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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

Super Flare at 4 Hands - PHOTOS BY PETE DULIN
  • Photos by Pete Dulin
  • Super Flare at 4 Hands

If you've got the time to go exploring, the city is filled with breweries to visit and tasting rooms to try. Here's our guide to the best.

The two-dozen-strong craft breweries in St. Louis and the surrounding area offer something for everyone, whether you're a dedicated fan or just getting started on the scene. Exploring the many breweries in the area is like an adult version of the Choose Your Own Adventure series: No matter where you start or end, the possibilities result in a satisfying day trip or fun-filled weekend.

We road tested this itinerary: It maps out a 72-hour weekend and encompasses a dozen St. Louis breweries, brewpubs and tasting rooms.

Heavy Riff Co-Owner and Head Brewer Jerid Saffell
  • Heavy Riff Co-Owner and Head Brewer Jerid Saffell


Jerid Saffell, head brewer at Heavy Riff Brewing Company, offers a solid roster of craft beer at this hard-rock-themed brewpub in the traditional Irish enclave of Dogtown. Velvet Brown Underground, the brewery's best-selling flagship beer, is an American brown ale that rocks a balance of malt and hops with a velvety mouthfeel and jams with dark chocolate on the finish. Heavy Riff's core beers also include Argonaut American Pale Ale and Super Session Hoppy Wheat, wherein each batch uses a different hop variety. Coffee lovers will savor the Vanilla Coffee Underbrown, a velvety, creamy brown ale made with Velvet Underbrown and infused with Kona coffee and fresh vanilla beans.

Field notes: Grab a bite to eat at this brewpub. Try a six-pack of barbecue sliders with a choice of smoked pork, beef brisket, turkey, tofu or seitan served on Hawaiian sweet rolls.

Just a short drive to the southwest is Schlafly Bottleworks in Maplewood, the main production brewery for Schlafly beer. The 23,000-square-foot Bottleworks, which opened in 2003, also houses a brewpub, retail space and space for private events. Company-wide, Schlafly (legally known as the St. Louis Brewery) annually brews more than 60,000 barrels of beer. Bottleworks brews more than twenty styles, sold in both twelve-ounce bottles and draft kegs. Flagship beers include Pale Ale, a copper-colored session beer with a subtle bread flavor from roasted caramel malt that complements the hint of fruit derived from London ale yeast; Kölsch, a crisp, clean German golden ale made with actual German ale yeast; and Dry Hopped American Pale Ale, with an assertive pine and citrus hoppy aroma and grapefruit finish.

Fun fact: Kölsch was the wedding beer of brewery founder Tom Schlafly when he married his German bride Ulrike.

Field notes: Catch the one-hour class at Schlafly Beer School on Fridays at 2 and 4 p.m. Want beer samples and a brief overview of the brewery's history and beer-making? This school rules. Space is limited, so reserve a spot at the brewery's retail desk. Another great option: Schlafly's Brewer's Tour ($20) happens every third Saturday of the month at 10 a.m. and is limited to fifteen people each. Tours sell out well in advance. Reserve by calling 314-241-2337 ext. 285, or purchase a ticket in person at Schlafly Bottleworks.

Located around the corner from the Bottleworks, Side Project Cellar is a must-visit destination for craft-beer pilgrims. Cory King, head brewer at Perennial Artisan Ales, launched Side Project as a small-batch brewery within Perennial. Known for its saisons, wild ales and spirit barrel-aged ales, Side Project's distinctive vintages have built a major following among craft beer drinkers. Each beer is highly sought-after on release days at Perennial, where fans queue up to secure a bottle or three, depending on demand.

At this Belgian-inspired beer bar and tasting room, Side Project's beers are the main attraction. Take time to chat with co-owner Karen King, a beer industry sales veteran, and her crack team at the Cellar, which has a three-temperature draft system and uses ten types of glassware to properly serve more than twenty styles on draft. The website maintains a list of available Side Project bottle beers on rotation.

Field notes: Side Project Cellar also carries a premium selection of cellared craft beer, whiskey, wine and cider.

Wind down the day just a few miles to the east at Urban Chestnut Grove Brewery and Bierhall. Last year, Urban Chestnut produced more than 12,000 barrels as it expanded distribution to Columbia and Kansas City. It also announced plans earlier this year to set up an outpost in Bavaria. Urban Chestnut's heart remains in St. Louis, though. The Grove Brewery offers a self-guided tour of the massive space, where the brewhouse is on prominent display. Park at the long bar or a community table for a well-deserved beer after the day's travels.

Urban Chestnut offers the Reverence Series and the Revolution Series. The former describes a roster of fifteen German-style beers including Zwickel, the flagship Bavarian-style and naturally cloudy lager; Schnickelfritz, a Bavarian weissbier with banana and clove aromas; and the superb Ku'Damm, a light, tart Berliner weisse perfect for countering summer heat. The Revolution Series of eleven beers range from Winged Nut, a chestnut ale, to the double IPA dubbed STLIPA. The Patersbier, a low-alcohol, sessionable ale with complex tart, fruity flavor, is named after a Belgian abbey and the Trappist monks who drank this style of "Father's beer."

Field notes: Recharge with a hearty bite to eat at the bierhall. Load up on a schnitzel sandwich, made with pummeled pork or beef that's breaded, fried and served on sourdough with a condiment and side. The currywurst is a killer knackwurst doused in curry ketchup and served with pommes frites. Or share a charcuterie board with four options of housemade sausages and trimmings.

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