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.

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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!).

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St. Louis City Museum

My brother came to visit us in our new city just before Thanksgiving, which gave me the perfect excuse to check another “touristy” item off my STL bucket list: the City Museum.

It’s basically a giant jungle gym for kids and adults alike. There’s a “tree house” of metal caging, caverns that lead to spiral stairs — that climb all the way to the top of a 10-story slide. They have an outdoor ball pit surrounded by elevated walkways and castle-like turrets. The roof supposedly has even more awesome things (including a ferris wheel), but it was too cold, wet, and windy when we went so we did not get to check it out.

The whole time I was chasing my baby brother through the obstacles and losing him in the caverns, I kept thinking just how awesome a place like that would have been when I was younger. When I was little, my swing-set was my palace, a felled tree my pirate ship, the space under the porch my bandit’s hideout. My imagination ran wild with the simplest of settings, so how much more could I have been with whales to crawl through, cages to dangle from, and castle towers to climb? I’m pretty sure my parents would never have gotten me to leave. Even now, my imagination kicked in and I found myself dreaming up pretend adventures — which made the realization I’d reached the thin catwalk that led to the top of the 10-story slide slightly less stomach-dropping.

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My not-so-baby brother was too tall for some parts…not that we didn’t try to stuff him in!

The City Museum is a great experience for any age. I’ve read they have adults-only nights on the weekends, when a DJ fills the building with the hottest hits and it’s less weird to order drinks at the bar. However, even when the place was overrun with kids, we had a blast.

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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!

Castlewood State Park

I am in love with this place.

As a lover of all things princess-y, the name is what made me choose this park to begin my foray into the world of hiking. We hiked here for the first time on our 2nd anniversary, and we keep coming back.


Probably the worst thing about winter is how hard it is to find enjoyable outdoor activities that don’t cost much — if anything at all. That’s why when we had a weekend of 60 degree weather, my husband and I grabbed a couple of friends and seized the chance to hit the trail one more time.


We always do the Lone Wolf Trail. It’s a relatively easy trail, with a couple steep up-hills and a very long, winding staircase down to the banks of the Meramec River. The views from the top are breathtaking every time.


I’ve never been big on hiking, so I don’t know if it’s some idea of a Midwestern spirit that drove us out to the trails the first time, but now I can’t wait for the warmer weather, when exploring even more of the endless trails and parks around us will be more feasible.

Until then, I’ll keep looking through my pictures of Castlewood and hope for another spring-preview weekend to hit the trail again.

Missouri Botanical Garden


Guys, it’s been a very cold winter so far. I’m talking single-digits in the mornings, warming up to a balmy 20 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. Can I admit something wildly unpopular? I love it.

This week, it’s been bouncing between upper 50s and mid 30s, which is both disconcerting and makes outfit planning trickier. I liked it better when it was just pure freezing or below every day and I could bundle up in my coziest sweaters without looking like a weirdo (because I still wear them when it’s 50). I’m a sunshine and summer gal through and through, but if it’s going to be winter, I’ve learned this month I’ll take mine thoroughly chilled. I think it helps that I found an ah-mazing winter jacket — which I bought more for looks than practicality, because I had another uber-warm Midwest-winter-ready coat that my husband laughed at. Even better, I got it for about $60 (secondhand) on ThredUp, which is my favorite place to shop (use the link to shop and we both get $10 off — just saying).

Seriously this coat is as warm as it looks

I have digressed far beyond the point, which is that it is cold. To combat this, my husband and I recently visited the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Climatron, which is basically an indoor rainforest.


At first we just sat beneath a palm tree and soaked in the warm, damp air. That in itself was a bit of heaven in the middle of winter. Once we started wandering the pathways, we were only more impressed. From gorgeous flowers to exotic fruits to an actual waterfall, this place is awesome.

The Temperate House was also lovely (although after the 80+ degrees of the Climatron, we slipped our jackets back on to combat the cool 50-60 degree temperature). The gateways full of flowers, citrus trees overlooking a central courtyard fountain — it felt like a Mediterranean oasis.



