Beach Bum Blonde

Clark Street Grill, 811 Spruce Street, 314-621-2000.

It's a lonely Monday night at the Westin. The Cards are on the west coast; the Tennessee tourists have headed home after a raucous weekend at the Arch. A tuxedoed bellhop rolls a vacuum across the beige carpet in the hotel's vast lounge area. Dozens of comfy chairs, couches and blond-wood-and-glass coffee tables sit vacant; they look like cattle relaxing in a meadow. We're drinking a pint of Beach Bum Blonde, alone, in a (nearly) empty hotel. We feel like Jack Nicholson in The Shining.

The important thing is to act like you belong here. Even though you're a local, they don't know that, nor do they really care. As long as you're not stinky and you play along with the rules, you are, despite your Benton Park zip code, a guest of the Westin. Knuckle up at the bar and talk about the World Cup. Request a toothbrush from the front desk. Work on a laptop. It's quieter than a library here, and they serve booze, to boot.

Specifically, they've got Beach Bum Blonde on draught. BBB is Anheuser-Busch's new small-batch summer beer, part of the brewery's "seasonal draught program," in the words of its press release. The program kicked off last fall with Jack's Pumpkin Spice, which Drink of the Week liked OK. It was followed by an excellent Winter's Bourbon Cask Ale and, in March, the sturdy (and wonderfully odd) Spring Heat Spiced Wheat.

The tap handle of the Beach Bum Blonde is a faux-carved generic surfer dude, à la Jeff Spicoli, posing with a surfboard. It's silly. To draw the beer into the glass, the bartender grabs Spicoli around the waist and pulls him forward. A soft, clear ale pours forth, deeper than a Budweiser but lighter than an amber. It creates a poofy head, which, like the crowd after a baseball game, dissipates quickly.

Westin's decision to locate a hotel in Cupples Station was brilliant. For the past half-decade, it sat alone amid the sturdy, majestic — and abandoned — warehouses; it looked so lonely. But the new Busch Stadium has totally changed the vibe of the area. Architects wisely considered the importance of the Spruce Street entryway to the stadium, and as a result, the district has the essence of a distinct neighborhood, capped at its eastern end by Busch's arched steel entryway. From a distance it looks like a huge train trestle. The new stadium is best viewed from this angle; it looks like it's always been here. When the rest of the buildings are redeveloped, as planned, the transformation will be complete.

Beach Bum, however, seems like a passing fancy. It's a summer ale, so it's light, which is fine. But it seems like the Bum was created to quench rather than fulfill, and as a result has much less backbone, and much less flavor, than we like. Of course, it has more substance than Bud — a perfectly inconsequential but vaguely satisfying summer solution — but overall it's not as memorable as the brewery's other seasonals. But that's all right. They can't all be winners, and we love that A-B has allowed its brewers, some of the best beer minds in the world, to take a little vacation every now and then and have some fun with their knowledge.

 
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