30 miles west of St. Louis, within a town of 3,672 folks, in an unassuming strip mall, nestled between a tax preparation company and an art studio sits Exit 6 Pub and Brewery. Opened in 2011, St. Charles County’s first nano-brewery has 23 beers on tap, including 5 made in house. While they have their flagships (mmmm….Vanilla Cream Ale), their small size means that they are able to get a good mix of beers flowing throughout the year based on season or whatever sounds good to them at the time.
I recently met up with the Head Brewer at Exit 6, Justin Helm, to learn more about Cottleville’s best place to grab a great beer.
Favorite Beer Brewed by Exit 6: Ryane’s Red (a hoppy American Amber) for year-round beer and either Time Traveler (An all Amarillo hopped Double IPA) or Otis My Man (A black IPA) for seasonals.
Favorite local beer (not brewed by Exit 6): Northern English Brown from The Civil Life
Favorite non-local beer: Moat Water from Cigar City
How did you end up as a professional brewer?
I really didn’t intend to be a professional brewer at all. I was the bar manager and a bartender at Llewellyn’s for about four years so I started drinking a wide variety of beers during that time. Then my wife and I moved out to St. Peters and were looking for a cool place to hang out with good craft beer and started coming to Exit 6. We would come up here a few times a week and I’d always wanted to try homebrewing so I started talking to Jeff (the owner) up here and got some tips and hints and brewed a couple batches at home. Then one day he posted on Facebook that he was looking for an intern and I figured ‘I kinda want to learn more about brewing.’ I brought up a couple samples of my homebrew, talked to him a little bit about why I wanted to get into it and what I knew about beer already, which was a little bit but not a crazy amount. He ended up picking me and I started brewing up here for about a year as an intern. After a year, our previous brewer left and I took over for him. I’ve been Head Brewer for almost 2 years now.
What’s a typical day like for you at Exit 6?
Cleaning, cleaning and more cleaning. Really though, the great thing about brewing is that you can do it any time of the day. So a typical day for me, if I’m brewing just one batch, I usually get here around noon and can be done by 8pm. If it’s a double batch, I’m coming in a lot earlier. But the majority of my day is spent cleaning. People always say “Brewing sounds like such an awesome job,” and it is, it’s really fun. However, most of your day isn’t actually spent making beer, it’s spent cleaning equipment.
What’s your most favorite and least favorite beer to brew?
I’ll tell you my least favorite is the Triple IPA. I love the beer and it’s one of my favorite beers to drink but the grain bill is so big that it barely fits in our mash kettle. Once it’s in there, stirring that mash is really, really hard, takes a long time and is a huge pain in the ass.
My favorite beer to brew is probably the Vanilla Cream. It’s the easiest, has the fewest ingredients and the smallest grain bill. It just makes my day easier when I know brewing that is on my schedule.
What are some upcoming beers from E6 that you’re excited about?
Fall beers are actually getting brewed in about a week. Oh My Gourd, Becky which is our standard pumpkin ale will get brewed first and then following that we’re going to brew the Autumn Ale which is kind of a hybrid pumpkin beer brewed with molasses, brown sugar and whiskey soaked oak. About two weeks after that we’re going to have our Wicked, an Imperial Pumpkin Porter which is a crowd favorite.
As far as specialty one-off things we’re doing, right now we have a cask of our Sour Watermelon Wheat. We added lactobacillus to our watermelon wheat that we brewed this summer and have just been letting it sit. That should be ready in the next few weeks. We’ve also got a cask of our Laces Out Belgian Tripel with Amarena Cherries. We’re actually aging that in an oak barrel from the Rack House Winery nextdoor that they used to age their Manhattans. So, it’s a whiskey barrel aged Belgian Tripel with Italian cherries. We just tried some the other day and it’s ridiculous. That’ll be out in a month or a little more.
If someone’s never been to E6, what’s something you want them to know about your beer or your brewery?
We’re beer people that make beer for beer people. If you don’t know anything about beer, I’ll be happy to talk to you all day about it and make sure you find something on tap or in a bottle that you’ll like. The beers we make in house are great and we don’t distribute so you’ll have to come here to get them. Also, our guest tap lineup is pretty impressive. We get some super rare stuff out here and we’re putting on about 10 new beers every week so beers are constantly rotating. We’re pretty unassuming from the outside but once you’re in here, you’ll quickly see that’s not the case.