Wednesday, April 28, 2010

On the Road Again: St Louis

This post is part 2 of our our homebrew judging adventures this spring. Our trip to the other side of the state was probably one of my favorite visits to date. The weather was perfect (upper 70s and blue sky!), the beer was excellent, and we found some great new places for food. The main purpose of our trip was to judge homebrew at the Garage Brewers Society (GBS) Champion of the Pint competition, but we made a full weekend out of it.

Our arrival in town on that Friday evening was initiated by a small trip to Trader Joes in Chesterfield to pick up some snacks (and mesquite honey to make mead), then a hop over to the International Tap House for some beers. I was exhausted but mustered enough strength and stamina to drink a few beers, including the spectacular Avery Black Tot. Take note - this will be available in bottles at the Flying Saucer's 2nd anniversary bash this Sunday. It's a stout aged in rum barrels that really impressed me - sweet but not cloying, boozy without being hot, and lots of complex fruit character (is that raisin? Prune? No wait, fig?).

Saturday was the competition, and we worked up a hunger judging a bunch of homebrews. We're both big fans of traditional Neapolitan pizza, but it's unfortunately relatively hard to find in most parts of the country. The Good Pie in St Louis brings the style to the Midwest, and with competence.

We arrived around 7pm, made a bee-line for the bar, and ordered the cured meat plate and a couple of beers. The plate came with a good assortment of prosciutto, salami, pancetta, and a couple other items I can't recall. It was served with a piece of olive-oil-brushed pizza crust which was a wonderfully thin, charred, crispy-chewy authentic Neapolitan crust. I'm talking "baked in a wood oven at 900 degrees Fahrenheit for less than two minutes" kind of awesome.

I washed that down with the O'Fallon Wee Heavy that I thoroughly enjoyed, but I wish I'd at least taken a few notes as I don't really remember the specific qualities of the beer (hey, it was a long day). Our main dish was the Pizza Napoli:  anchovies, mozzarella, chili, and basil. Simple, fresh, and delicious. It was my first pizza I've ever had with anchovies, and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it - and I would definitely recommend it, even if you're hesitant about fish on pizza. While the tap and bottle lists aren't extensive and their website's out of date, what's on is very thoughtful and current. And if you're dying to know what they do have, it looks like they frequently tweet tap announcements.

We crossed the street to Buffalo Brewing, where we enjoyed very good versions of a double IPA and a sweet stout. Incidentally, the sweet stout was the gold-medal winner of a GBS chili-cookoff competition - thereby earning the right to be brewed & served at Buffalo. Way to support local home brewers, Buffalo! These guys are kind of in a strange location for a brewpub, as there are a few night clubs immediately near by and - as a result - lots of people in fancy clubber garb standing alongside red velvet ropes. Despite that, I recommend checking this place out if you're ever in STL. Every time we've gone, we've had good beer and the staff is always friendly.

We then we took the car back to our hotel before heading off to Schlafly's taproom to close the night. Schlafly was great, as always, and I've written about them before so I won't go into it again here. I sure do love their Kölsch, though, and always enjoy having it on tap.

The next morning, we enjoyed a wonderful brunch at Bridge, another fine beer establishment in St Louis. Owned by David Bailey, who also owns Bailey's Chocolate Bar and Rooster, Bridge offers over 45 craft beers on tap and over 100 from a bottle. What I really liked about Bridge was that they offered any tap beer in a 4oz glass. It's a perfect size for getting a full impression of a beer without growing tired of it - alternately, it provides a great way to sample a handful of strong beers without getting completely wasted.

As for food, we stuffed ourselves silly. We ordered smoked paprika popcorn (good, but not amazing) and a plate of mixed house pickles to start. The pickled grapes were a lot of fun and I was surprised when our bartender said some people get pissed that they include them. We also ordered a board of roasted duck breast on focaccia with cassis conserve as well as a small side of salt & vinegar potato salad. The board of duck breast was HUGE (8 pieces I think) and we didn't finish it, but it was wonderful. The potato salad was neither as salty or vinegary as I expected, which led to a bit of disappointment. I was expecting something like salt & vinegar chips (which I adore), but it was more like cold German potato salad that needed more salt.

Finally, for our main and final course, we ordered a plate of mixed cheese with more focaccia:  Methusela from Heartland Creamery, Comté Marcel Petite, and Rogue Creamery Smoked Blue (which turned out to be their regular Oregon Blue, not the smoked-over-hazelnut-shells variety. Bummer.).

Overall, we had a great time in St Louis and no doubt brought home a few thousand well-earned calories to boot. Regardless, I look forward to our next trip out there to explore more of the city's beer destinations. New places seem to be popping up pretty frequently and the craft beer scene is really taking off.

And so this post ends with a nod to St Louis Craft Beer Week. After our last visit, we look forward to yet another one of our own St Louis Craft Beer Weekends.

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