It may come as a shock that, in the 83 years that Drink of the Week has been writing this column, we've never once highlighted Blueberry Hill. After all, it's a mere half-block from our Loop bunker. Over the course of those years, we've drunk perhaps 250,000 pints of beer there and, to paraphrase poet David Berman, they wash against us like the sea into a pier. Like many in St. Louis, we consider Blueberry Hill an extension of our home. We can go there, stretch out, invite some friends over, shoot some darts, rock the jukebox, get drunk and puke. Why wouldn't we have featured Blueberry Hill already?
We were saving it for a special occasion, for which Blueberry Hill is tailor-made. Over the holidays, the place is messy with reunions, parties and holiday hook-ups. It's centrally located, a perfect place to converge from all parts of the city. It seats 25,000, its kitchen and waitstaff hum like a well-oiled machine, and the joint consumes an entire block. Hit Blueberry Hill and you're pretty much guaranteed a hassle-free party.
It's also a kind of church or, in the words of the Mekons, "that secret place where we all want to go: rock & roll." For out-of-towners who know not the glory of Blueberry Hill, it's like a Hard Rock Café without the cookie-cutter contrivance. Its walls are rich in rock- and pop-culture memorabilia, from Chuck Berry guitars to Beatles lunchboxes to Pee Wee Herman and Simpsons artifacts. It is, in essence, a hymn to the glory of the muse.
Our special occasion was a Thanksgiving reunion with dear friends. We see them annually to catch up, drink, laugh. And we figured that, while in this church, we'd enjoy a spiritual creation: Chimay Red Trappist Ale, a strong, singular Belgian beer created in the Trappist tradition by monks.
Regular readers will know that we like our Trappist-style ales: In the past we've featured La Fin du Monde, made in Canada, and Rochefort 10, made in Belgium. The latter is a legitimate Trappist ale; a mere six breweries in the world, all in Belgium, can create this monk-certified brew.
Chimay Red, brewed at the Scourmont Abbey, carries the Trappist seal, and it's a deep, full, bottle-conditioned ale. Its 7 percent alcohol content is evident from the get-go. A quick whiff reveals bourbon-like characteristics, but it's not as dark and rich as Rochefort 10, nor is it as exquisite as Chimay Blue, these monks' powerful, top-of-the-line creation.
Red is pricey $6.25 per bottle at Blueberry Hill but the upside is that after two, you'll be feeling pretty good. The laughter will spill a bit easier from your mouth; the love will pour out of your heart like milk from a bucket. And when T. Rex's "Jeepster" bursts forth from the sound system, you will feel your spirit floating, as if you've ascended to a secret, magical place, one where your best friends are welcome, where creativity and inspiration are honored. Pass that threshold, and immediately the world is welcoming. A place that's thrilling, and timeless, and free. Like Blueberry Hill.
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