Lou Brew Reviews: U.R.B.

While not technically its own brewery, URB is a place of legend around here. It’s Urban Chestnut’s Research Brewery, and for $1, you get to sample 3 unreleased beers and provide feedback on each one. The pours are sizeable for samples, and the questions in the survey help enhance the experience by making you think about the flavors and aromas of each sip. For $5, you can take the survey and follow up the research brews with a full draft pour of any of their beers on tap.

Leaving aside the different–yet delicious–drink options, URB is also known for its pizza. In a city where pizza is hotly debated (St. Louis-style pizza has cracker-thin crust and uses provel cheese in place of mozzarella), we have been searching for the familiar comfort of hand-tossed dough and “normal” cheese.

I fell in love with URB’s pizza. The sauce is a little spicy, and their margherita pizza is a little light on cheese for my taste (nothing a heavy-handed sprinkle of parmesan couldn’t take care of) but this is the closest I’ve found to Two Amy’s pizza in DC (which was the standard my husband and I began judging pizza against before we moved).

We had a spontaneous date night here on a Wednesday night, and it was a little crowded around the research bar when we arrived, but we were easily able to get a table after ordering a whole pizza. By the time we finished dinner and moseyed over to the research bar, it had cleared out a lot and we got seats right at the bar.

I highly recommend URB if you’re looking for a fun twist on the old “grabbing drinks” standby, for an easy date night, or if you’re just craving good pizza. You can’t go wrong at URB!

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Lou Brew Reviews: Schlafly Bottleworks

We’ve been sort of avoiding visiting either of the two Schlafly (pronounced shla [‘a’ like in ‘cat’]-flee) brewery locations because we’re now St. Louis craft beer snobs who view Schlafly as practically being on the same level as any Anheuser Busch product. That’s not exactly fair — mostly, Schlafly was our first St. Louis beer experience, and we found Schlafly beers back in Virginia, and they seem to be everywhere here, so they just aren’t *exclusive* enough for us anymore.

Anyhoo, we decided to visit Schlafly because it was one of the few breweries we haven’t yet visited and (the Bottleworks location specifically) because it was pretty convenient for us and the friend we were meeting up with.

First, let me throw some fun facts at you: Schlafly was the first microbrewery to open in St. Louis since Prohibition. They opened their downtown location (Taproom) in the early ’90s, and expanded to a second location (Bottleworks) in the early 2000s.

Secondly — and maybe this should have gone first — you need to know why visiting Schlafly is imperative. They have a bunch of beers that aren’t sold everywhere. Specialty and seasonal options that are freaking tasty and fun. We really liked the Kentucky Mule Ale specifically (which basically tasted like a Moscow Mule, but with beer). The Bottleworks location is pretty big, with lots of seating (indoor and outdoor), a shop full of beer glasses and t-shirts and 6-packs, plus a space you can walk around and learn more about the different beers being brewed (and windows you can peek through into the plant).

It was a lot of fun and surprising in the best way. The food looked really good, but we’d just eaten so we’ll save taste-testing for our next visit.

Lou Brew Reviews: Civil Life

Civil Life is possibly my husband’s favorite of the local breweries — but more for the atmosphere than anything. We found Civil Life because it is one of the few breweries that has (or at least advertises) outdoor seating. (Some, like 2nd Shift and Modern, have huge warehouse doors so you can still enjoy the sun and warmth even if not technically sitting outside). It reminded him of a beer garden we liked to frequent back in Virginia, with its picnic tables and no-fuss environment.

I only had the Oktoberfest beer, which was good but a little heavy. My husband had both the Oktoberfest and the Brown Ale, which is their most popular beer.

The weekend we went was their anniversary, so it felt in some ways like we were crashing a party — most everyone else seemed to be regulars who all knew each other.

It’s a small brewery with picnic tables outside and a few tables inside, but they do let you wander around and see the tanks and their actual brewing process. We’ll have to go back in the spring so I can try more of their beers.

