What better way to appreciate the amazing fall Southern Illinois foilage than by taking a relaxing ride to some St. Louis tap rooms to enjoy some of their off the hook brews. Check out this list of places to visit the next time you’re in St. Louis.
The world may have once thought of St. Louis as an Anheuser-Busch company town, but recent history has proven that our loyalty was less to Budweiser and more to beer. When A-B was bought by a Belgian conglomerate, St. Louisans didn’t despair — we just started over. Craft breweries began springing up all over town, winning awards and seizing market share. The St. Louis Brewers Guild now represents more than 40, with new local breweries seeming to come online almost every month.
We visited ten up-and-coming craft beer brewpubs and tasting rooms — and, when we could, chatted with the brewers there about their favorite recent releases. Whether describing their own beer or praising a release from a competitor, most were happy to talk up their favorite thing on tap this summer.
Here are ten places worth visiting — and what to drink while you’re there.
ALPHA BREWING COMPANY
1409 Washington Ave., Downtown; 314-621-2337
Owner and brewmaster Derrick Langeneckert uses his biology degree to aplomb, developing barrel-aged beers that have no equal. Located downtown on Washington Avenue, Langeneckert’s Alpha Brewing Company is a great spot to grab drinks after riding the ten-story slide at City Museum. The venue is just a tap room, but patrons are welcome to order food for delivery. While the brewery’s alpha list typically sports more traditional brews, its beta list features sour offerings that get rotated every few weeks or so; there’s always something new to admire. Langeneckert is a science nerd at heart, and spends his breaks watching YouTube videos of hypercubes for beer inspiration. A small concrete patio outside the brewery in the shade of tall buildings can keep you out of the sun while still enjoying the street parade. Take in the view while sipping Capulus Prex, a mild sour blonde ale with a complex flavor profile that will make you do a double take. Or try the American Mild, a robust brown with a crystal-heavy effect and notes of chocolate. Bypass Ballpark Village and stop by Alpha Brewing before Cards games.
5231 Manchester Ave., King’s Oak; no phone
Almost all the beers at fast-growing Modern Brewery are named for superheroes or whatever co-owners Beamer Eisele and Ronnie Fink find cool these days — but that inspiration helps them to make some of the finest craft beer in St. Louis right now. Modern Brewery takes a fresh perspective on its wares, drawing on otherworldly hops and spices to develop complex and illuminating flavor profiles, like Arkham’s Finest — an easygoing but dense coffee-chocolate stout. The inside of their low-key tasting room on Manchester is styled like a traditional beer hall, with long tables and a small bar to the side that gets packed quickly. There’s not a full kitchen, but the tasting room often host food trucks like STL BLT and Wing Nut. Start off with Ms. Sally, a pilsner that may be one of the best of its kind you’ll ever have.
THE SIDE PROJECT CELLAR
7373 Marietta Ave., Maplewood; 314-224-5211
With beers this distinctive, you can’t really call it a second gig. Side Project Brewing is now a full-time enterprise for owners Karen and Cory King, who have taken their passion for 100 percent barrel-aged brews and created a stunning list of saisons and ales to offer in their beautiful tasting room. Cory has the pedigree for the job — he cut his teeth on oak-aging beer as Director of Oak at Perennial, and was later head brewer there. Their space in Maplewood takes its cues from Europe, offering draft beer at three different temperatures — Belgian saisons are warmer, and hoppier beers are served cooler, teaching the consumer that beer can be treated like wine. Right now, Side Project’s Biere du Pays (“beer from the country”) is a tart, Missouri table saison — like a table wine. It’s easy drinking with a simple malt bill, but yields their signature yeast cocktail, which adds a sour bite. It’s incredibly refreshing. Karen’s favorite offering from another brewery is the Hibiscus Wit from Second Shift Brewing. “We’ve been rolling keg after keg of this stuff. It’s just a really great beer,” she says.
HEAVY RIFF BREWING COMPANY
6413 Clayton Ave., Dogtown; no phone
When we go to a bar, the only thing we want to hear is good music. That’s where Heavy Riff Brewing Company takes the stage. Rocking out in historic Dogtown, Heavy Riff is unpretentious but still respectful of past masters who came before to lay the groundwork — a guitar signed by Neil Young hangs above the bar, the walls are adorned with original concert posters and even the brews are named for bands. Free shuffleboard and darts, along with a stellar menu of smoked meats and barbecue, make this a good place to hang out for awhile. The beer, too, is exceptional. The Velvet Underbrown is Heavy Riff’s brew to beat the heat — a rich, American brown that lands somewhere between a milk and oatmeal stout. It’s a true hybrid, while the brewery’s seasonal offering, the Mamas and the Papayas, is a light, summer pale ale, brewed with papaya. It’s not hard for co-owner and brewer Jerid Saffell to give a shout-out to another St. Louis brewer. “For my money, there’s nothing better than the Passion Fruit Prussia from Four Hands,” he says.
