We almost skipped over St. Louis all together. After Nashville we were getting anxious to get back to Kansas and debated making a dead sprint towards Lawrence. In the end St. Louis proved to be too enticing to skip. Ever since the sale of Anhesuer Busch, to the world eating conglomerate InBev, St. Louis has blossomed into a prime craft brewing market. The corner stone of STL’s beer culture, Schlafly, has been joined by a bevy of start-ups in the last couple of years to create a beer destination in the most unlikely of places. We set out to see what they had to offer.
We started with a trip to Morgan Street Brewery in downtown St. Louis. The building is huge and sits in an old part of town that still proudly sports cobblestone streets. It took a couple of times reading the menu to realize that this brewery focuses mainly on lagers and lighter beers. It’s not often that you see three different lagers on a menu with out a hint of an pale ale or IPA. It was actually quite refreshing in this day and age of hop forward beers to see a brewery take the path less traveled and fine tune some sessionable beverages.
Maria and I both ended up falling in love with the Black Bear schwarzbier that was light in body, dark in color, and full of flavor. It was a great complement to the hearty meals we had ordered. Morgan Street seemed like your typical restaurant / brewpub so I was a little surprised and little giddy when I found out that they canned several of their beers. In our experience it is not very typical for an operation of this size to package their goods for take away consumption. It benefited us quite nicely as we ended up leaving with a couple six packs of Black Bear meant for summer enjoyment.
The next day we brought the RV into the city for our visit at the Schalfly Tap Room. I was little nervous about bringing him downtown, but traffic was light and roads were surprisingly accommodating to Stanley‘s wide and long body. We visited the tap room on a Friday afternoon to meet up with Schalfly’s media coordinator, Troika Brodsky, for lunch and ended up getting a short history lesson of the brewery and beer in St. Louis.
The Tap Room was built in the model of a traditional English pub in 1991 in an area of downtown St. Louis that was a little less than desirable. As a new business in a run down neighborhood Troika explained that Schlafly had to find ways to draw customers to their taproom. Thus, they became very skilled at throwing parties and events. They now sport a mind numbly number of annual events that had us making notes on our calendars to come back and attend. With Schlafly’s success other businesses slowly moved in and the urban renewal was in full force.
The Tap Room featured an extensive list of beers and the food menu had so many delicious descriptions it makes choosing something to eat a tougher task than it should be. Even though we are natives of the Midwest I had not tried many Schlafly beers and was quite impressed with the creativity and execution of their brews. I really enjoyed the crisp true to style taste of the Kolsch while also appreciating the complex flavors in their Beir de Garde. An emphasis on quality not marketing was apparent by the lack of clever beer names or hop puns. All the beers are simply named by their style.
I was truly impressed with the community that Schlafly has developed and continues to embrace. Their expansion facility, Schalfly Bottleworks, should ensure that more than just Missourians will be able to enjoy their great brews as their customers continue to spread the word.
With 7 breweries within a 4 mile radius of Schalfly, Troika advised us to hit up Urban Chestnut Brewing which was just a short trip down the road. Urban Chestnut is a new brewery that was founded by two Anheuser employees after the company was taken over by InBev. The center piece of Urban Chestnut’s brewing strategy is the divergence of old school vs new school. Their Reverence line of beers pay homage to old world styles with a strong German influence while their Revolution line pursues unconventional beers and experimental methods.
(Side note: The strategy seems to be working as no less than a week after we left Urban Chestnut had announced an expansion that gives them the potential to be biggest craft brewery in St. Louis.)
The tasting room was popping as it was now a Friday evening and the 9-5 crowd was looking to start the weekend. If the weather hadn’t been so cold we would have taken advantage of the beer garden, but decided instead to get some work done so we could maximize our Saturday. We found a park in down town (a rarity) that would allow us to more easily tour the city.
On Saturday we set out to visit another young brewing establishment, 4 Hands Brewery. Since Stanley was comfortably parked we decided to take advantage of the close proximity and bike our way to the brewery. As it turned out it was the appropriate move given that 4 Hands was hosting a fund raiser to resurface a famous cycling track and the large crowd had a heavy distribution of cyclists.
It was kind of a hipsterish scene but we were having fun playing foosball and enjoying the obnoxiously good Cast Iron Oatmeal Brown and the Centennial Red ale. Being from Kansas we interested to try the No Place Like Home double red aged in cabernet barrels, but alas it was a seasonal that had just run out. Dang, maybe next time.
With this being our last night in St. Louis we had one more stop…the City Museum. Also located in downtown this is far from any museum you’ve ever been in. At it’s core it is a giant maze like jungle gym that spans the entire 600,00 square feet of the repurposed International Shoe Company. We got there at 10:00 right when they were getting ready to turn the lights off. This didn’t men they were closed but rather that we would be navigating our way through the maze with flashlights. Yikes!
The place was trip and we had a blast, but after several hours of crawling, climbing, shimmying and sliding we were sweating and tired. We paid for it the next day as Maria and I were both sore and stiff which is not ideal for our long drive to reach Lawrence by the end of the day.
It was a short but efficient trip and we didn’t even hit everything we wanted to. Perennial Artisan Ales and a handful of other breweries would have to wait for a return trip. Being Kansas fans we don’t necessarily look forward to visiting Missouri but from now on we will always look forward to visiting St. Louis.