Gibault teacher has high hopes for brewing company

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Matt Schweizer (left) helps a customer with his beer sample at “It’s a 9-month labor of love.” Waterloo’s PumpkinFest on Oct. 11. (submitted photo)

What started as a simple interest and hobby has turned into something much bigger and more in-depth for local teacher Matt Schweizer.

Schweizer became a craft beer enthusiast after living abroad in England eight years ago.

He’s come a long way since then, and is now gearing up to start his own brewing company: Hopskeller Brewing Company.

While in England, he had the opportunity to try a wide range of European ales and lager.

After working as a summer helper for a commercial plumbing company in St. Louis, he was exposed to the world of homebrewing, and his fascination took off from there.

“There’s just such a cool mix of science and art,” he said. “That mix of left brain and right brain just really appealed to me.”

As a history graduate student in Oregon, Schweizer and his friends saved money by learning to brew their own beer.

They developed all kinds of recipes that could appeal to a wide range of people.

After coming home to South St. Louis County, he began teaching history at Gibault Catholic High School in Waterloo.

“I started teaching, but brewing was still sort of a hobby and a dream,” he said.

Last February, everything really took off.

Schweizer was invited to attend Gibault’s “Taste of the Region” event, and he brought 15 gallons of beer.

“It was all gone,” he said. “We had three styles, and everyone kept asking where they could buy some.”

Waterloo Mayor Tom Smith began talking to Schweizer and connected him with the right people to get the ball rolling.

“We all have the same vision and the same idea,” he said. “It’s a 9-month labor of love.”

The coolest part of this whole journey for Schweizer has been the huge network the company has become.

“It’s an extended family of well-wishers, drinkers, and all kinds of other people who are doing everything they can to get this going,” he said. “I love seeing this circle of people just grow more and more. It gives me goosebumps to think of how awesome this is going to be.”

The process for getting a local brewery going isn’t an easy one, but Schweizer said they’re well on their way.

They have an idea of what building they’d like to move into and are working on all the licensing that goes along with starting a brewery.

“It’s a fairly specific flowchart of things that need to happen, but it all takes time,” he said.

Hopskeller will have six beers: three or four “mainstays” and a couple of rotating seasonals.

The name comes from the German word “ratskeller,” which is a name for a bar or restaurant located in the basement of a city hall.

“We didn’t want anything that referred to anything specific, but this just kind of worked,” he said.

Lately, Schweizer has made his beer available for tasting at local events such Waterloo’s PumpkinFest and Gibault’s Oktoberfest, getting the word out about his company.

“We almost ran out of beer (at Pumpkinfest),” he said. “The feedback was great. People are really excited about this.”

Schweizer lives in Columbia now, but he said he can’t wait to move to Waterloo and really make this dream come true.

“The vision was to start off and make this a small tap house, but we’d love to be distributing before too long,” he said. “Right now, the goal is to build awareness and start to tie all our local resources together: the hop-growers, the honey-makers, local restaurants, etc.”

He has a team of “around six to 10” people who are directly on task with his project, and “the number just seems to keep growing.”

“You have to engage other peoples’ expertise in this,” he said. “It’s a very humbling experience.”

Keep up with the brewery’s happenings at www.facebook.com/hopskeller.

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