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St. Louis: Behind the scenes

Courtesy St. Louis Brewery

If visiting museums gives your travelers antsy feet and itchy fingers, behind-the-scenes tours and hands-on activities may be just the ticket. There are many engaging places to see and do things in St. Louis, including a microbrewery and an art glass studio.

Many people know St. Louis as the home of beer giant Anheuser-Busch, but other brewers thrive there as well. The St. Louis Brewery has been making Schlafly beer since 1991.

“At that time, we were the first brewpub in Missouri, and the first new brewery in St. Louis since the end of Prohibition,” said Stewart Wolfe, event and tour manager at the brewery. “We’ll make over 40 different styles of beer every single year. A lot of them are authentic styles from all over the world. The focus of our beer is quality and variety.”

Groups can tour the Schlafly Bottleworks in the Maplewood neighborhood to learn about the production process and sample some of the company’s products.

The experience begins with a look through the on-site brewery museum and then proceeds to an hourlong tour of the brew house, the bottling line and the cellar before proceeding to the tasting room. Most of the tour guides have also worked as brewers, so they offer an in-depth and individual look at different elements of beermaking.

The expertise extends to the tasting room, where participants get five-ounce samples of three company flagship beers and a fourth specialty beer chosen by the tour guide.

“What makes our tasting room unique is that we also discuss how to taste beer,” Wolfe said. “We encourage people to take their time and to taste the beer with their eyes and nose first before they actually drink it.”

Hands-on art
Another opportunity for hands-on interaction comes at the Third Degree Glass Factory, a studio founded eight years ago by two local glass artists. Today, the spot has become a local hub for demonstrations and workshops, as well as art exhibits.

“We teach the ancient art of glassblowing, flameworking and kiln work,” said Anne Murphy, director of marketing and development at Third Degree. “We teach classes, but we also have a gallery where we highlight the work of our artists. People love to get their hands on glass, and glassblowing is a very captivating type of medium — very visual, very historic and really exciting.”

Groups that visit the factory have the option of viewing glassblowing demonstrations or rolling up their sleeves for a hands-on glass art workshop. The demonstrations are given by resident artists, who narrate the techniques they are using to create pieces of artwork. Groups that choose hands-on workshops won’t be blowing glass, but they can create glass paperweights, jewelry, tiles or magnets.

The 45-minute glass workshops start with a short safety demonstration. After that, instructors help participants craft items that reflect their own creative touches.

“The workshops are taught by our glass artists, who are also our instructors,” Murphy said. “They’re really good and patient and know how to make people feel comfortable. People really love having the opportunity to create something, and glass is a really unique medium to work with.”

For more about St. Louis:

This is the year to come back to St. Louis

Civil War Commemoration
Behind the scenes
What’s new in St. Lou’?
WEB EXCLUSIVE! St. Louis Photo Slideshow

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.