Lou Brew Reviews: Alpha Brewing

Do you love sour beers?

If you said yes — perfect! If you said no…that’s fine, too.

Alpha Brewing in the Tower Grove (ish?) area is worth a visit no matter your beer preference. They are known for their sours — the Delphian is amazing, and the Guava Brett will pucker even the most sour-lover’s taste buds — but they’ve got several great IPA, Stout, and Blonde Ale options as well. And some super-fun names. You better believe I tried the Hop, Lock & Drop It, the Troll Wheatwine, and the Fyler Flyer (which gets harder — or easier? — to order the more you have!).

I also really like that they offer a range of pours, so you can create your own flight — and/or just enjoy a *very* small glass of your favorite if you happen to be a lightweight like me. They have your normal-sized pours as well, of course, but I like that I have options, especially if day-drinking.

Alpha also offers live music shows on Thursdays and Saturdays. Their food looked pretty good, though we did not partake — they even have a Vegan night for the non-meat-eaters out there.

Their website claims “It’s not for everyone” but seriously, I think it’s my favorite local brewery. It’s tucked back in a neighborhood near Grand Ave, just out of the way enough to be a hidden gem while close enough to merit an easy trip.

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Home Sweet Home

A year ago today, I drove into St. Louis for the first time, full of apprehension and excitement in equal parts. I still remember the feeling I got when I came around the bend and saw the Arch from the highway while still in Illinois. Like my heart had been blown through a bubble wand.

This year has held highs and lows, as time is wont to do, but I am still so in love with this city. It isn’t perfect, but it’s whole-heartedly mine. Whether or not St. Louis is our ‘forever home’ remains to be seen, but I am so thankful we made the leap of faith to leave our family and friends and venture to a place we’d never experienced. I have grown so much in this past year, gaining confidence and settling into who I really am at my core. We’ve made some amazing new friendships, eaten some epic food, and had more adventures this year than I can count.

So here’s to you, St. Louis, and the year(s) to come!

Lou Brew Reviews: Schlafly Tap Room

Yesterday I took the VIP tour at Schlafly’s Tap Room — my husband got us tickets through the Beer and Wine Club at his grad school and it includes free tastings so YES PLEASE — and it was awesome.


Firstly, I’ve been to the Tap Room one other time (Stout and Oyster Festival), but I didn’t realize just how big the place is. There is a LOT of seating through several rooms. We got to go behind the windows into the room where the giant vats are (wearing safety goggles, of course), and then down into the basement where the real magic happens.

AJ was a pretty great tour guide. He was informative and clearly very passionate about craft beer. He mentioned a beer class he also gives, which I’d love to check out. Just based on his enthusiasm, I’m going to go ahead and recommend both the tour and the class.

The tasting was really fun. My husband is *obsessed* with Schlafly’s Kentucky Mule, which was one of the options during the tasting, so all his buddies got to sample and see why he isn’t crazy for talking it up so much. I also tried the Scotch Ale, which is ale aged in scotch barrels. It was really smoky, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing (I vaguely remember telling people it tasted like the chicken taco I’d had earlier — still not a bad thing). I also had the Gruit, which was a delicious and refreshing sour (probably my favorite of the tasting), and one other from a bottle with a kind of shiny label whose name I can’t remember. Also, on the tour I had a (plastic) glass of the Pale Ale, which as I’ve said before, makes me so happy that I magically enjoy Pale Ales now.


P.S. My husband bought two bottles of the Kentucky Mule (they come in like wine-bottle size and are also I think 12% ABV?). I’m pretty sure he tried to say one of them was for one of his buddies, but we ended up bringing both home with us so I think he just pulled a fast one on me. I wasn’t in the most observant state of mind by that point.

It was a fun night!

 

A Rambling Adventure

Something I love to do is to head out with no plans and see where the day takes me. This is sort of me rebelling against myself, because normally I prefer to know exactly what is going to happen (and tend to freak out a little if those plans suddenly change last minute). It doesn’t make sense that I would welcome the opportunity to completely go with the flow — unless you also take into account that I tend to be an all-or-nothing kind of person. I’m a bit oxymoronic and I’m starting to love that about myself.


Saturday was one of those spontaneous days. My husband made plans with friends to check out Schlafly’s Stout and Oyster Festival — something he never mentioned to me until the night before. My tentative plans were to straighten the apartment and spend most of the day snuggled on the couch with a cup of tea, reading a book and listening to the rain…but St. Louis has presented me with quite enough of those opportunities lately, and with no sun in sight, I welcomed the chance to do something new.


The best part is my husband can’t eat raw oysters and I haven’t been a fan of stout beers. We really had no business at a stout-and-oyster-fest, but it was free and our friends were there. First adventure was confirming a suspicion I’ve been cultivating: since moving to Missouri, my taste for beer has expanded quite a bit. Recently, I’ve transitioned from tolerating slightly more hops to actually enjoying a (more mild) pale ale. Saturday, I threw caution to the wind and ordered a Red Velvet Stout to see if my palate has expanded the other direction. It. Was. Delicious. And even though we did not partake of the raw oysters, I did have some pretty awesome fried oysters.


We’d passed Pappy’s BBQ on the way in, and if there’s one thing I’ve heard more times than I can count since moving here, it’s that Pappy’s is some of the best barbecue around. After our stouts and oyster appetizers, our group decided to walk the 20 minutes to Pappy’s for lunch. Along the way, we spotted the Fountain on Locust. Now, before we moved, I made a list of places that sounded interesting or were highly rated, and the Fountain on Locust made the top of that list. One friend agreed that she’d seen posts about them on Instagram and wanted to try it. When another friend pulled up their 4.7 stars (out of over 700 reviews) on Yelp, my husband was convinced. We stopped for AH-MAZING ice cream martinis (the dreamsicle was sooo good, and the others loved their drinks too) and a couple of the best grilled cheeses in the state (they really were freaking awesome).


