Monday 15 May 2017

Big boys and little kids in St. Louis

Another busy day ahead. But one really important task first.

Loading my dirty clothes into Stan’s washing machine. I’d always planned a laundry drop here, but now it’s really needed. I’ve a couple of pairs of rinsed and rescued socks that aren’t that aren’t too smelly and some undercrackers that just about pass muster. Clean shirts I’m totally out of.

Stan knows a great place for breakfast, Southwest Diner. A diner, er, that sells food from the Southwest of the USA.

Stan used to live down that way and understands the food. On his recommendation I go for a meal that combines Southwestern and St. Louis cuisine, a Southwest Slinger. A slinger is a St. Louis dish consisting of breakfast potatoes, two burger patties, melted cheese, topped with two fried eggs. The Southwestern twist are the dollops of green and red chili. Dead good. It warms me up a treat.

Civil Life is our first stop. Another single-story industrial building, though in this case surrounded by a beer garden. There are even little serving hatches so you don’t have to go inside to fetch beer. Though there’s no-one in the garden at the moment. It’s too early. And it’s raining.

The brewery concentrates on British-style beers. Which is, I guess, why Seymour, the brewer was at my talk yesterday. Soon he’s pressed a glass of Wee Heavy into my heads and we head into the brewery at the rear.

It’s pretty compact and boasts all the usual shiny tanks, tuns and fermenters. It doesn’t take that long to tour. It isn’t huge. We do our best to keep out of the way of the working brewer. A young woman who also attended my talk, who’s fiddling with pipes and valves.

Before leaving, Seymour offers us some of his cask Bitter, served by handpump. It’s not bad at all. Stan gets the keg version as well, so he can compare the two. He’s surprised at how different they are.

We can’t stay too long. Lot’s still to do today. We need to make our next appointment. Which is at a slightly larger enterprise: AB.

It’s still raining when we get there. Stan drops me at the beer garden while he finds somewhere to park. I roam around it looking for Rob Naylor, someone else who was at my talk yesterday. He runs the pilot brewery here. Now what did he look like? Rob appears at the same time as Stan.

Rob has his two small children in tow. It’s bring your kids to work day. They’re about six and eight years old, a boy and a girl. Much better behaved than my kids at that age. Mine would have kept trying to run off. Rob’s follow him around obediently. Where did I go wrong?

The pilot brewery isn’t such a small affair. It’s a 15-barrel plant. And is designed to replicate the processes of the big kit. It has a couple of purposes. Principally to brew control batches of Budweiser, Bud Light, etc. So they know that what they brew on the pilot replicates that of the full-size kit.

It's also used for scaling up the recipes of AB’s craft purchases, such as Goose Island, to the large production facilities. That probably makes some of you a little uneasy. I can’t say that it worries me.

They also produce trial and experimental batches, which sound like more fun.

After tasting, most of the beer they make is thrown away. Though some of the experimental beers are sold on draught in the beer garden.

One of Rob’s experimental brews was an historic Scottish recipe of mine. I hoped I’d be able to try it today. Unfortunately they couldn’t get the yeast in time and the brew is behind schedule. Bum.

Just a couple of times Rob asks me not to take photographs. Like, for example, in the hop store. I’m fine with that. It’s his brewery. And I’m a nosy bastard.

I’m dead jealous of the perfect little brewery he has. Complete with an enormous lab, stuffed full of expensive equipment.

Once we’re done in the pilot brewery, we take a quick spin through the main old Brewhouse. Which is absolutely gorgeous. Who takes the trouble and expense to build breweries like this anymore? Most are just sheds full of equipment.

Dodging the rain, we meet the archivist, Tracy Lauer, for a look around the museum. Lots of cool old photos and advertising stuff. Whatever you may think about AB’s products, the brewery has played an important role in brewing history. Ignore the big boys and you miss a big part of beer’s story.

Perennial Artisan Ales is our final brewery stop for the day. It’s in a large industrial building that once produced soft drinks. The upper floors are now loft apartments, the ground floor a mix of businesses, though Perennial is gradually taking over more and more of the space.  With two complete brew houses, they need a fair amount.

Brewer Jonathan Moxey is there to meet us. Impressive beard, is my first impression. They aren’t open yet, but staff are scurrying around in preparation.

Would I like something to drink? Sure. I opt for Cave Torch, their flagship fruity IPA. Which also comes in actually fruited versions, I see from the menu. It’s pleasant, in a fruity murk sort of way.

We look first at the original brew house, which is where all their sour beers are made. Unsurprisingly, there are many oak casks and a couple of larger vats.

The new brew house – where all the clean beers are brewed – is on the other side of the tap room. I think I’d have left a little more space between the two. Closer to 50 km than 50 m. What can I say? It’s full of shiny stuff, like every brewery.

We go to a barbecue place for dinner. Pretty nice and it makes a change. Then head on to the final brewery of the day, 2nd Shift Brewing. It’s a bit out of the way. Literally on the other side of the tracks. We have to dodge a huge coal train that’s blocking one of the roads.

It’s another shed, split in half with the taproom on one side and the brewery on the other. Not the most atmospheric of places, but my beer is fine. Stan’s Pilsner, on the other hand, is a bit weird. And far too dark for the style. It turns out to have been a brewing mistake that some customers liked the taste of.

We only have the one. Though I do manage to sell a book to an acquaintance of Stan’s we bump into. Yeah, another book gone.

We have another beers back at Stan’s, but don’t stay up late. More travelling tomorrow. I’ve two flights on United. Including a 45-minute change at O’Hare. Looking forward to that. Let’s hope they drag me off the plane and I never have to work again.

Southwest Diner
6803 Southwest Ave,
St. Louis,
MO 63143.

The Civil Life Brewing Company  
3714 Holt Ave,
St. Louis,
MO 63116.

Perennial Artisan Ales  
8125 Michigan Ave,
St. Louis,
MO 63111.

2nd Shift Brewing  
1601 Sublette Ave,
St. Louis,
MO 63110.

Buy my new Scottish book. It's why I was in the USA.


InSearchOfKnowledge said...

"It's also used for scaling up the recipes of AB’s craft purchases, such as Goose Island, to the large production facilities. That probably makes some of you a little uneasy. I can’t say that it worries me.

Hm, last week has shown pretty clear that they are not to be trusted. I only brew since two years, but with the evolution in the beer market these two years, it was pretty clear to me that they would try to pull such a stunt sooner or later. Bye, Hertog Jan and Goose Island. It was nice knowing you, but the recommendations to and from all my beer-drinking relations is that we do not buy anything any more that is related to AB Inbev.

Jeff Renner said...

Around 2000, a technical annual conference of the short lived Master Championship of Amateur Brewing (MCAB) was held in St. Louis. Several dozen of us got a behind the scenes tour of the pilot plant as you did, something that is ordinarily not available. It was wonderful, and the brewer answered all of our questions, including some that might have seemed proprietary. He said that there was no secret to brewing Budweiser, anyone with a billion dollars could do it.

I don't know how things might have changed since they were sold, but it was clear then that they didn't scrimp when it came to quality. Their beers from their various breweries around the world were flown every day for evaluation by a taste panel for quality and consistency. Many of my homebrewing and beer geeks think I'm nuts when I say that no one makes beer better than A/B. I stand by it. And sometimes, a cold Bud is just what you want.

kaiserhog said...

Budweiser seemed to change after Inbev bought them out. For years there were rumors that Budweiser was being "watered down". I noticed it didn't seem right even before said rumors. It is a piece of American culture that deserves better treatment from the multi-national that bought it. I too, love an ice cold Bud.