Recapping my last post, St. Louis Craft Beer Week has come and gone, and new brews were available across the surrounding counties. My schedule being the way it was, I did the best I could to try at least one new beer each day at a different event. This is Part Two of my St. Louis Craft Beer Week Review, so be sure to stay tuned for Part Three, where I visit Main and Mill in Festus for a four course beer and food pairing, load up on stouts (again), attend an evening at 2nd Shift with sour beers and barbecue, and wrap it up with the On Cue Release at 4Hands
Day Four: Feelin’ Just Peachy at the moment
Heavy Riff Brewing over in Dogtown is consistently one of the top brewpubs in the area despite being one of the most underrated for reasons that can’t be explained. I received an invite the previous week to attend their Eat a Peach IPA release and decided to give it a try. After arriving and speaking with head brewer and co-owner Jerid Saffell, it was time for beer. The NE (Northeast or New England)IPA trend is in full effect here in St. Louis, and Heavy Riff’s spin on it definitely deserves mention. Saffell made the decision to put a twist on his version and add, if you haven’t guessed by now, fresh peaches.
There’s plenty of peach in the aroma, and the beer is a nice deep opaque orange. The flavor matches up with your initial first sniff as the peach attacks your taste buds, but it doesn’t overwhelm them. Rather, it has the balance you’d find in well made peach tea or Vess peach soda and changes over to the citrus and rosin flavors from the Simcoe and Mosaic. Local homebrewer and beer enthusiast Brandon Miller certainly enjoyed how it turned out.
“With some fruit beers you get this weird aftertaste,” said Miller. “I get none of that with this beer.”
Saffell felt that using real fruit was the key to the brew ending up the way it did. “Flavor extracts have this taste that sometimes makes you think of Robitussin. I also used the Conan strain (Omega Yeast’s DIPA) for the yeast to help get the haze, and then Mosaic and Simcoe hops to get more of that juicy flavor” said Saffell.
At this point my glass was getting low, and I was starting to get a little buzzed and hungry. What Heavy Riff’s food menu lacks in size is more than made up in the quality of their barbecue, sides (their spent grain beer bread is a personal favorite), sandwiches and salads. I saw they had a new saison on tap, Summer Skin, so I ordered one along with their smoked turkey reuben. Turned out to be the perfect pairing. The smoky, slightly salty and sour flavors from the sauerkraut blended perfectly with the tart dryness and the pepper notes from the saison. But with the spice and bubble gum notes in the aroma, and a flavor that distinctly reminded me of pears, I wasn’t sure at one point if it was a beer suited for dinner or dessert. Either way, I enjoyed both beers, leaving Heavy Riff that night full and happy.
Day Five: Beyond Exstouted
Saint Brewis had two collaborations and a sponsored event scheduled during Craft Beer Week, and as I was working on Saturday and was going to miss the Tailgate Toss tournament, I was going to get my money’s worth at the collabs. The first one up was their event at CBC Clayton, I’m So ExStouted. If you’re someone who is a fan of stouts and barrel aged beers, this was the event for you. Honestly lost track of all the samples passed around that night, but managed to get some good notes on three of the beers before giving up and enjoying myself.
Narrow Gauge Vanil’: St. Louis’s mad scientist of hazy IPAs, Jeff Hardesty, was in attendence for the event, and brought along a creation from his pilot system called Vanil’. Hardesty made a very limited amount, so don’t expect this to be on tap right now, and possibly never again. I managed to get a pour before CBC got crowded and started using a line. The aroma started off on the boozy side with some good vanilla notes and what came across to me as oak despite not having any in it after speaking with Hardesty on how the beer was brewed. “Only thing I tossed into the carboy was a whole vanilla bean” he said, along with a longer boil time than normal. The vanilla was more noticeable as I began sipping at it, but it was a pleasant undertone that balanced out the strong roast notes I was getting. Those notes only got stronger as the beer warmed, and while there was a touch of astringency, I only got that from the dark malts and not from the hops. Which was surprising considering Vanil’ was 90 IBUs. But whatever astringency I picked up was nowhere near enough to keep me from finishing my glass.
There’s a subset of imperial stouts out there I and possibly others tend to refer to as “motor-oil stouts”. These are stouts that are high in alcohol and body, and pour thick like used motor oil with minimal to no head retention. Vanil’ met that description, and showed just how Hardesty continues to produce great beers in North County.
2nd Shift Bourbon Barrel Aged LSD: Steve Crider is a brewer who loves to walk that line between genius and insanity. And that’s a good thing. Liquid Spiritual Delight is one of those beers that already is a solid stout, but adding a bourbon barrel into the process would make some folks do a double take. The aromas of bourbon, oak and vanilla greet you after your glass is poured, and you begin to wonder what exactly you’ve gotten yourself into. And then you wonder even more as the beer warms and those scents intensify. But while all those aromas are still reflected in the favor, they’re not as intense and are more mellow than anything. I didn’t pick up much of the malt, hop, and roast flavors I’d expect in an American stout, truthfully I didn’t mind that. I really wouldn’t even recommend looking for those flavors either when tasting it. Barrel Aged LSD, to me, was simply a beer-flavored bourbon and it didn’t let me forget it. For folks that love barrel aged beers, and especially those that enjoy good bourbon, this is something you don’t want to pass up when offered.
