Trailhead Red Amber Ale / Lafayette Lager

Trailhead Brewery, 921 South Riverside Drive, St. Charles; 636-946-2739. Square One Brewery, 1727 Park Avenue; 314-231-2537.

Apr 19, 2006 at 4:00 am
Bring back the beer bucket. Fill it to the top, beer man, and go easy with the head. There's valuable drinkin' space up there, and it adds up when you're buying it by the gallon.

Oh, to have a Drink of the Week bucket, which we could ferry to and from a local brewery. If we had our choice, we'd be walking to our neighborhood ale house, filling the pail, then ladling the brew into a mug.

In nineteenth-century St. Louis, breweries sold their beer this way. Any neighborhood worth its suds had its own joint, and many had more than one. They dotted the landscape and kept our forefathers (and -mothers) drunk. Dodging horse shit and plague germs, our ancestors would slog down the block, empty bucket in hand, and then walk ever-so-gingerly home.

The neighborhood places are all gone now, smushed by the economies of scale and the dulling of taste buds. But slowly St. Louis is regaining a sense of its past and reviving the neighborhood beer hut. There's Morgan Street on the Landing, Schlafly's two locations, St. Charles' Trailhead Brewery. Augusta Brewing is the centerpiece of Augusta, Missouri. Of course, considering our history, we'd have hoped for more by now. But at least our choices are expanding.

Trailhead Brewery's been serving suds in historic St. Chuck for eleven years now, but until last week, we'd never had the pleasure. It's located in the Old Grist Mill at the corner of Boone's Lick and Main Street. There's a joke in there somewhere, but the beer's not it. Their Missouri Dark Brown Ale is solid and fresh, though not as dynamic as our favorite, the creamier Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale.

Better is Trailhead's Red Amber Ale, a lush, velvety, brick-colored creation with soft but active carbonation, a subtle sweetness and a little bit of plum-nut. It's a good beer, and goes well with a burger and fries.

Square One Brewery is the newest addition to the landscape and is located in Lafayette Square. The building formerly housed the Lafayette Pub (and Ronayne's, and a few others). A fire gutted the building a few years back, however, and that gave owner Steve Neukomm — who also helms Augusta Brewing — a chance to reimagine the place as Square One.

We tried four of the brewpub's beers and very much liked two of them: The Bavarian Weizen is a monster, a powerful wheat with strong clove and nutmeg accents, which suggest a heartier, more flavorful Blue Moon.

Square One makes another German-style beer, the Lafayette Lager. It's the color of an early-morning sunrise. But don't let the color fool you: The lager packs a punch, with strong hints of caramel and spice. It'd be perfect to buy by the bucket — although with its heft, we might need a sturdy wagon to cart it home.