It’s funny how a visit from an old friend can make your home seem new again.
It hasn’t been easy to get friends to visit my wife and me here in . When we first arrived a year ago, I bragged about the Cardinals, raved about Forest Park, and sung the praises of Saint Louis-style barbeque ‘til I was , to each and every one of my friends. As each one passed on the chance to see the Arch up close, my own excitement over the city waned. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to live here. The apathy of time has certainly smudged the luster of Saint Louis in my eyes though.
Enter Brian, our fun-loving, home-brewing, maple syrup-bathing Canadian . I got a text one morning that simply said: “I’m coming for Easter. Be ready.”
“What would we do with him? Where would we go? Are we going to spend the whole weekend just drinking and eating?”
“You’re damn right we are.”
Saint Louis may not have , Times Square, or the Smithsonian, but it does have one thing no other city in the country can touch. Beer. Sweet delicious beer.
We decided to take Brian on an STL Beerventure. Here’s what transpired:
Calling Brian a beer enthusiast is like calling a dolphin a water enthusiast or Hugh Hefner a big fan of . The man has a more extensive beer knowledge than anyone on the planet. He brews it himself. And after he is released from his contract with , he intends to go to . So it’s safe to say he was overjoyed when I shared my plan with him. Our quest began at the Scottish Arms on Sarah Street. The dim yet welcoming ambiance and wall-to-wall dark wood create an authentic and accessible feel for both first-time and regular patrons. The menu combines traditional pub fare, imaginative entrees, and authentic Scottish classics like . When you include the incredible beer selection and staggering you get a one-of-a-kind gastropub that is a must for fans of great food, great drinks, or guys in kilts.
As for the beer, the Arms has a wide selection from across the pond you would have a hard time finding elsewhere in Saint Louis. All year round you will find German, English, Irish, and Scottish beers on tap as well as some local microbrews. The staff was quite knowledgeable and friendly. Had I not been drinking and dining with a , I’m sure they would have been quite helpful in helping choose the right pint. Our evening at the Arms was a perfect way to kickoff our beerventure.
Our journey continued the following day at Bailey’s Range on the corner of 9th and Olive. Advertised as a purveyor of burgers and shakes, Bailey’s range is so much more. It boasts a great beer selection and perhaps my favorite bar in all of St. Louis. This expansive beer altar is more than 40 feet long and made of polished steel. Though it may lack the homey, traditional feel of bars made of , the modern aesthetic of the bar blends seamlessly with the idea of the refined beer drinker. Over the bar, the friendly staff will serve you an ever-rotating selection locally/regionally brewed beer from Schlafly, Urban Chestnut, 4Hands, 2nd Shift, and Civil Life. Plus if your tastes run to the sweet side, the ice cream counter and bar will collaborate to concoct a Boozy Float. Newbies may want to stay close to shore with a definitely non-virgin Root Beer Float made with organic root liqueur. Anyone feeling adventurous should try the Sweet Sweet Bacon which blends Maker’s Mark and candied bacon with salted caramel ice cream to produce an indulgence for every single taste bud and gluttonous impulse.
Before the bacon shake and after a satisfying sampling of beer, the time has come to choose your burger. The Range has the most diverse and intriguing burger menu I’ve ever encountered. With patties made from grass-fed beef, bison, pork, lamb, or chicken and toppings like goat cheese, crimini mushrooms, , and apple-jalapeno salsa you’re sure to find something to pique your interest and keep you coming back. Also, the smoked onion rings with Rooster sauce .
During our meal, Brian began to display the tell-tale signs of Canadian withdrawal. He sang Barenaked Ladies songs at high volume, demanded the server bring him poutine, and made relentless fun of my health insurance premiums. We decided to get him his fix at the Blues’ game. Though the team played incredibly Wonka Bars Budweisers. I must credit the fine people at Scottrade for introducing us to this incredible local brew, which incidentally won the 2010 World Beer Cup Gold Medal for Bohemian Style Pilsner. I can’t think of a better way to enjoy that part in a hockey game when the result is decided, and both teams just start fighting., there was one bright note: Morgan Street Brewery’s Golden Pilsner. The beer selection at the Scottrade Center doesn’t typically reflect the best traditions of St. Louis at all. On this occasion, however, there was a golden ticket amongst all those
After the final horn, we headed to the definitive beer mecca of St. Louis. I was so giddy with anticipation it was all I could do to keep from running down Locust toward The Bridge. Though listed as both a Tap House and Wine Bar, The Bridge, to us, was simply heaven on Earth – an amusement park of hops and atmosphere. Our group grew in size, and we were lucky enough to secure the lounge upstairs all to ourselves. there is no better place to drink and socialize than that circle of couches and chairs upstairs at The Bridge. It is secluded, but has a nice view of the rest of the bar. You feel like a high roller with a private booth without the terrible yet deserved stigma associated with bottle service or those who get it. Instead, we had excellent and non-judgemental draft service provided by our attentive and knowledgeable server who completely enhanced our evening despite our isolated location.
The beer menu at this place is staggering. Staggering but not overpowering. When you eat at Cheesecake Factory, you know as you’re flipping through the endless pages of Southwestern Eggrolls, Jambalaya Pasta, and decadent yet insane iterations of cheesecake that no matter what you choose, you’ll be sickeningly full when signing your bill. This is not the case at The Bridge. The menu rolls out like a treasure map to a fantastic evening. It encourages exploration. Draft beer is offered in several sizes which allows patrons to try new brews without a large (pint-size) commitment. My night was all the more enjoyable because I could sample everything Brian, the all-knowing beer wizard, recommended without being forced to drink an entire pint of something that didn’t fit my palate. Normally, I don’t venture too far past hefeweizen when choosing beer for . As the night flew by, however, I sampled and enjoyed darker and darker beers. My palate became more refined, and my appreciation for bitterness, hops, and malt grew exponentially. This was the best beer drinking experience I’ve ever had, and I can’t wait to go back to try the bottled offerings.
The night ended at the 12th street Diner. A bowl of Coco Puffs and a Chicken Fried Steak later, the second night of our beerventure was in the books.
Holidays like Easter make us all think back to our past as we continue our steady trudge into the future. In that honored tradition, we headed to the Schlafly Brewery – the unofficial museum of St. Louis beer history to round out our malted journey. I was initially shocked by the 90 minute wait for a tour of the brewery, but it ended up as a great blessing. We spent that time in the bar listening to a bit of live music and sampling Schlafly brews not available in stores. I never knew how extensive Schlafly’s catalog of beer was. They have many seasonal and limited production offerings that are the limited release indie film to the summer blockbuster that is their Pale ale or Hefeweizen. Those indie films are delicious – if you can find them. When the time came for the tour, I was captivated by the history of beer in St. Louis. Our brew-docent spun a rich yarn that started at the turn of the century, lead us through prohibition and the aftermath, and ended in the modern renaissance of brewing that St. Louis is currently experiencing.
This really is the beer capital of America. From Anheuser-Busch to the Schlafly and Six-Row to guys like Brian brewing in their backyards and basements, beer is part of this city. And I’d much rather have that than Disneyland.
If Brian had never come, I might never have ventured the four miles out to Maplewood. I might never have known the beer history of St. Louis or experienced The Bridge the way it was meant to be experienced. I would have never seen this city through new eyes and never truly appreciated my time here.
Cheers to you Brian.
And Cheers to you St. Louis.
Keep doing what you’re doing, and I’ll keep drinking what you’re .
Like it, Love it, or Hate it? We want to hear from you. Contact us here.
Thanks for reading. We hope to see you again soon.