SIX MILE BRIDGE
11841 Dorsett Rd., Maryland Heights; 314-942-2211
Six Mile Bridge is not quite a year old, but the founders have already had to expand three times, buying more kegs and fermenters to keep up with their booming business. Six Mile offers beers with 100 percent European ingredients. For the Belgian Dubbel, they import Belgian candy sugar to use instead of grain sugars, giving the beer a nice, solid caramel flavor. Husband-and-wife owners/operators Ryan and Lindsay Sherring are riding high from recently winning a U.S. Beer Championship gold medal for their dry Irish stout — a classic style of beer, smooth and chocolatey, with a roasted malt that gives it a hint of smoke on the end. Six Mile’s summer offering is a Blood Orange Summer Wit, a traditional witbier brewed with tart blood orange and coriander. It’s light and engaging, but be warned — they’re running out fast. The tap room doesn’t offer food, but it partners regularly with Frankly Sausages food truck for small bites. The Sherrings have many friends in the craft beer scene, but Lindsay has a soft spot for Modern Brewery. “They do fantastic work other there,” she says. “They used to have a stout called Ulysses — a rum stout that was just a gorgeous beer.”
SQUARE ONE BREWERY AND DISTILLERY
1727 Park Ave., Lafayette Square; 314-231-2537
In the heart of Lafayette Square, Square One Brewery and Distillery has been brewing beer and crafting distilled liquors since 2008, and each year its offerings only get better. The flagship beer here is an IPA. You can’t throw your growler across the room without hitting an IPA, but Square One’s is a bellwether knockout, with a dark gold, malty taste and a clean but surprising finish — the electricity stays on your tongue long after your first sip. We recommend hanging out in the full-service restaurant attached to the brewery; the enclosed open-air patio feels more like your friend’s backyard than a noisy bierhall. Other highlights include the maple stout, but our money’s on Gose the Gozerian, a featherweight brew that is fairly tart and brewed with salt and coriander — it’s operating on another plane of existence.
FRIENDSHIP BREWING COMPANY
100 E Pitman Ave., Wentzville; 636-856-9300
If you find yourself venturing westward for family reunions or weekenders in KC, stop along the way to visit the very recently opened Friendship Brewing Company in Wentzville. It took co-owners Brian Nolan and Dan Belcher two years to finish their gut rehab of a 102-year-old historic building, finally turning it into the tap room of their dreams with creative eats and 25 taps to explore. The outdoor space is expansive, while the inside is decorated with Nolan’s extensive collection of beer memorabilia — he’s dubbed it “The Brewseum.” For Nolan, beer is a landscape with very few boundaries, which is why Friendship takes creative liberties with a ginger-lime IPA and a raspberry-jalapeno red ale. There’s always something new to try here. “Some small batches don’t make it through the night,” Nolan says. One of Nolan’s biggest inspirations in craft beer is Civil Life. “Our American Brown Ale has been compared to theirs, and they really set the standard. They’ve been making so many great beers and they’ve been like a godfather to us,” he says. Hang with this newbie and you’ll be making new friends in no time.
4 HANDS BREWING CO.
1220 South 8th St., Lasalle Park; 314-436-1559
A local favorite for a long time, 4 Hands’ Brewing Co. is slowly becoming a beer mecca — offering games, great food and a portfolio of craft beer that has to be tasted to believe. The huge brewing space just south of downtown allows the company to focus on traditional brewing and barrel-aging complex, drinkable concoctions. It’s a great spot to hang — the street corn and tacos are alone worth a visit. 4 Hands’ recent release of the canned City Wide American Pale Ale has seen its reputation solidified — not only by the can’s design, which is drastically different from the rest of the brewery’s artwork and a clear show of support for St. Louis — but by its intense, thirst-quenching pale ale flavor. It’s the new beer to take with you everywhere you go.
PERENNIAL ARTISAN ALES
8125 Michigan Ave., Carondelet, 314-631-7300
A multiple award winner from the Great American Beer Festival, Perennial is a craft-brewing oasis in the south city blue-collar neighborhood of Carondelet and was one of the first St. Louis brewers to catch on with locals like wildfire upon its 2011 launch. The outdoor space is a summer retreat during happy hour, showcasing some of the best sunsets in the city. It’s worth returning to again and again, as Perennial offers plenty of new and exciting saisons and hopped brews that are exceptional in design and delivery. It frequently hosts tastings of new items: bold witbiers fashioned with wild yeasts, mosaic hops and mixed brewing styles. Having recently expanded distribution to Minnesota, this brewery shows no signs of slowing down, with plans of expanding into a full-service restaurant. The stellar beers pair well with the current modest menu of Companion pretzels and charcuterie. Perennial’s Funky Wit is our recommendation here: on par with the genre of wheat beers, it breaks the mold by adding spices to create a dry aftertaste that recalls apricots and summer fruits — the tartness and slight carbonation bring the funk in this stellar offering.
CIVIL LIFE BREWING COMPANY
3714 Holt Ave., Tower Grove South; no phone
You’ve seen Civil Life’s logo: a mustachioed gentleman in a bowler hat, beaming beatifically, as though he’s headed to the pub right now. Ah, if only we all could be so happy. But maybe we can, because Civil Life is setting new standards in craft beer all the time. Located in Tower Grove South, the beer hall space is wide open on the inside, with tables, games and a free library all on offer. Outside, the patio is tent-covered, with a walkup window to order beers so you don’t have to waste time inside and miss out on a single day of summer. You can’t go wrong with the Rye Pale Ale — a 2014 Great American Beer Festival gold medal winner, and one of the warships in an ever-expanding arsenal of amazing craft brews.
For more information regarding St. Louis tap rooms, please visit RiverFrontTimes.com.