St. Louis Brewers Think Small
By JOE STANGE
IN the late 1800s, St. Louisans flocked to brewery gardens to drink, play and socialize. Most were immigrants accustomed to beer as part of daily life, as vital as bread. Out of this enthusiasm arose Anheuser-Busch, perhaps the best-known large-scale brewery in the country. No matter its size, locals have remained loyal to the hometown company.
In 2008, InBev, the international beer company, bought A-B, as Anheuser-Busch is known locally. When that year started there were only three other beer companies within the city limits, each one tiny in comparison. Yet today the city's craft brew options are expanding quickly: by the end of 2011, A-B can expect to have 11 competitors in the city plus another dozen in the surrounding area.
So is there a limit to the number of craft brewers that locals are willing to support?
"Seriously? It's beer," answered Dylan Mosley, the head brewer for the Civil Life Brewing Company in south St. Louis. "You know how many people drink beer? If I opened a hamburger joint, nobody's going to be, like, 'Hey, you know how many hamburger joints there are?' They'd be like, 'Sweet! Another hamburger joint!' "
Last month Mr. Mosley and Jake Hafner, the brewery owner, opened The Civil Life (3714 Holt Avenue; no phone; www.thecivillifebrewingcompany.com) in south St. Louis. Inside the brew house they built a two-level pub with nooks meant to facilitate conversation among neighbors. The Civil Life specializes in "session beers" of lower strength, meant for drinking in quantity without derailing said conversation. Offerings include a British-style bitter and a rye pale ale ($5 each).
Further south, in the South Carondelet neighborhood, a former Coca-Coca plant is now home to Perennial Artisan Ales (8125 Michigan Avenue; 314-631-7300 ; perennialbeer.com). It opened in September and has a tasting pub where visitors can sample the recipes of its brewer, Phil Wymore, including the dry-hopped Hommel Bier pale ale ($5), inspired by Belgian farmhouse ales.
A short walk from Busch Stadium, 4 Hands (1220 South Eighth Street; 4handsbrewery.com) is scheduled to open on Nov. 11, with a rye India pale ale and an oatmeal brown among the offerings. The tasting bar is made from the wood of a 107-year-old rural Missouri barn.
But the local craft quake's center has been Midtown Alley, just west of downtown, with three breweries within walking distance of one another.
Buffalo (3100 Olive Street; 314-534-2337 ; buffalobrewingstl.com) is the geezer of the trio, opened way back in 2008. The brewpub's citrus-hopped Rye IPA ($4.50) is a favorite among local beer geeks. Those tired of waiting in line for barbecue from wildly popular Pappy's next door can opt instead for the Buffalo's burgers and mussels.
Six Row (3690 Forest Park Avenue; 314-531-5600 ; sixrowbrewco.com) opened at the end of 2009. The brewery recently completed an expansion that nearly quadrupled its capacity. Besides standbys that include the Honey Weizen ($4.50), brewed with Missouri honey, are occasional cult favorites like the Bacon Porter, in which a slab of cooked bacon soaks in the cask.
The latest Midtown addition, Urban Chestnut (3229 Washington Avenue; 314-222-0143 ; urbanchestnut.com), opened in January. Florian Kuplent, a former A-B brewer, specializes in a mix of traditional European styles and more experimental attempts. Fifteen different beers flowed on a recent visit, including the crisply hopped Zwickel lager and the chestnuts-laced Winged Nut ale (each $5).
In front of the pub is a small garden with long, sturdy tables; Mr. Kuplent had them shipped from his native Germany. "It is a beer town and I think there's a history there of people that enjoy themselves sitting in beer gardens," he said. "And I think that gene, or whatever it is, didn't go away."