From working the dive bars of Denver, Colorado to owning his very own bar in St. Louis, the beer journey of Manny Negron is a tale I’ve wanted to tell for years. Now, as the St. Louis beer community awaits the opening of “Little Lager,” Negron’s dream is nearly a reality and it’s time to tell the tale.
The start of any good beer journey must begin with one beer on that one day, where for some reason the beer made everything else make sense.
“I would say a more memorable “coming of age” beer for me was Goose Island IPA,” said Negron. “I was at a bar in Denver and had a stomach full of whiskey. I was a beer drinker but nothing like today. I saw a tap handle that was just a Goose Head. I had been seeing it around town and decided to give it a try. It turned out to be Goose Island IPA. It ended up sticking with me.”
That moment with Goose Island IPA was transformative. Negron was so affected that he bought the bestselling book, “The Joy of Homebrewing,” and the next thing he knew, beer would become a driving force in his life direction.
Coming To St. Louis
Negron moved from Denver in St. Louis and immediately found employment in multiple breweries, cocktail and dive bars around town.
His first gig was with James Rogalsky out at Old Bakery Brewing in Alton, Illinois. He then went to work full-time and the now-defunct Clayton Craft Beer Cellar. Here, Negron worked with beer-loving customers, sharing his growing knowledge and meeting the St. Louis beer community.
Before the pandemic, you might see Negron behind the tap bar at CBC on Monday, pouring beer at Modern Brewery on Tuesday, and slinging suds later that week at Wellspent Brewing, as well.
“I worked in the Schnucks liquor department during the pandemic in Richmond Heights learning more about wine and spirits but focusing my time on revamping the beer section,” said Negron.
In May of 2022, CBC announced it was closing, and Negron was among the first to hired at the new Modern Brewery facility off Oakland. And throughout the years, no matter where Negron was pouring or talking beer, an idea traveled with him everywhere he went.
“The idea of “Little Lager” has always been floating around in my mind but it either was a terrible time or it didn’t work financially,” remembers Negron.
On June 16, 2022, Negron made a post on Instagram that screamed, it was time for his idea to become a reality
View this post on Instagram
His Instagram account is a photo essay on not only Negron’s journey but but the evolution of “Little Lager” itself.
“What it is today has taken on many faces during my planning (which reflects on how the business is marketed) I’m sure people noticed all the different art styles in promos, collaborations, etc. that come from the bar’s nature. Constant growth, creativity and evolution,” said Negron.
Despite his exposure to every beer style in existence, Negron always knew he wanted to open a German or Czech-style bar.
“The name ‘Little Lager” came as a joke originally when I began looking for locations. I wanted to call my bar just “LAGER”. I looked at a location in the CWE that was about as big as the Hampton spot. I joked with a friend of mine that maybe I’ll just downsize the plan and open “Little Lager” instead. Turns out that’s exactly what I ended up doing. I decided that creating a space where every customer could feel special (much like the customers I worked with at Craft Beer Cellar did) was more important than building the “next big thing.”
“little lager” The next big thing
The long-awaited opening of “Little Lager” was announced by Negron on October 12.
View this post on Instagram
If you’re trying to imagine what Little Lager will be, think of a super small corner pub with a serious focus on lager beer. It will sit 16-18 people and have a total of 5 drafts all pulled from their Lukr side pull faucets. The place will feel more like a cafe or a cocktail bar than your traditional beer bar with an emphasis on intimacy and service.
Working in beer for so many years and being an avid traveler Negron has experienced countless styles of beer but always gravitated towards lighter beers.
“I began studying Czech and German brewing history pretty religiously. It became an obsession and then a passion and now I am working on opening the bar that I would want to drink at,” said Negron. “I would hope that people would come in with an open mind. The fact that we’re doing the 3 pours of Pilsner Urquell has almost a “Starbucks” feel to it where the customer is obligated to order their drinks based on the way it’s poured, either:
- Hladinka (full pour)
- Šnyt (Half Pour)
- Mliko (Milk Pour)
Negron says he understands that this type of service will be new to some and possibly even a turn-off, but unlike breweries or more usual beer bars, Little Lager will not offer tastes or flights of any of their offered beers.
“Because the faucets are created to build beautiful foam a little taste or flights create more waste and ruin the experience,” said Negron.
This requires people to dive in, take a chance and experience something new. Something I think St. Louis beer lovers will embrace.
What: Grand Opening
When: Oct. 31, from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Where: 5848 Hampton Ave. St. Louis, MO 63109
More Info: Visit them online