After our dessert-drinks and second-appetizers, we continued on to Pappy’s. If you are familiar at all with Pappy’s reputation, you are probably muttering to yourself that we are fools for thinking we’ll get in at lunchtime on a Saturday. You would be correct. The line was wrapped around the building, and by this point the little food we’d had was not quite holding us over the way we’d hoped. We agreed to continue the walking adventure and see what other spots might present themselves to us. Enter Center Ice Brewery. Located a few doors down from Pappy’s, the owner’s father happened to be grabbing something from his truck as we passed, and — in typical Midwest fashion — struck up a conversation. He let us know we could order Pappy’s from the bar at the brewery, and it would be ready for pickup in 20 minutes. He told us about their most popular beers, and gave us some history about the space — like the actual penalty box doors leading to the back bar. Their Golden Ale was really good, and the hockey theme throughout was a lot of fun, complete with one of those hockey-foosball tables that the boys had way too much fun with.


Because we were in the area, someone suggested heading to Narwhal’s to continue our spontaneous bar crawl. It was a longer slog through the damp, darkening afternoon, but the feel inside Narwhal’s is all summer! Their beverages are all frozen (they did have a Winter Hot Bar, from which I tried the Winter Sake — basically a sweet, boozy tea — but they’re phasing it out for spring — if it ever arrives), and the Strawberry Basil is very refreshing. I also tried the Blueberry Moscow Mule which was pretty good. Two friends like the Banana Dave, another the Mango one. It seemed like you can’t really go wrong with the tropical, fresh flavors. I can’t wait for the weather to warm up to really enjoy all they offer!


Our day of spontaneity ended (at least for my husband and me, who are 100% ok with calling it a night when we feel like it) at Dressel’s. I had a fantastic grilled cheese and tomato soup, and my husband had his favorite burger (post about that coming…someday). It was the perfect capstone to an adventurous day!

We also passed this gorgeous church on SLU’s north campus

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.

Roadtrip: Kansas City and Lawrence

I mentioned in an earlier post that we’d planned to fly out to California recently, but that trip was canceled. To make the most of my time off from work, my husband and I decided to cross off one of the “long weekend” trips we’ve been wanting to take. We hit the road and traveled across the state to beautiful Kansas City.


On the way, we stopped for coffee in Columbia, MO (home of Mizzou). We only took a quick walk around the block, but we loved the “college town” vibe — great looking restaurants and bars — and the architecture is par for the course in Missouri. Beautiful old brick buildings and interesting monuments everywhere you look.

Our first stop upon arriving to KC was the River Market. Despite the name, we could not find a way to access the river on foot — much to my husband’s dismay. However, we did have amazing lunch at Bite (I had the Sloppy which was a soy chorizo sandwich and probably one of my favorite things I’ve ever eaten). The market itself is really cute, with lots of local shops and a huge pavilion for their famers’ market. They also have a river boat museum with a giant river boat wheel churning through water — we power-walked past in our search of the restrooms.

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A trip to Kansas City wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Power and Lights District. I’m pretty sure that should include the words “at night,” but even during the day we grabbed a drink and enjoyed outdoor day-drinking (one of my favorite activities) in the courtyard of Kansas City Live. I’m sure that area is bumpin’ at night, and we definitely want to check it out with a group of friends sometime in the future. For this trip, we were satisfied with the epically large cups of beer and a little sun on our faces.

Got a little sun on my ankles, too!

We spent the night in Westport, which is my favorite of the areas we saw. It reminded me a lot of the Columbia Pike area we used to live in back near DC. Every block had several bar and restaurant options, and almost all of them seemed to have some form of outdoor seating (the biggest thing I’m missing living in St. Louis: rooftop bars!). Our dinner was — of course — barbecue. Char Bar had some of the best pulled pork butt, and our waiter was hilarious. After dinner, we went out to their beergarden to enjoy the firepit. Then we wandered down the street to Julep, a cocktail bar with delicious, imaginative drinks and one of those shelves with a sliding ladder (like the one Belle uses toward the beginning of Beauty and the Beast. A fact I pointed out to my husband at least twice while we were there).

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Westport also boasts a lot of coffee options, but what wowed us was the tea. Tea Drops is a cute little tea shop (soon to be restaurant as well!) with walls lined with tea canisters for customers to smell and pick their preferred brew. The owner is extremely knowledgeable and very friendly. He answered my husband’s questions about Mate and got him to try a cup — which he loved! He also gave us a lot of advice about places to visit and things to do in the area.

One of his suggestions was the Plaza district, which we’d already planned to visit but it’s always nice hearing a local confirm. This is where the major shopping is done. It felt like King Street in Charleston, SC — but so much more. The buildings are all the southwestern, mission-style, and they seem to have every upscale shop imaginable.

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Because we were so close, we decided to cross the border into Kansas and check out Lawrence (home of KU). Similar to Columbia, it is a really cute college town with some awesome-looking food and drink options. We hit the Burger Stand for lunch, and even though it’s Yelp-famous for its burgers, we each tried a vegetarian option. My husband got the black bean burger, while I tried the Garbo (chickpea patty with citrus-garlic aoli, sweet relish, and cheese). Oh em gee was it mouthwateringly good. I also had the Free State Marchtoberfest beer, which was pretty tasty.

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Maybe I put too much emphasis on food when I travel, but I always judge a trip a success if I ate well. Safe to say, this trip was hugely successful.

 

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.