Swingle—Lime Blonde Ale • Fyler Flyer—Belgian Style Blonde Ale Atheist Ale—Belgian Style IPA
Believers Brew—Oatmeal Stout • Hop Lock & Drop It— Pale Ale Divine Intervention—Blood Orange Blonde Ale
Q: I’ve heard talk about comedy nights as well?
A: One of the neighbors described Alpha Brewing Co. as the “local community center.” We host a variety of events throughout the year. We host a comedy show with Max Pryce, who also headlines at the Funny Bone in our event space. Our Chili Cookoff is returning in November, Bacon Fest will be in January, and the Mac & Cheese Cookoff happens in May. We also feature Meat Bingo the last Wednesday of every month. Play Bingo-Win Steaks! We host Talks Every Tuesday, which always features a local smart guy or gal. We have local historians, scholars, writers from the Zoo, Botanical Gardens, Bellefontaine Cemetery, and many more discussing Science, History and Literature every Tuesday at 7 p.m. We always have something going on!