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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

A Craft Beer Lover's Guide to 72 Hours in St. Louis

Posted By on Tue, Aug 11, 2015 at 8:54 AM

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German Wheat at Civil Life
  • German Wheat at Civil Life


Based in Tower Grove, Civil Life Brewing Company is an ideal spot to sip on a beer, nosh and socialize. The fundamental components of a civil life, right? The brewery's biergarten and patio offer ample outdoor seating. Dark wood fixtures, a long wooden bar and communal tables indoors establish a cozy pub atmosphere.

This malt-driven brewery's beers include a German wheat and American brown with roots dating back to brewer Dylan Mosley's home-brewing days. The Rye Pale Ale earned a gold medal at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival, besting more than 80 beers in the rye category. Civil Life's "Big Series" is a bit tongue-in-cheek. The Big American Stout, Big Scottish "Wee Bit" Heavy and Big Year Brown only run about 6.5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV), but they have big ambitions for deliciousness.

Field notes: Civil Life is cash only, but if you bring some, you can plan to grab a light bite with your beer. The menu changes from Tuesday through Sunday. Taco Sundays are a deal (three tacos for $7).

Not far from Civil Life, in the city's funky (and fast-growing) Cherokee Street district, you'll find Earthbound Brewery. Co-owned by Rebecca Schranz, brewmaster Stuart Keating and Jeff Siddons, Earthbound is the funky bohemian cousin in the extended family of St. Louis breweries. When you're weary of micro-deviations on pale ales, IPAs and wheat beers found elsewhere, seek this small brewery carved out of a narrow space in the heart of Cherokee's bustle.

Here you might find a gruit, an ancient style of ale bittered with herbs long before hops became a standard bittering agent. Smoked Missouri Common, a slightly sour brown ale with a smoky constitution, was inspired by beer made by Appalachian moonshiners. Dead Druid King, a beer brewed with black wheat and oak leaves, is slightly smoky, tart and redolent of black plum with jammy wine notes. It's insanely good. Brewer Keating's historically influenced creations represent pure American craft beer ingenuity.

Field Notes: Earthbound brews numerous small-batch beers that rotate on a regular basis. Check the website's weekly tap list for current selections.

After Earthbound visit Perennial Artisan Ales, the 14,000-square-foot production brewery established in 2011 by Phil and Emily Wymore. Perennial's brewery in the South Carondelet neighborhood houses an 8.5-barrel brewhouse and temperature-controlled fermentation and barrel-aging room. The brewers begin with Belgian and American craft beer styles and apply creativity, premium ingredients, souring and barrel-aging techniques to their brewing process. The result? Beers that are extremely popular across the metro area, throughout Perennial's eight-state distribution territory and among seasoned craft-beer fans in the know.

Flagship brews include Aria, a Belgian-style ale with Belgian yeast containing hints of honey and green tea; Hommel Bier, a dry-hopped Belgian Pale Ale with earthy, spicy notes; and the floral Saison de Lis, a saison brewed with chamomile flowers that blossom with fruity, spicy notes and finishes dry and tart. Check the brewery's website and social-media accounts for current beers, upcoming listings and barrel-aged special releases, collaborations and seasonals. They tend to sell quickly but a stop at the tasting room is a good bet for a sampler while supplies last.

Field notes: The parking lot and entrance to the Tasting Room is located at the corner of Davis Street and Virginia Avenue. The Tasting Room also offers a small, rotating menu of seasonal dishes that use many local ingredients. Plan ahead for special releases at the brewery. Lines form hours in advance, but craft-beer nerds often host bottle shares. Bring a great bottle of beer, camp out and share. After all, nothing says social like beer.

Not far from Perennial, Kevin Lemp launched 4 Hands Brewing Company in December 2011 with a focus on appealing to first-time craft beer drinkers as well as more sophisticated connoisseurs. Based in LaSalle Park, the tasting room at 4 Hands is a funky, lively place, where the crowd changes at any given moment. Cards fans may stream in before the game or after a win, followed by a visiting group of craft-beer tourists. The flow of people and beer infuse the brewery with dynamic energy.

Belly up to the bar and try the American blonde ale Single Speed. Or the Reprise Centennial Red, a citrus hop-forward American red ale. Other warm weather favorites include Send Help, a straw-colored blonde ale, and Contact High, a hoppy wheat. Or go bold with the mighty War Hammer Imperial IPA brewed with four hops. The sassy Passion Fruit Prussia is a Berliner weisse with a tart, fruity finish.

Field notes: 4 Hands Tasting Room is a modest-size space, so make reservations in advance for large groups. Hourlong brewery tours are held on Saturdays at noon and 4 p.m. Assemble in the tasting room and wait for the announcement. And order from the Fifth Wheel while you're at it. This in-house kitchen, run by prominent St. Louis restaurateur Dave Bailey's group, serves killer grub such as the Juicy Lucy grass-fed beef burger, spicy wings and barbecue sandwiches with pulled pork, brisket or veggie chorizo.

Lafayette Square's Square One Brewery Brewery and Distillery is just a short drive west from 4 Hands, and it's located in what was once home to a couple of taverns that date back to a century ago. The brewpub's wood floor and worn brick retains a historic look, while the spacious outdoor courtyard, rattan chairs and fountain reflect a more modern and casual neighborhood feel. Check the brewery's website or tap-room chalkboard for the current beer menu. Brewer John Witte's selections include the Spicy Blonde Belgian Ale, with ginger and lemongrass; Light Squared, a golden ale perfect for craft-beer newbies; Maple Stout; and Helles Lager, a dark gold German-style that balances malty sweetness with slightly bitter hops.

Field Notes: Ask about Square One's cask ale system. Served at "cellar" temperature, cask beers finish the fermentation process in the keg and pour with less filling, lighter carbonation. Also, inquire about Square One's distilled Spirits of St. Louis. The bar carries a wide range of hand-crafted whiskey, rum, gin or vodka from its award-winning portfolio.

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