*UPDATE*:

We revisited Civil Life as soon as the weather warmed up. The beer garden out front was a lovely spot to enjoy the sun and a tasty German Wheat. They are cash only, something I had forgotten, but they do have an ATM on site. Also, the beers are so inexpensive — $2.50 for a 10 oz pour, $5 for 20 oz. Their food looked really good too; we’d discussed getting nachos but didn’t have time before some of our group had to get to school for a late meeting.

Lou Brew Reviews: 2nd Shift

2nd Shift has a similar “stay for a while vibe” as most of the breweries here. Located in a warehouse, it has the long, family style tables as well as a few smaller tables, and lots of board games to choose from if you so desire.


Plus, unlike any other brewery, this place has CATS. The one that hung out with us reminded me of my fat cat growing up, although this lady was even bigger. Of course, she went straight for my husband, since he’s allergic and therefore is not a fan. Somehow, he attracts them like the bird-lady in Home Alone 2 attracts pigeons.

I am not pleased with your lack of affection, good sir.

As far as beers go, he liked their Czech Pilsner, and I enjoyed both the Hibiscus Wit and the Blondie. My husband also tried the Act of Neurosis IPA, but he didn’t like it as much as the Pilsner.

 

Lou Brew Reviews: Heavy Riff and 4 Hands

Since these two are tied for 2nd place in my book, I decided to do a post about both of them together.


We just sort of stumbled upon Heavy Riff the other day, after the most delicious burgers at Hi-Pointe Drive-In. Their Squeeze Box Lemon Wheat is pretty good, and I was surprised how much I liked the Eat a Peach IPA and their American Pale Ale Left Coast Envy, since I’m not a huge fan of hops (I know, how reliable can my craft brews reviews be if I don’t like IPAs?).

The space is a good size, with a few booths, some pub tables as well as actual dining tables. They have a shelf full of board games — so lingering over drinks is encouraged.


The theme of the name carries throughout, from guitar draft handles to posters of rock legends and concerts along the walls.

~

Four Hands is a bit more “commercial” than most of the other breweries, which my husband didn’t like as much. They have a nice lounge area with couches and low tables, as well as the main bar area with the long tables and plenty of seats at the bar. Then there’s an upstairs, with it’s own bar, booths and tables, and old-school arcade games like skee-ball.

We tried a handful of samples, and my husband really liked the (seasonal) Snake Oil Red IPA, and my favorite was the (also seasonal) Tangerine Slam/City Museum (for some reason, it had different names depending on the drinks menu you looked at). The Single Speed is year-round and pretty good, blonde ale.

We met up with a few friends here before the Army-Navy game, so it was a fairly brief visit. I’d love to go back now that the seasonal beers have changed over (and maybe this time snap a few pics!).

Lou Brew Reviews: Urban Chestnut

As I posted recently, we’ve visited quite a few of the local breweries, and Urban Chestnut takes the number one spot in my personal favorites list.


Urban Chestnut (in the Grove — haven’t been to the Midtown location…yet) wins because the Schnickelfritz is one of my favorite beers, and I like the beer hall atmosphere of the brewery. There are long, family-style tables (we got to share ours with a wedding party once), a decent-sized outdoor patio for nicer weather, and a great space for private parties, too.

The bartenders are knowledgeable and helpful if you aren’t sure what to try. They’ll let you taste a few before finding your new favorite. They’ll also tell you all about their sister brewery in Germany (which is why their beers all have German names).


While we haven’t tried food at every brewery, so this isn’t exactly a fair comparison, I do like the pretzel offered at Urban Chestnut. It’s browned nicely on the outside, warm and soft inside — even if the accoutrements are a little unexpected (still not sure what the orange glob is).

I will say, we went here a little too often over the span of a few weeks, so I had to take a break and explore what other brew options are out there. Now that some time has passed, and I’ve visited plenty of other breweries, I can say with some confidence this place holds the number one spot for me.

Drinking in the Lou

Saint Louis is the location of the Anheuser-Busch Brewery, and a huge microbrewery scene, so we knew before we moved we’d be getting our drink on once settled in. I already wrote about visiting AB during our first few days in the new city, and since then, we’ve visited a LOT more breweries (detailed posts to come).


