When the Belgium-based beer powerhouse InBev bought the Anheuser-Busch brewery in 2008, it signaled a sea change in St. Louis. And while many bemoaned the identity shift and new corporate culture brought on by the international conglomerate, a more subtle truth also emerged: Schlafly Beer, the onetime upstart, was now the city's biggest locally owned brewery.
As the beermaker turns twenty this year and continues to expand its reach outside of St. Louis, a new crop of microbreweries and beer pubs have risen to create barrels of handcrafted, hoppy goodness. Schlafly is far from a corporate behemoth, but if you want to sample beer that's truly micro and not just local, it turns out you have a surprising number of options. This summer, we raise our glasses to three small-batch breweries that keep St. Louis sudsy.Six Row Brewing Company
3690 Forest Park Avenue, 314-531-5600
Located just off the southeastern edge of Saint Louis University, Six Row Brewing Company serves its craft beers and pub-friendly food in a modest but never cramped space. The L-shaped dining room wraps around a big wooden bar, where patrons can sit and sample the brewery's eight rotating taps. And now that it's almost summertime, the crisp, citrusy notes in the Whale (a hybrid wheat/pale ale) will act as a tonic to the heat. Hop-heads will flock to the Double IPA, though the brew's 8.4 percent ABV kick might limit your intake (or require a designated driver). Six Row's sandwiches-and-snacks menu is mostly simple and direct, and that places the focus back where it belongs: on the beer.
Urban Chestnut Brewing Company
3229 Washington Avenue, 314-222-0143
Florian Kuplent, the Munich-born brewmaster at Urban Chestnut Brewing Company, straddles the line between tradition and progress in crafting his beers. The beer list is split between the "Reverence" and "Revolution" series, and Urban Chestnut gives a nod to European traditions while expanding the craft of small-batch breweries. Of the latter, the aromatic Half Crown is a pleasant twist on the American IPA, and the Winged Nut honors the company's name with a smoky, chestnut bite. Because no one likes to drink on an empty stomach, Urban Chestnut offers a small but sufficient menu of tasting boards, pretzels and charcuterie to pair with the dozen brews on tap.
Square One Brewery & Distillery
1727 Park Avenue, 314-231-2537
It's telling that, with just five years in the business, Square One Brewery is something of an elder statesman to these younger breweries around town. With an unbeatable location in Lafayette Square and a menu offering everything from stout-braised pot roast to grilled cheese, the microbrewery has earned its place as a destination for beer lovers. Square One keeps about twelve of its brews on tap at any time, and the brewery's recent foray into cask ales (which are kept at room temperature) adds a nice depth to the selection. Al fresco diners will adore the shaded, brick-lined patio, which offers a reprieve from the summer heat — along with a cold, handcrafted beer, of course.