As you’re all aware by now, St. Louis Craft Beer Week has occured and there were no shortages of events full of delicious craft beer. 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 One of my St. Louis Craft Beer Week Review, so be sure to stay tuned for the next two recaps, where I visit Heavy Riff for a new release, load up on stouts, attend beer and food pairings, and spend an evening at 2nd Shift with sour beers and barbecue.
Day One: A Street Full of Beer and…grass?
The first event on the list was St. Louis Craft Beer Week’s kickoff event, the St. Louis Brewer’s Picnic hosted by Bridge Tap House & Wine Bar on Locust St. Friday night. Locust was literally closed off in that section, with sod laid
down in the middle of the road for attendees to lounge on and play with their kids. Bailey’s Restaurants and L’Acadiane were offering some rib-sticking deliciousness; the highlight being, in my opinion, the bananas foster ice cream. Urban Chestnut and Earthbound were two of the several breweries who brought along some very interesting brews, a chicken ‘n waffles blonde ale and a cask served key lime lager respectively. I missed out on the chicken ‘n waffles beer as it had run out, knowing my luck it happened when I was getting that ice cream mentioned earlier, but was able to get some of the key lime lager.
For the record, I have never tried a lager served from a cask before, but I have had my share of Mexican beers with lime juice in them in the past. A combination of both had me curious. Tasted just like the ones you’d chug on the beach during spring break or family vacations, but that isn’t a knock against it. Urban Chestnut is consistently good at craft lagers, and despite being served a little warm, it still had a clean flavor and aroma to it and the lime wasn’t overpowering. Made me think of a shandy or radler to be honest. I’ll call it a win.
Another brewery that brought something special along was Civil Life. Brewer David Seymour passed me a sample of their latest offering, Merchant Ship. An American IPA with 80 IBUs and plenty of the pine and citrus flavors you’d expect, but a good blend of malt sweetness and some slight biscuit notes kept the hops balanced from the first sip to the last. It had the assertive American IPA hoppiness, but yet had an English feel to it which I thoroughly enjoyed. Paired up with a hot link from the food tents, they made for a perfect mid summer meal.
Day Two: Old Friends, New Beer
Day 2 was a little less exciting, stopped by Steampunk Brew Works to help keg one of their first offerings as part of their upcoming Alchemy Lab Series, Coal Fired Smoked Porter. A generous portion of brown malt made up the grist, and along with some chocolate and crystal malts, topped off with cottonwood smoked malt from Colorado Malting Company. Coffee, bacon, toast, fruit, the flavor and aromas will make you think of breakfast or barbecue. As of posting this is now on tap in limited quantities.
Afterwards I joined friends I hadn’t seen in years over in Waterloo at Stubborn German for a couple drinks and catching up on old times. Old Ledger Pre-Prohibition Lager still makes a good entry level craft lager for those new to craft beer or just prefer traditional beer fare, while Schnitzengiggles, their Munich Dunkel, was nice and clean with plenty of dark toasty notes that made for easy drinking even though the color would suggest otherwise. Back on tap was their Morning Wood Aged Stout, one of Chris Rahn’s bourbon barrel aged offerings. Plenty of boozy bourbon and roast notes throughout, but enough body to back it up without being overly thick. You’ll enjoy this if you like stouts, and even more so if you’re someone who enjoys locally made craft spirits as well.
Day Three: Totally Geeking Out Man!!!
Craft Beer Cellar’s Beer Geek Fest was next on my list. Decided to get some food into my system first, then hold off and go to the 2-4 PM portion of the festival. The usual suspects, Paul Delong and Dave Wohldmann (how do they keep getting all these mentions?), were running around along with the other CBC staff doing their best to keep the glasses moving and the beer flowing in a packed house. Tried a number of offerings from the breweries that session, but these three caught my attention and took a little extra time to analyze them:
Lionstone Das Mango Hefeweizen: Fruit beers can be trickier to make than you’d think. It’s easy to have too little or too much fruit added to a beer, and you need to find a style that blends well with it. Schlafly’s Raspberry Hefeweizen is a good local example as they use real raspberry puree, while other breweries admit they use flavor extracts. That’s by no means a critique of the ones that do, however it’s easy to overdo it and turn an otherwise delicious beer into something that tastes like Robitussin. Lionstone Brewing avoided that, assuming the information found online is true and they use mango flavoring (Abe Lincoln said you can’t trust everything you read online after all), delivering a decently sized punch of mango in the aroma with some very subtle spice notes. The beer continued to hit with mango during the first couple sips, but it wasn’t overwhelming and I didn’t notice any medicinal qualities that would indicate it was a flavor extract. The banana flavor I expect to taste when drinking a hefeweizen was missing, but overall Das Mango makes a good, easy drinking hot weather beer.
Dogfish Head Lupu Luau: A coconut IPA. I can think of a lot of different fruits, vegetables, and seeds you could put into an IPA. Coconut is a fruit (Wikipedia search lol) that doesn’t immediately come to mind. But Sam Calagione and the folks at Dogfish Head have never been ones for conventional thinking in the brewing industry. Off-centered ales for Off-Centered people. He and his team have stuck to that motto ever since opening, and Lupu Luau is a continuing step in that direction. Believe it or not, they’ve created a tongue teasing beer out of the combination of coconut and hops. The coconut aroma is noticeable, but you don’t get that odor that reminds you of someone who’s used too much sunblock. Hop aroma is a little hidden by it though. With that first sip, you know there’s coconut in the brew, but it’s creamy and even and not a slap-you-in-the-face flavor. Halfway through, you can actually feel the coconut flavor transform to the hoppy, yet still distinctly coconut and tropical, flavors you get with an IPA and it finishes that way thanks to a new experimental hop variety Dogfish Head tried out. Honestly, this is a beer that’s a little out of my wheelhouse, but for fans of coconut beers, fruit IPAs, or just looking to try something new, Lupu Luau is something you’ll enjoy.
Perennial Boysenberry Berliner Weisse: This was a collaborative brew between the folks at Craft Beer Cellar and Perennial for the festival. Sour beers are something I tend to avoid as we don’t necessarily get along all that well. However, I wanted to try something different so I asked Dave Wohldmann for a glass. I immediately was hit with the smell of berries and a pleasant fruity aroma that reminded me of pie. I mentally made plans to stop by Walgreens afterwards to get something to deal with the pending acid reflux from a sour beer, and dove in. Tart fruit flavors immediately greeted me and quickly moved into the lactic tartness. I started to mentally prepare myself for a tongue curling sourness I keep getting from Berliner Weissses, and it never appeared. All I found was just the pleasant tart flavors of boysenberry that finished on the dry side. You don’t know what to expect with a beer that pours purple, especially when you know it’s a style you have problems with taste-wise. And the acid reflux never showed up, which was enough to convince me to get another full glass later in the week.
Stay tuned for Part Two, where I try Heavy Riff’s Eat A Peach IPA and Summer Skin saison, stop by Craft Beer Cellar again for a stout night, and a beer and food paring done with the area’s female head brewers.