Chances are you’ve never had Spruce Jenner Pale Ale, Oaktimus Prime Smoked Dark Ale, or Shield Maiden Whiskey Barrel Mead. Unless, that is, you’ve attended what has become one of the most congenial beer fests in St. Louis: the ArborMeisters Homebrew + Craft Beer Festival. Set to return this year on Saturday, September 14, the event benefits Forest ReLeaf and its mission of “planting trees, enriching communities.”

The one-day festival, which is held in the beautiful surroundings of the nonprofit’s Communitree Gardens Nursery in Creve Coeur Lake Memorial Park, is unique in that attendees have the opportunity to try locally made brews that must include at least one ingredient sourced from a tree — nuts, fruit, roots, sap, stems, or what have you.

“Homebrewers are very experimental. They can afford to spend more time on a batch and use techniques and ingredients that you couldn’t use on a larger scale,” said Ben Grossman, who presented the idea for ArborMeisters while sitting on the Missouri Community Forestry Council. “This is another way to give back and get people into the [Forest ReLeaf] nursery, where they can see thousands of trees ready to be planted in our community.

“It’s real interesting to see what homebrewers come up with. Some already brew with tree ingredients. Others showcase some potentially weird combinations they might not normally use,” continued Grossman, who homebrews himself as a member of the Garage Brewers Society in St. Charles, Missouri.

And why not pay homage to our beloved forests by brewing a beer using ingredients from a tree?

“When Ben approached us with the idea, we hadn’t been doing anything like that and felt it was a great concept,” said Donna Coble, executive director of Forest ReLeaf. Six years later, ArborMeisters has “kind of turned into our signature event,” she said.

The festival has featured as many as 60 different tree-influenced beers. Attendees vote for their favorites, and the winners in both individual and club categories get to take home awards in the form of a beer-bottle trophy handcrafted from wood.

“Some of the brewers get very creative. Naturally, there’s citrus and lime and nuts like pecan. But we’ve also had toasted coconut, spruce beer, serviceberry, hickory bark, chocolate stout, passion fruit. Some go toward the heavier beers, while others are doing pales,” said Coble. “It’s a real mix, a good opportunity to see what you like.”

In addition to unlimited beer samples, the festival includes raffles, food and beverages for sale, live music, and tours of the nursery. “September is the perfect time to visit the nursery. It’s right before we give out our fall trees, so there’s a lot to see,” said Coble. “It looks pretty, and people get a sense of what we do, which, at its core, is about restoring and sustaining our urban forests.”

The ArborMeisters Homebrew + Craft Beer Festival is capped at 200 attendees, “so you don’t have to wait too long to get a taste of beer,” said Coble. “And there are enough different brewers that it spreads people out. Some beer festivals have gotten really big, but this is a pretty laidback day.”

Tickets are $30 in advance or $35 at the gate and include a tasting glass, light snacks, water, and unlimited sampling. VIP admission ($50) includes early entry, an ArborMeisters gift bag, and preferred parking.

Author: Brad Kovach is the editor/publisher of Terrain Magazine.