4Hands Forbidden Fuzz:
I’d been hearing some about Forbidden Fuzz recently, and even though it wasn’t a stout, wanted a little change of pace for the evening before my taste buds got overloaded by roast malt and barrel aged flavors. Unfortunately I didn’t escape it for long, as Forbidden Fuzz is a second used bourbon barrel aged Belgian Golden Strong with peaches added in. Oak aroma greeted my nose right with that brettanomyces funk you find in wild yeast beers, with spicy Belgian yeast phenolics as an undertone. The funk notes weren’t overpowering, but you’ll know they’re in there. Don’t even bother looking for hop flavor and aroma in this one. The first sip has a nice subtle peach flavor which gets accentuated by the sourness and funk you’d find in a lambic beer, and finishes dry and tart. If you’re new to sour beers and are looking to get your feet wet with one, start here.
Day Six: Wonder Women
I was looking forward to Wednesday night’s Crafty Brewsters Beer and Food Pairing event at Muddled Pig Gastropub for a couple reasons. One was that I had never attended a beer and food pairing before and was looking forward to that experience. The second was getting to see local brewers Abbey Spencer, Troy Bedik, and Rebecca Shranz along with two other brewers I hadn’t met before, Cat Golden from Mark Twain Brewing and Emily Burne from Schlafly Brewing, showcase some of their best brews. This was their second year doing the event, and Shranz was happy to return.
“All of us were here last year for the event, which donates all proceeds to the Great Rivers Greenway organization. Cat Golden organized it, and I think it’s a great way to showcase the women brewers here. For the pairing, we all provided the beers we would be bringing, and Muddled Pig’s Chef Michelle (Allender) created the dishes based on their respective tastes and smells.”
I made Earthbound my first stop of the night as Shranz, true to Earthbound’s style of brewing beers with very unique ingredients, brought along a Thai Basil IPA and a Sunflower Hefeweizen, paired with a beet pad thai. She explained to me that they used malted and pre-milled sunflower seeds from Colorado Malting Company in the mash, which was more than enough to get my attention as I asked for a glass. It looked like your standard German Hefeweizen, but hidden underneath was a surprise. The first sniffs of the beer had that banana and clove you expect, but this time there was a subtle nutty, almost walnut-like aroma that immediately made me think of Grandma’s banana nut bread. And the flavor was the same way with the nutty character of the sunflower seeds coming to the front and blending with the wheat and banana. After a couple sips, I took a bite of the beet pad thai, and found the peanuts, noodles, and beet slivers to be a perfect compliment to the beer.
Next stop was Cat Golden at Mark Twain Brewing, who brought in a barrel aged Molly Brown brown ale that clocked in at…4.7%. Feeling confused and thinking that was a typo, I asked Golden if she could explain what was going on with the beer, and she confirmed that the 4.7% ABV was indeed correct.
“We had this idea back in October 2016 to do something different with Molly Brown” said Golden. “We had just racked off our Passport to Russia Imperial Stout from its barrels, and decided to try mixing Molly Brown with some maple syrup into the empty barrels we now had, then let them sit until June this year before transferring it out.”
Normally I try to save barrel aged beers for later in the day, or at least make sure I can get an Uber home first. But Barrel Aged Molly Brown is a barrel aged beer that won’t lay you out, despite an aroma that makes you think it’s bigger than it really is. There’s plenty of vanilla and oak notes still present from the barrel aging along with hints of higher octane alcohol in the aroma and flavor, but the beer still drinks smooth like an English brown ale. Paired with fried risotto and braised duck, it made for a meal that would be perfect for a cool fall evening.
Each brewer’s beers matched up perfectly with their dishes. The malts and hop bite from Trok Bedik’s Angel and the Sword English Bitter at Civil Life’s enhanced the crispy shell and apricot sauce from an Asian pork dumpling. The citrus bite from Emily Burne’s Grapefruit IPA at the Schlafly table enhanced the bite of the herb aioli on lobster beignets. And Abbey Spencer’s Goomah Milk Stout from Third Wheel had almost the exact same chocolate note and tone as the fernet pot de creme, which had a texture that was thicker than chocolate milk, but thinner and more robust flavor than a chocolate shake. Abbey was also kind enough to share some samples she brought along of her Singular Day NE IPA brewed with Brewminati’s Paul Delong to be released the next day, and a pilsner she’ll be debuting in September. “It’s a blend of the Czech and American pilsners,” said Spencer. “I used a combination of German and American hops in the boil, then I’ll be dry hopping it with Czech and German hops at a later date.
Stay tuned for Part Three, where Main and Mill pairs their beers with St. Louis cuisine, I see if a beer and dessert pairing at Global Brew Rock Hill meets the hype, and then attend 2nd Shift’s Salt and Smoke Festival.