Possibly the best part for us: before noon, tickets are free for Saint Louis City residents. I love how they encourage locals to be tourists in their own city. We will definitely be back in the spring to see the gardens and everything else they have to offer. It can get a little packed with visitors on the weekends, but if you find yourself in the area, I would highly recommend stopping by.

Our Sixth Month-iversary

I just reread my post after we’d been in Saint Louis for a month and kept thinking how adorable it was/we were. So bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and timid of our surroundings.

There is still SO much for us to do and explore and conquer, but damn have we gotten comfortable, too. We’ve found a neighborhood bar for football games in I-Tap, or Tom’s for trivia, awesome chicken tenders, and karaoke on the weekends. Oof, I’ll have to write a post (or several) about all the amazing food we’ve had.


I love Forest Park, even (especially?) the pathways that intimidated me at first, with the shadowed bridges and wooded trails. I have no fear wandering the park alone, or sending my husband to take his daily walks through the park or the neighborhood by himself. Sure, we’re aware of our surroundings, especially at night, but no more so than we were back in the DC area.


The Grove is also one of our favorite neighborhoods. It is home to my husband’s favorite sandwich spot: Gramophone (mention either the Grove or Gramophone to him and prepare to hear at length about the Alcatraz sandwich). It’s also the location of Urban Chestnut Brewery, which might be my favorite of the local breweries. I’ll probably put out a post about all the beer we’ve had since moving at some point, too.


My husband found his coffee shop in Kaldi’s Coffee in Demun — which is also his favorite residential neighborhood to wander through, enjoying the different houses. He’s also recently started using our French press to make coffee at home (that damn Crate & Barrel coffee maker gathering dust on the shelf in our front closet). With Whole Foods and Straubs Market each a block away, we’ve had no excuse not to cook at home most nights, and it’s encouraged us to try a lot of new recipes and cook with ingredients we just hadn’t before, like tofu and tilapia. Also, I’ve never been into seafood the way I have been here. It’s so weird, being landlocked, but the fish is flown in fresh daily to most places.

Blackened Tilapia Tacos

I could go on and on, and plan to be better at posting about our adventures and discoveries, but for now, let me just say: I freaking love Saint Louis. I love the Midwest, I love living in an urban setting with lush parks and nature steps away. Guys, there’s also NO TRAFFIC. It’s so easy to get to hiking trails, or the mall, or my office (20 min to go about the same miles), or Missouri wine country… There’s always some sort of festival or event going on, and most of the time it’s free. Seriously, everyone come visit. Or come stay. Six months in, and I’m not looking back.

Brewery Lights Tour

Settling In

Well, it’s been almost two weeks since we left Virginia for Missouri, and I’d say we’re finally settling in. It was a rough first week, with a few issues in our apartment not getting taken care of and our subconscious homesickness manifesting in my husband’s constant complaining and my own extremely short temper. Once we finally reasoned out that we were just adjusting in our own — cranky — ways, it made it easier to understand each other.

 

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Missouri River in St. Charles, MO

Now, we’ve crammed a lot of exploring into the past week. My husband starts school on Tuesday, so our adventures together will be limited after that. We’ve found the essential box stores like Target and Bed, Bath, & Beyond, and tried a handful of coffee shops in different neighborhoods.

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Statue of Dog, with his faithful companions Lewis and Clark

We traveled up to Saint Charles, where Lewis and Clark are especially famous, and we’ve been to our first Cardinals baseball game. We’ve walked through part of Forest Park and wandered down private streets lined with gorgeous homes from the 1940s. We passed by the Soulard Farmers Market and took a free tour of the Anheuser-Busch Brewery. Today, it’s raining, so instead of locating one of the local “beaches” around us, we’ll visit one of the many museums.

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Complete with free 16oz beer of choice upon completion!

I’ve also done laundry in a laundromat-style laundry room, for the first time ever. Other than some initial guesswork as to the settings for each load, it went pretty well (read: no clothes destroyed)!

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I already really like this area. The food is amazing — we’ve yet to have a less-than-great meal — and the people are so friendly (if sometimes a little too chatty). I’m convinced my husband is afraid that if he admits to liking Saint Louis, I’ll never let him move back to DC when school is done. He has gone so far as to say if STL was on the east coast, he’d love it, which I guess is the highest praise I can hope for.