By Henry Herbst, Don Roussin, and Kevin Kious
St. Louis: Reedy Press, 2009
ISBN # 978-1-933370-91-0
289 pages

Comments by Bob Corbett
December 2009

This is not only a very well-researched and fascinating book, but simply beautiful in presentation. Large, coffee-table sized book filled with great text and marvelous colorful graphics. Written by three men knowledgeable of local St. Louis beers, and men with a dedication to collecting breweriana and telling the rest of us about their research and love of St. Louis beers.

Henry Herbst, one of the three authors was not only a beloved friend of mine, grade school buddy, and husband of one of my favorite cousins, but even a founding board member of our local Dogtown Historical Society. I followed much of Henry’s love of St. Louis brews and his hobby of collecting breweriana, especially beer cans, a hobby he involved me in for a number of years.

It was with great sadness to me that Henry died just days before the formal book signing opening sales for this book. I joined many others that night the book was “brought out,” and had pre-purchased a copy for our Dogtown Historical Society. Shortly before he died Henry had signed 100 copies of the book for that evening, and I was overwhelmed with emotion to discover that our DHS copy was one Henry signed along with his two co-authors. That signed copy now occupies a place of special honor in our DHS archives.

The opening chapter was one of my favorites. The authors analyze St. Louis brewing over the past two hundreds years within 8 “periods:”

  1. A cottage industry (1809 – 1840), the earliest days of minor brewing in St. Louis.
  2. The Germanization of St. Louis brewing (1840 – 1865) which tells of the large number of German immigrants coming to St. Louis, discovering the excellence of its water and the joy of a city built over the top of many caves where lager beer could be stored and aged.
  3. The glory days (1865 – 1889). This was the period when many of the major breweries opened and the quality and quantity of St. Louis beer grew dramatically.
  4. The beginning of the end (1889 – 1920) This period leading to Prohibition was one of continued growth, but worries too, about the effects of the coming prohibition of alcohol.
  5. The dark days of Prohibition (1920 -1933). Here the sad tale recounts the attempts of many breweries to stay open during this dry time, and the failure of many.
  6. Happy days are here again (1933 – 1957) is the story of the few breweries which survived Prohibition, and the relatively few new additions to the St. Louis beer scene in that period of growth.
  7. Toward a national expansion (1957 – 1991). This chapter is in many ways a second death knell of LOCAL brewing as the number of St. Louis breweries declined, but the larger ones grew and became less St. Louis beers than national and soon, international breweries.
  8. The craft brewers arrive (1991 – present). This is a hopeful chapter of the present trend toward micro breweries and contract brewing with local pub houses where the local beers are sold. I say “hopeful” since it’s still too early to know just how successful and long-lasting this period will be with the continued internationalization of the brewing industry.

After that intriguing chapter of analysis, the book moves into a very long second chapter which details the history of the more famous and successful and noteworthy of the breweries with special emphasis on breweries such as Anheuser Busch, Falstaff, Columbia, Hyde Park and Griesedieck among others.

Next, in chapter three the authors recognize another group of breweries which never came to special prominence nor longevity, but which for various reasons they selected as worthy of special note. I found it especially interesting that the authors speculate on the reasons these breweries never flourished and suggested the main reasons were:

  1. poor management
  2. money
  3. bad products
  4. reluctance to change
  5. just plain old bad luck

I sort of expected they had said about all there was to say at this point, and was delighted with then next chapter on the brewers of weiss beer, a popular German style beer made partially with wheat and tending to be lighter in alcoholic content and color. I hadn’t known about the existence of this small group of small breweries. The final historical treatment goes beyond just the brewers and tells about the various affiliated industries (barrel makers, unions, delivery people and such), and various organizations like collectors of breweriana and supporters.

While the book is just filled with marvelous brilliantly colored photos of breweries and related objects and ads, the last 15 pages of the text was sort of like the grand finale at a fire-works display, pages of their most colorful and largest illustrations, a marvelous way to wind down from the mountains of information contained before them.

Any lovers of St. Louis history in general and especially beer should not be without this simply marvelous book.

Bob Corbett


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Bob Corbett