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Meet me in St Louis — A Carnival of Collaborations

We loaded up and shipped out to St Louis for an epic weekend with some of our friends at 4 Hands Brewing Co. and their annual Lupulin Carnival this past month. More than just a festival destination, however, this little road trip was jam-packed with side trips and side hustles with some of our favorite people in the industry. Here's the road-trip mixtape. 

Our first stop was about thirty minutes outside of St. Louis at Goshen Coffee in Edwardsville, Illinois. In the midst of a transition, this little shop has been roasting some of the most recognizable blends in the city, but more recently started sourcing and roasting some great coffees with a "Secret Stash" program. 

With a behemoth of a roaster (40 pounds) and lead by a bit of a new-comer in Argus Keppel, roasting small batches of single-origin coffees is more than just a learning experience, it's a physics problem. Any homebrewer can tell you how hard it is to scale a 5-gallon recipe to a production scale with legitimate equipment, and the same is true for coffee roasting. Argus uses a tiny barrel roaster on his desk to produce samples, and then translates that roasting profile to the 40 pounder using some technical conversation and his own trial-and-error experience. 

Goshen was preparing for two events this weekend, including the Maplewood Coffee Crawl, wherein over 1,000 people hit the streets of the St. Louis neighborhood to try specialty coffees and cold brews at local cafes and restaurants. Afterwards, they hustled over to 4 Hand's Lupulin Carnival to dispense some hopped cold brew using a backpack.

Our Friday morning arrival meant we were just in time to document a collaboration between 4 Hands Brewing and Brasserie Dunham, one of our favorite brewers in Quebec. Since meeting Eloi and the team more than two years ago, and podcasting with them at The Fest in LA this year, it's been a pleasure to see them forming relationships all over the US. 

Known for their American-style IPAs and wild beers produced near apple and cherry orchards in southern Quebec, Brasserie Dunham brought their latest brewing recruit along to make a namesake beer with 4 Hands called "Hugo." The 4 Hands crew first met Hugo when they found him climbing a light pole at the Extreme Beer Fest last year. A self-declared vegan, the 4 Hands crew promptly fed him some St Louis BBQ ribs and pastrami, and got busy mashing out. Hugo's legend is only beginning. 

Next, the crew was off to Jester King to brewer another collaboration beer. That's one helluva US tour these guys are on.

For Lupulin Carnival, 4 Hand's carnivalesque celebration of their IIPA, War Hammer, and all things hoppy, GBH teamed up with our newest brand development partner, Central State Brewing out of Indianapolis, Indiana, to create their first publicly-available commercial beer and our first official collaboration called Palm Sunday Tornado. We've been working with Central State over the past few months to help design and develop their brand and portfolio strategy, and help them focus their ambitious concept of being one of the country's first all-Brett breweries. To consummate the months-long partnership, we decided to brew a Brett Brux wheated IPA with Pacific Jade, Simcoe, and Citra for a dry, floral, juicy character. We couldn't have been more proud of the results, and we're excited to see them leap into their next stage. 

4 Hand's Lupulin Carnival is one of the regions largest and most anticipated festivals each year. This time around they cut off the draw at around 2,400 people to maintain their sanity, and invited some of their favorite brewers from around the country to pour their happier beers. There was a helluva line-up of some of Chicago's newest and brightest, but none seemed as impactful as März Brewing with their roobois tea steeped IPA, Jungle Boogie. As someone who's attended uncountable festivals and watched as the most-hyped beers form lines while real gems go undiscovered, it was heartening to see, after about an hour in, that an organic line for Jungle Boogie formed almost spontaneously until they ran dry. 

The Lupulin Carnival has grown into quite the spectacle with carnival games and circus acts scattered around and under the big tent. Flame swallowers, stilt walkers, ring dancers — I feel like there might beer beers named like this by next year. 

War Hammer flowed non-stop in the taproom, Revolution Brewing forgot to send beer (this St Louis Blue's fan was all like WTF), and Cory King shared a few beers and signed my bottle opener. 

Before the Central State trio of Josh Haimbright, Jake Koeneman, and Chris Bly returned home to Indy, we routed through Chicago for one last brew day with John Laffler of Off Color. The Central State concept is part home-spun Indiana, and part gypsy brewing travelers, toting growlers of their house Brett strains and yeast melange around the Midwest. Together they're building towards something we call "A Midwest Exotic" which pulls from the history, culture, and living organisms that have been both civilized, and remain somewhat wild, at the same time. 

Thanks to everyone, especially the 4 Hands crew, for working so hard to make the weekend a success, and showing us some incredible hospitality in St. Louis. We'll be back again next year — with flaming, trapeze-suspended, war-hammer-hoisted bells on. 

Words + photos
by Michael Kiser