Designer Brews

Your summer guide to the booming craft beer scene in St. Louis.

 

GONE ARE THE DAYS OF BEER being written off as a low-brow beverage. Considered perfectly fine to quaff during a ball game or on the patio, mind you, it hasn’t traditionally been in the same league as more “sophisticated” potables like wine or spirits. But, thanks to the craft beer boom in recent years, this stereotype has been dispelled. Nowhere is this more evident than in St. Louis, which is now awash in small breweries that go well beyond the norm to create unique brews bursting with complexity and flavor.

TRADITION WITH A TWIST

Some keep one foot in tradition and one on the cutting edge. The Civil Life Brewing Company is concentrating on classic, lower-alcohol session styles while still putting its own spin on the final result by using non-traditional ingredients, like the Centennial hops the brewery adds to its British Bitter. Lafayette Square favorite Square One Brewery also offers a wide variety of traditional styles, from Pilsner to stout, along with original spins like its Spicy Blonde and Agave Wheat. Urban Chestnut brews a Reverence Series of beers that harkens back to classic European styles and a Revolution Series that focuses on artisanal American craft varieties.

CULINARY CREATIVITY

One brewer using out-of-the-ordinary flavors to create unique brews is Perennial Artisan Ales, which is taking advantage of everything from Michigan cherries to Mexican chocolate in its beers, while 2nd Shift Brewing takes a floral approach with its Hibiscus Wit. Breweries are also reaching out to local artisan producers in other areas to collaborate on new beers. Especially popular are coffee matchups. Perennial is crafting an Imperial stout featuring Sump Coffee beans, Schlafly has been making its Coffee Stout with Kaldi’s java for years, and 4 Hands Brewing Company is producing Bona Fide Russian Imperial Stout with Goshen coffee.

BARREL BREWS

Often thought of as the domain of wine and spirits makers, barrel-aging is huge among brewers. The Wine & Cheese Place is collaborating with St. Louis Brewery (makers of Schlafly), 4 Hands, 2nd Shift and Perennial on a series of barrel-aged brews to be sold exclusively at their locations. Perennial has plenty of its own ongoing barrel-aging projects as well, including a quartet of brews aged in rye whiskey barrels. Meanwhile, 4 Hands is in the midst of aging brews in used wine and spirits barrels, including a yet-to-be-named dark saison that’s currently doing time in cabernet, grenache and merlot barrels, and Six Row recently released a porter aged in Jack Daniels barrels. All of this activity has resulted in some impressive accolades. Exit 6 Brewery‘s Vanilla Cream Ale won Best Beer at the Augusta Bottoms Beer Fest last fall, and Urban Chestnut was recently named one of the five best new brewers in the world by RateBeer.

 

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Vanilla Cream Ale, Exit Six

Vanilla Cream Ale, Exit 6

 

Photo credit: Christopher Gibbons

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