Tuesday, August 9, 2016

10 Must-Visit St. Louis Tap Rooms for the Craft Beer Connoisseur

Posted By on Tue, Aug 9, 2016 at 7:14 AM

click to enlarge Heavy Riff Brewing Co. also has a full-service restaurant in Dogtown. - PHOTO BY PETE DULIN
  • PHOTO BY PETE DULIN
  • Heavy Riff Brewing Co. also has a full-service restaurant in Dogtown.

The world may have once thought of St. Louis as an Anheuser-Busch company town, but recent history has proven that our loyalty was less to Budweiser and more to beer. When A-B was bought by a Belgian conglomerate, St. Louisans didn't despair — we just started over. Craft breweries began springing up all over town, winning awards and seizing market share. The St. Louis Brewers Guild now represents more than 40, with new local breweries seeming to come online almost every month.

We visited ten up-and-coming craft beer brewpubs and tasting rooms — and, when we could, chatted with the brewers there about their favorite recent releases. Whether describing their own beer or praising a release from a competitor, most were happy to talk up their favorite thing on tap this summer.

Here are ten places worth visiting — and what to drink while you're there.

click to enlarge Alpha Brewing Co. is a great spot to visit before a Cardinals game. - PHOTO BY PETE DULIN
  • PHOTO BY PETE DULIN
  • Alpha Brewing Co. is a great spot to visit before a Cardinals game.

1. ALPHA BREWING COMPANY
1409 Washington Ave., Downtown; 314-621-2337
Owner and brewmaster Derrick Langeneckert uses his biology degree to aplomb, developing barrel-aged beers that have no equal. Located downtown on Washington Avenue, Langeneckert's Alpha Brewing Company is a great spot to grab drinks after riding the ten-story slide at City Museum. The venue is just a tap room, but patrons are welcome to order food for delivery. While the brewery's alpha list typically sports more traditional brews, its beta list features sour offerings that get rotated every few weeks or so; there's always something new to admire. Langeneckert is a science nerd at heart, and spends his breaks watching YouTube videos of hypercubes for beer inspiration. A small concrete patio outside the brewery in the shade of tall buildings can keep you out of the sun while still enjoying the street parade. Take in the view while sipping Capulus Prex, a mild sour blonde ale with a complex flavor profile that will make you do a double take. Or try the American Mild, a robust brown with a crystal-heavy effect and notes of chocolate. Bypass Ballpark Village and stop by Alpha Brewing before Cards games.


2. MODERN BREWERY

5231 Manchester Ave., King's Oak; no phone
Almost all the beers at fast-growing Modern Brewery are named for superheroes or whatever co-owners Beamer Eisele and Ronnie Fink find cool these days — but that inspiration helps them to make some of the finest craft beer in St. Louis right now. Modern Brewery takes a fresh perspective on its wares, drawing on otherworldly hops and spices to develop complex and illuminating flavor profiles, like Arkham's Finest — an easygoing but dense coffee-chocolate stout. The inside of their low-key tasting room on Manchester is styled like a traditional beer hall, with long tables and a small bar to the side that gets packed quickly. There's not a full kitchen, but the tasting room often host food trucks like STL BLT and Wing Nut. Start off with Ms. Sally, a pilsner that may be one of the best of its kind you'll ever have.


3. THE SIDE PROJECT CELLAR
7373 Marietta Ave., Maplewood; 314-224-5211
With beers this distinctive, you can't really call it a second gig. Side Project Brewing is now a full-time enterprise for owners Karen and Cory King, who have taken their passion for 100 percent barrel-aged brews and created a stunning list of saisons and ales to offer in their beautiful tasting room. Cory has the pedigree for the job — he cut his teeth on oak-aging beer as Director of Oak at Perennial, and was later head brewer there. Their space in Maplewood takes its cues from Europe, offering draft beer at three different temperatures — Belgian saisons are warmer, and hoppier beers are served cooler, teaching the consumer that beer can be treated like wine. Right now, Side Project's Biere du Pays ("beer from the country") is a tart, Missouri table saison — like a table wine. It's easy drinking with a simple malt bill, but yields their signature yeast cocktail, which adds a sour bite. It's incredibly refreshing. Karen's favorite offering from another brewery is the Hibiscus Wit from Second Shift Brewing. "We've been rolling keg after keg of this stuff. It's just a really great beer," she says.

Heavy Riff is one of the rare craft breweries in St. Louis where you can also play shuffleboard. - PHOTO BY PAT KOHM
  • PHOTO BY PAT KOHM
  • Heavy Riff is one of the rare craft breweries in St. Louis where you can also play shuffleboard.
4. HEAVY RIFF BREWING COMPANY
6413 Clayton Ave., Dogtown; no phone
When we go to a bar, the only thing we want to hear is good music. That's where Heavy Riff Brewing Company takes the stage. Rocking out in historic Dogtown, Heavy Riff is unpretentious but still respectful of past masters who came before to lay the groundwork — a guitar signed by Neil Young hangs above the bar, the walls are adorned with original concert posters and even the brews are named for bands. Free shuffleboard and darts, along with a stellar menu of smoked meats and barbecue, make this a good place to hang out for awhile. The beer, too, is exceptional. The Velvet Underbrown is Heavy Riff's brew to beat the heat — a rich, American brown that lands somewhere between a milk and oatmeal stout. It's a true hybrid, while the brewery's seasonal offering, the Mamas and the Papayas, is a light, summer pale ale, brewed with papaya. It's not hard for co-owner and brewer Jerid Saffell to give a shout-out to another St. Louis brewer. "For my money, there's nothing better than the Passion Fruit Prussia from Four Hands," he says.


5. SIX MILE BRIDGE

11841 Dorsett Rd., Maryland Heights; 314-942-2211
Six Mile Bridge is not quite a year old, but the founders have already had to expand three times, buying more kegs and fermenters to keep up with their booming business. Six Mile offers beers with 100 percent European ingredients. For the Belgian Dubbel, they import Belgian candy sugar to use instead of grain sugars, giving the beer a nice, solid caramel flavor. Husband-and-wife owners/operators Ryan and Lindsay Sherring are riding high from recently winning a U.S. Beer Championship gold medal for their dry Irish stout — a classic style of beer, smooth and chocolatey, with a roasted malt that gives it a hint of smoke on the end. Six Mile's summer offering is a Blood Orange Summer Wit, a traditional witbier brewed with tart blood orange and coriander. It's light and engaging, but be warned — they're running out fast. The tap room doesn't offer food, but it partners regularly with Frankly Sausages food truck for small bites. The Sherrings have many friends in the craft beer scene, but Lindsay has a soft spot for Modern Brewery. "They do fantastic work other there," she says. "They used to have a stout called Ulysses — a rum stout that was just a gorgeous beer."

Turn the page for five more amazing tasting rooms and brewpubs to visit. Or check out our guide to the city's best dive bars, from the same annual bar guide.

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