I’m going to keep this post short, or at least shorter than my travelogues usually go, for a couple of reasons:
1. I have a vacation coming up and I’m probably going to be doing a more extended visit to St. Louis breweries
2. I forgot my camera on this particular day in St. Louis, so I don’t have my own photos to share.
Nevertheless, I found myself in St. Louis, that town synonymous with yellow-hued pisswater, a few weekends back in order to attend a family wedding. Naturally, being myself, I arranged to meet my parents there a few hours before the church ceremony in order to have lunch at a brewpub, Six Row Brewing. After attending the ceremony, we then headed out to check out the new Urban Chestnut Brewing before the reception. That’s right–we visited TWO breweries before heading someplace with an open bar. That’s how my dad and I roll.
What we found in these two ale factories was really a dichotomy of styles and outlooks on contemporary brewing. They both brought a handful of positives to the table, but in the end one of them was my clear favorite.
This place is located pretty centrally in St. Louis, and it was only a mile or so away from the cathedral where the wedding was held. It’s also only a mile from Urban Chestnut–the geography worked out quite well for us here.
We rolled in around noon, having just fought our way through awful traffic on the bridge into St. Louis. The vibe of Six Row is kind of in the “brew pub standard” mold–nothing really sets it apart too much. It just looks like a thousand other small breweries, which isn’t a bad thing. I noticed specials on the board for students, implying that kids from the nearby St. Louis University (just to the north) probably frequent it on weeknights. Kudos to Six Row for introducing those kids to craft beer.
We ordered lunch (baked sausage pesto, yum), and I managed to try a number of the brews from the beer list:
- “Whale” — Made with 10 different malts. The signature sessionable beer from the brewery–“whale” stands for a collision of “wheat” and pale.” Not as interesting as the “10 malts” makes it sound. Probably not something a lot of aleheads would be ordering once they tasted it. 2 hops
- Centennial Rye — I got excited when I saw that name. I like centennial hops, I like rye beers, how could this not be good? The answer to that question would be “by not taking things far enough.” It tasted a little off, and didn’t quite have the spicy rye character I was going for. Actually, it made me want nothing so much as to brew my own centennial rye beer so I could see what a rye and hop-forward version would be like. 2.5 hops
- Double IPA — My father, hophead that he is, ordered this one. I just got a taste or two, but I thought it was pretty solid. He seemed less enthralled, but he’s pretty difficult to impress with a hoppy beer at this point. 3 hops
- Strong Porter — What I ordered with lunch. Very tasty and very dry porter. A good deal drier than a lot of beers labeled “porter” these days, almost like a dry stout. Personally, that’s right up my alley. We also had some ice cream made with this beer that had a very unique flavor. I enjoyed it. 3.5 hops
Sufficiently suds’d up, we went on to the ceremony, a big Catholic wedding held at the unbelievably massive Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. I spent most of the wedding thinking about what an unimaginable amount of beer the construction of the basilica could have instead purchased. I can only assume that it would have worked out to at least one pint for every man, woman and child in St. Louis.
But no matter. After a quick ceremony, we were on our way to the next brewery.
This new brewery only opened up in the past year or so, and has since been on my list of places to check out whenever I was in St. Louis. A truly unique establishment with a very well-defined philosophy *regarding its beer lineup, it is best explained thusly:
*The Urban Chestnut site seems to be twitchy today and is giving me an error message for this page and others. I assume this is probably only temporary, as it was fine in the past.
1. All the beers are divided into two categories/halves of the Urban Chestnut philosophy. These two halves are called Reverence and Revolution.
2. The “Reverence” series presents classic, traditional beer styles in exactly the way they were originally intended to be drunk. A lot of them are German-inspired beer, but there are also English brews and others.
3. The “Revolution” series on the other hand is the brewers’ playground for experimentation, where they’re able to take the beers from the Reverence series and twist them, manipulate and do terrible things to them behind closed doors to come up with unique and genre-bending ales and lagers.
My father and I ordered a sampler and then some in an effort to try most of the beers.
- Winged Nut — One of the brewery’s flagships, kind of like an English mild except brewed with nuts (milled chestnuts I think, but I can’t check because the beer page won’t display). The nuttiness comes through very well in the aftertaste of the beer. I’ve had a handful of beers made with nuts, but this was pretty easily the best. 3 hops
- Half Crown — A “session IPA” that is only 4% abv. This of course raises the question of “Can a session IPA actually exist, or is that just a pale ale?” Personally, I have no clue, but the beer didn’t particularly jump out at me or display a memorable character. 2 hops
- Kinsale Foreign Extra Stout — Modeled after the export stouts of the Caribbean, where this style is very popular (Guinness Foreign Extra Stout being the famous example). A pretty tasty beer that fits its style guidelines like a glove–sweeter than a dry stout but while maintaining the roasty characteristic and remaining fairly light-bodied for a beer pushing 8% abv. 3 hops
- Schnickelfritz — A lot of their beers have goofy “Germanesque” names like this, and they make me chuckle. They’re incredibly fun to say when you belly up to the bar–“Give me a Schnickelfritz!” The idle bar chat sounds like dialogue from a Mel Brooks movie. Anyway, this is a traditional hefeweizen, and it’s a beautiful one. Among the tastiest I’ve had, and a beer that I would imagine myself drinking all summer long if I was living there in St. Louis. Just fantastic. 4 hops
- Maximilian — I can’t say I’ve had a lot of weizenbocks, but that’s what this is. They do not lie–it tastes like a bock that ran into a wheat beer. Neither side comes out on top. If both of those styles are ones you like, this would probably make you happy. 2.5 hops
- Hopfen — This beer made me extremely happy. They call it a “Bavarian IPA,” brewed with tons of noble hops. I’ve had a number of beers that have tried this same thing before, but none of them have ever succeeded at making a really hoppy noble hop beer before that tasted great. The aroma is like walking through a field of wildflowers. This beer is an achievement, no doubt about it. 3.5 hops
- Altbier — Don’t know what the name of this one was, and it’s not on the website or on BeerAdvocate. Regardless, it’s an altbier, it’s malty and biscuity, and it’s good. 3 hops
- Calypso — A single-hop American-style IPA made with “Calypso hops,” which I had never heard of before. At the time, I thought it seemed strangely fruity in a non-citrus or tropical way, and that seems to be backed up by the hop description at Austin Homebrew Supply. It’s a little outside my typical flavor wheelhouse, but I could see this sort of hop in a barleywine or something of that nature with a little more sweetness. This is probably a beer that requires another taste before really deciding, though. Nevertheless, 2.5 hops.
I believe at some point about an hour ago I typed something to the effect of “I’m going to keep this short.” Clearly, I am a despicable liar and should hang for my crimes.
In all seriousness though, if you’re in the St. Louis area, check these places out. For my money, I’ll take the innovation and genre-bending of Urban Chestnut first and foremost, but as ever it’s a matter of taste. You can expect that in a month or so when I go on vacation, I’ll probably have more on these breweries, as well as others, along with a bevy of photos.