Brew Hub, the craft brewery and partner brewer founded by former Anheuser-Busch executive Tim Schoen, is bringing a new beer experience in St. Louis. The concept, called the Brew Hub Taproom (5656 Oakland Avenue), will open in February in the Highlands at Forest Park development, just east of Hampton Avenue and I-64 on Oakland Avenue, with a four-barrel pilot brewing system, a distilling operation, a barrel-aging program, and twenty-plus beers on tap.
However, as chef and general manager Andy White explains, there is more than just beer to get excited about at the new taproom."The whole point of what we are doing is for people to have fun — to go out and have a few beers and a few bites of really good food," White says. "If Brew Hub is going to put so much time and attention into their sourcing, I'm going to match that with the food."
White is no stranger to the intersection of beer and food. For the last nine years, he has been the director of restaurant operations and executive chef for Schlafly, where he has built the kitchen teams for both the Bottleworks and the Tap Room, elevating the notion of what kind of food should be served at a brewery. His resume also includes the Ritz-Carlton hotel and the now-shuttered Harvest.
In the Brew Hub Taproom, White sees the opportunity to bring his skills to a wider range of beers and create synergy between the beer and dining programs. "The beer will complement the food and vice-versa. A lot of beers have complex flavors, and we want to draw from that," White explains. "It's not necessarily that we are cooking with beer. Anyone can dunk a can of beer into some chili and call it 'cooking with beer.' This is about how quality craft beer deserves quality food."
In that spirit, White says the Brew Hub Taproom's food service will be familiar enough so that guest are comfortable, but not so everyday as to be boring. "We don't want you to feel alienated because you don't know what something is, but if you are feeling adventurous, there will be stuff on there for you."
That means full-service dining ranging from entrees and sandwiches to sharable and even single-bite dishes, all modestly priced. The point is to be a place where you can come in for a full meal, but where you can also work a bit on your laptop or have just one bite of food and a beer.
The aesthetic for the dining room and adjacent taproom is meant to be warm and inviting, outfitted in dark, reclaimed wood with a palette of rich browns and deep blues. There will be a mix of seating options, including a large communal bar top with outlets and charging docks, an area of leather chairs and a traditional dining room.
White is still finalizing the taproom's menu, though he has a few dishes that he suspects will be included. "We're thinking of things like a duck confit reuben and a pressed salmon sandwich, like a salmon Cubano," he teases. "We're also looking at things like a classic diner burger, a lamb burger and a petite lamb shepherd's pie."
White has big ideas for what he'd like to see in terms of the taproom's food and beverage special events program, including monthly showcases of partner brewers with dishes designed around their beers, large festivals, beer dinners tastings and samplings.
For now, though, White is taking it one step at a time. "I just look out over all of this space and have an entire wish list of the year," he laughs. "For now, though, let's just get open."
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