Personally, I’d rank them as such:

  1. Urban Chestnut
  2. Heavy Riff (beers)/Four Hands (atmosphere)
  3. 2nd Shift
  4. Civil Life
  5. Modern
  6. Square One*

*Square One is a brewery/distillery and set up more like a restaurant than anything, which we were not expecting. The beers were good, but the overall impression was meh. For the first time in the 4 month’s we’d been here, the bartender was not at all friendly.  We have to give this place another try with this in mind — hopefully when someone else is tending the bar.

Also, Missouri has its very own wine country. We’ve only visited one vineyard so far, but plan to make more trips as the weather warms up. Montelle Vineyards has lovely views of rolling hills from its multi-level decks. When we visited, they had live music that reminded me of a very good wedding band — great voices and excellent, catchy song choices. The wine was decent — although, coming from Virginia, our bar was set pretty high. I would say we will continue visiting wine country, but more for the views and ambiance than the wines (we’ll see if that changes as we try more of the wine offerings).

Leaving aside the breweries and vineyards, Saint Louis has an epic number of bars. In our neighborhood alone, we’ve found several fantastic options depending on the mood of the night.

For football or other sporting events, or if you’re in the mood for a huge variety of beer options, International Tap House is the place to be. In the Central West End location, I-Tap has three levels of seating and plenty of TVs throughout, as well as a couple fire pits and seating out in front of the building. The bartenders are so friendly. They’ll offer you a draft list (if you’re too far from the chalkboard wall covered in the current draft options), but more often than not, they’ll ask what you’re looking for or what you like to drink, and make suggestions that are almost always great.


Taste is another CWE bar that is a must-visit. They have a booklet of cocktails and are masters of them all. Sitting at the bar, if you don’t find something that strikes your fancy, you can tell the bartender what flavors you like and they’ll whip something up just for you. There’s a cozy section upstairs with intimate couch-seating for date night or catching up with friends. Also — and I know this is going to sound weird — the restroom by the bar is the most beautiful bathroom I’ve ever witnessed. Exposed brick walls, Edison lights, ivy dripping from the ceiling, tea candles, and an antique-style toilet with a pull chain come together to feel like some sort of romantic fairy tale setting, rather than somewhere to do your business.


Just around the corner, Tom’s Bar and Grill is a great spot for trivia on Tuesday nights. The pitchers are a little small, but at trivia, there’s a chance to win a free one. There’s karaoke on the weekends, which is entertaining whether you participate or just enjoy from the audience. Their chicken tenders are delicious, and their late night menu is full of great snacks like mozzarella sticks and wings.

For wine, Sasha’s in Demun is the spot. They have a huge selection of wines, and even though it was very busy when we visited (with a huge party of our own), the servers never seemed rushed or stressed. I stuck with a couple of reds, all of which were delicious. The food also looked really good, though we didn’t have any this time around. We will definitely be back for dinner!

If it’s a dive-bar you’re looking for, CWE has one of the last ones in the city: Rosie’s. It somehow maintains that authentic, divey-grunge feel while being rather clean in actuality. Beers are cheap: under $3 for local beers is hard to beat, except by the under $4 Tito’s and Tonic. As it’s the only dive bar around, the owner runs a tight ship — absolutely no service without IDs, which is more than I can say for a lot of spots we’ve been in Missouri. They also sell cigarettes, snacks like Slim Jims, and 375mL bottles of liquor, in case you want to take your party to go.

For late night, you can’t beat the $2 tacos and tequila shots deal at Mission Taco. Their tacos are fan-freaking-tastic, even if the tequila is rail. I’ve been to both the Delmar and CWE locations, and both are great — but they get packed. The tacos come out as they’re ready and somewhat mixed together, so you have to be ready to defend your shrimp taco against over-eager friends who don’t remember what they ordered (yeah, I’m looking at you, Greg).

There are a lot of other great restaurants offering stellar drinks and deals. We have a whole list of places yet to try out, so I’m sure this will be followed up by a sequel post.

Cheers for now!