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University of Missouri

Tapping the Microbrew Market

A group of Mizzou alumni and an MU dean start up a local brewery.

class of beer on a black background

Photo by Rachel Coward.

College towns and beer go together like pretzels and, well, beer. So it was only a matter of time before Columbia’s first dedicated craft brewery bubbled up.

In April 2012, Rock Bridge Brewing Co. joined Flat Branch Pub & Brewing and Broadway Brewery as one of CoMo’s pre-eminent microbreweries. But unlike the latter two restaurants, Rock Bridge will stick to perfecting its barley pop and leave the burgers and pizza to the brewpubs.

The fledgling company evolved from an informal beer club at the home of Dave Brouder, BA ’95, president and founding partner. Also among the club members and co-owners: Eric Peterson, BSF ’75, MPA ’94, executive vice president, and Daniel Clay, MA ’91, PhD ’94.

“Columbia is a great market for craft beer,” says Clay, College of Education dean and company CEO. “So how do we go from home brewing on somebody’s deck to producing high-quality craft beer?”

Although the amateurs could cook a mean microbatch, they quickly realized demand was such that the company needed a brewer with commercial experience. Enter former O’Fallon Brewery employee Stu Burkemper, BS ’07. Trained at Chicago’s renowned brewing academy, the Siebel Institute of Technology, Burkemper developed three beers for Rock Bridge. Sif’s Blonde is a straw-colored ale, Farmer’s Daughter Peppered Rye Saison is brewed with pink peppercorns, and Cysquatch India Pale Ale packs a powerful punch.

Local restaurants including Shakespeare’s Pizza and 44 Stone Public House have Rock Bridge beer on tap, and its headquarters on Big Bear Boulevard will expand to include a canning facility and a tasting room in March 2013.