Saturday, 13 May 2017

St. Louis

I awake feeling rough. Like the Bonzos. Even the Session IPA couldn’t save me. I need some food.

I breakfast in the rather stylish hotel restaurant. They don’t offer my usual grease packet. I order a brisket hash instead. At least it contains two fried eggs. Though I’m not keen on the ketchup in the hash. Not usually on the list of things I eat.

I don’t feel much better after eating. Which makes packing rather a chore. And finishing off the beer I’m afraid to take on the plane. Who would have imagined drinking beer could be so little fun?

Kristen is taking me to the airport. I’m pretty early for my flight. But I don’t like being pressed for time at an airport. Too stressful. We chat away like crazy all the way. Not exactly been many lulls in the conversation. We say our goodbyes at the kerbside.

Yahoo! Checking in my bag just takes minutes and I sail through security. This is how air travel should always be.

I consult an airport map. It tells me to take the driverless train thingy to my gate. It isn’t that far, but fuck walking.

There’s not much here. I just need somewhere for a pre-flight beer. After consulting another map, I find somewhere. A Twins-themed bar. The staff are all wearing Twins baseball jerseys. It’s quiet, so they’re quite chatty. I order a Surly Furious. Seems only fair, seeing as how I missed out yesterday at Surly. And was pretty furious about it.

There’s in-flight entertainment so I watch some crap and/or weird TV. The flight isn’t long so no time for a film.

As I head for the baggage carousel someone says: “Were you going to walk right past me?” It’s Stan Hieronymus, who’s picking me up. And putting me up. We wait for my bag at the carousel indicated, but it doesn’t show up. This is the last thing I need. We ask at the Delta desk and they direct us to a different carousel. Where my bag is duly making the rounds. That’s a relief.

Stan takes me to Urban Chestnut, an industrially-sized beer hall with a brewery around the back. Being early, it’s not that full. But rather echoey. We’re met by some of the brewery staff who quickly get a beer into my hand. Then take us around the shiny stuff in the backroom.

What can I say? Modern breweries from Manchester to Mexico look much the same. At least, if they’ve started with some money behind them. The cobbled-together ones are more idiosyncratic.

One of those showing us around is Florian, a German, though you’d be hard pressed to notice, given the smoothness of his American-accented English. He used to work in hops at AB. That’s a recurring theme in St. Louis: people in new breweries who formerly worked at AB.

On the way to our next destination we drop by a drive in to get me some food. A sort of light lunch of seafood. It’ll keep me running for the next few hours. I hope.

I’m speaking at Earthbound Brewing. A tiny brewery not far from the AB plant. It’s on a street of tile-fronted shops that look like they date from the interwar period. A little reminiscent of older Marks & Spencer stores. Many of the buildings look like their better days are behind them, though a few trendy businesses indicate this is an area on the up.

When I say tiny, I really mean tiny. The building isn’t even really a full-width single shop unit. The brewery is in what looks like a broom cupboard. The bar area could maybe hold 20 people, at a stretch.

But this isn’t where I’ll be speaking, thankfully. They’ve acquired a four-storey brick building at the end of the street. Appropriately enough, it used to the stock house of the Cherokee Brewery. When the renovation is complete, it will house both the brewery and a taproom.

It’s still a bit of a mess, with building materials and bits of equipment strewn around. But at least they emptied the cellar of rubble. It had been filled from floor to ceiling. I can imagine just how much work it was removing it by hand. You can read more about the building’s renovation here:

Home brewers roll up with coolers and kegs. One even has an aluminium pin. They ask me to tap it. After a dozen or so futile taps, I hand the hammer over to someone stronger. Who duly bashes in the tap.

A wide range of Scottish recipes have been brewed.

1898 William Younger XX
1913 William Younger 160
1989 William Younger H 60/-
1868 Younger no 2
1898 Younger XXXX
1912 Thomas Usher IP
1909 Maclay OMS 63/-
1859 William Younger No. 3
1920 Drybrough 8d PA

I notice the 160/- from William Younger. I immediately gravitate towards the higher gravity beer. I need a bit of a wakener before start my spiel. But there’s some interesting stuff in there. Especially the Maclay OMS. I’ve been wanting to try that recipe for ages.

The equipment is all working and connected. I always worry about that one.

I seem to be getting the hang of this particular talk and get through to the question time in around the hour I intended. There are quite a lot of questions, from both the home and professional brewers. I don’t mind. Always happy to talk beer.

Questions and chat continue after the formal formalities have been concluded. It’s a knowledgeable crowd. Thankfully. No stupid questions. And I sell quite a lot of books. Just as well, given the New Ulm disaster.

After an hour or two, the crowd begins to fade away.

But we don’t leave things there. I’m nothing if not game*. We head off to Nick’s Pub. Bit of a beast to find a parking spot. Then we notice there’s a $5 cover charge and it’s mobbed with young people. Stan suggest we try elsewhere – SOHA.

It’s a single-storey, strip-malley sort of building. Though it’s cosy enough inside. And they sell loads of beers.

There’s baseball on the TV, a buzz of conversation and I’m with friends. Happy? Think of a pig and excrement. I drink some stuff, talk some stuff and generally enjoy myself in a thank fuck all the stress is done for today sort of way.

Then Stan drives us back to his. Where I’m quickly whisked off to nodland.

Hope my laundry is done. Tomorrow could be a smelly otherwise.

* Don’t know when to stop, according to Dolores.

Urban Chestnut Grove Brewery and Bierhall
4465 Manchester Ave,
St. Louis,
MO 63110, USA
Tel: +1 314-222-0143

Earthbound Brewing
2710 Cherokee St,
St. Louis,
MO 63118.
Tel: +1 314-769-9576

Nick's Pub
6001 Manchester Ave,
St. Louis,
MO 63110.
Tel: +1 314-781-7806

SOHA Bar and Grill
2605 Hampton Ave,
St. Louis,
MO 63139
Tel: +1 314-802-7877

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

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Urban Chestnut Brewing Company has a German residence as well.
I've tried three of their beers and would say they're pretty good.
The Zwickel tastes very nice. The Hopfenperle Lager isn't really my thing, but pleasant I guess.
The Zuagroast American Pale Ale is my favorite. Not too bitter, but nice floral and fruity aroma which I believe comes mostly from the Mandariva Bavaria Hops. It is a bit watery.
Also I think they changed something in their process which made the beer clearer. I have no way to compare anything and this is just a guess, but I think I recall the beer being less thin than it is now. Still a great sessiony beer.