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Sep 24, 2017
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Intelligent Content For The Food Fascinated
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
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Extra Sauce: Underground at Earthbound

May 12th 01:05pm, 2016

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{Earthbound Beer co-owner and brewer Stuart Keating} 

One hundred and fifty years after beer fermented at a stockhouse at 2724 Cherokee St., Earthbound Beer is preparing to brew its singular suds in the same space.

As The Scoop reported in September 2015, Earthbound Beer announced its plans to leave the tiny brewery at 2710 Cherokee St. for a massive new facility that housed Cherokee Street Brewing starting in 1866. Co-owners Stuart Keating, Rebecca Schranz and Jeff Siddons have been hard at work turning the space (most recently Waberi Grocery, which moved across the street) into a brewery and tasting room worthy of its history. Sauce took a tour in April to check out the progress at the new space.

 

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{The future tasting room at Earthbound Beer’s massive new space on Cherokee}

 

Upon entering, we stood in the cavernous forthcoming tasting room, which was filled with rubble, not brewing equipment at the time. A film of dust covered everything, the result of ripping 30 tons of plaster, flooring and building materials off the walls and ceiling, which now climbed 17 feet high and exposed barrel-vaulted archways.

Amid the debris, Keating described the future 3,200-square-foot space, tracing his fingers over lines drawn and redrawn on blueprints. Here, he explained, is where the long bar will run along the right side of the room. Tables will be scattered throughout, and overhead a yet-to-be constructed mezzanine will overlook the scene below. A small full-service kitchen (TBD on the menu) will be tucked behind the bar.

But the public tasting room was only a part of the story. To get the full picture of the new Earthbound, we had to go underground. An extension ladder stretched its way from a hole in the tasting room floor down another 20 feet to the basement. Keating quickly descended; after months spent plumbing the depths of the new space, he claimed he can scurry up and down the ladder with a beer in one hand.

 

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{The basement at Earthbound Beer’s new location}

 

Bathed in bright florescent light, the basement was roughly the same size as the tasting room, sporting the same towering support columns. A long conveyor belt was camped in the middle of the room, surrounded by piles of gray stone waiting to be zipped up to the first level. This basement will house Earthbound’s fermenters, bottling and packaging line, and office. The new seven-barrel brewing system has the potential for up to 1,500 barrels a year. That’s a far cry from when they first opened, brewing one batch at a time in the tiny shotgun space.

 

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{Unearthing more space in Earthbound Beer’s basement}

 

Off to the right, Keating led the way through a low opening in the wall, revealing what appeared to be an archeological dig, right down to the shovels and wheelbarrows. The Earthbound team spent weeks excavating the room, removing loads of dirt and unearthing rows of low brick archways. The curved lines and cool temperatures lend themselves to perfect barrel-aging conditions – and perhaps a room for chef dinners or private events, Keating said.

Back in the main room of the basement, an eerie green light illuminated the far corner. We climbed down an even steeper ladder, taking care to step on the small footbridge of two-by-fours placed over a shallow puddle. The sub-basement smelled dank and cool, and a soft trickle of water could be heard from the shadows. A cell phone signal couldn’t penetrate this far below the earth.

 

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{The entrance to the sub-basement at Earthbound}

 

Earthbound dug its way back in time to the building’s roots, pumping 80,000 gallons of water from the sub-basement in order to descend to its depths. Keating shone a flashlight on the wet stone walls; the constant flow of water seemed to melt the rocks into one sheet. He believes this was the limestone quarry that was covered over and converted into a brick factory before its life as a brewery. His small flashlight barely illuminated the inky black caverns below. Once the water is finally removed and the stone sealed, Keating said they envision a dance space here, or perhaps a single screen movie theater.

 

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{Earthbound Beer’s current tasting room is less than 1,000 square feet.} 

 

Back above ground and down the street, the current Earthbound space seemed even more cramped than before. While it may hold sentimental value, Keating said he and the Earthbound crew are looking forward to brewing more than one batch at a time – in a space bigger than a bedroom closet. “It seems silly to build something new when you’ve got a great, beautiful, functional space that doesn’t take much to get it up and running,” Keating said. Look for the new Earthbound to open to the public in September.

 

-photos by Catherine Klene, Meera Nagarajan and Michelle Volansky

 

By Catherine Klene

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