Thursday, November 8, 2012

St. Louis Trip 2012: The Arch...and some beers!

Last week my wife was in St. Louis for a conference and I flew out on Sunday to join her for a few days of concentrated fun in a new city for both of us.  I was out there one time just after graduating college, and remember seeing the zoo, but not much else, so this was really mostly new to me.  At around noon I picked up a rental car and with the help of my trusty and out of date GPS, I managed to find Sj at her downtown hotel and find a parking spot nearby. 

Keep in mind that small building back there is a huge Cargill malt house!

We walked across the highway to view the incredible work of architecture and human hubris that is the St. Louis Arch.  There is no way to truly describe this amazing monument that will get across the scale of it.  All of the pictures I've seen before failed to demonstrate the sheer size of this titanic structure of metal.  I am afraid of heights and just looking up at the top of the arch was making me want to sit down and hug the earth.  I had planned on going up in the little 1960's era yellow pods that pack 5 people in and hoist up to the top.  That did not happen once I saw how far up that really was.  Luckily Sj had figured I'd gimp out and had gone with a friend the day before. 

We went into the subterranean structure beneath the arch that houses a gift shop, mercantile and a free museum of the Westward Expansion. For the second time in one day I had to go through a metal detector, with security being almost as good as the airport.  The museum was fairly cool, and apparently set up pretty randomly.  Can't complain about free though! 

By this time we were getting a bit hungry.  Not wanting to settle for a crappy national chain, I wanted to try something local for lunch.  I checked out my trusty iPhone and discovered a brew pub within walking distance and we headed out in search of adventure and food.  We found a street of clubs and bars that looks like Mini-Bourbon-Street and the pub was very busy.  Morgan Street Brewery was on the end of a block, taking up a large space in a very old red brick building.  We talked to the host and he said there was a 45 minute wait for a table and there were no seats left at the bar.  He promptly left us hanging without waiting to see if we wanted to get on the list.  Of note, he apparently was helping a big group add a 4-top table to their seating arrangement to make room for more people joining them.  Sj and I were not pleased and very hungry by this time (2 PM.)  After some evil stares we moved to an empty area of bar-top where other tables had stolen the stools from.  5 minutes passed before we even saw anyone working the bar.  2 more minutes and we had made eye contact with no less than three people to make it known we were waiting.  7 more minutes and a bartender finally came over and helped us.  They did have a sampler of the beers on tap, and we ordered one to quickly share.  I tried a marzen (OK,) a honey wheat (meh,) Unbreakable Girder (a mediocre Imperial Pilsner,) and a pretty decent Pumpkin Lager.  Overall, not fans of this place.  I'd give them another try on a quiet day, but the beers were not enough to get me back here.

While I was finishing off the beer sampler, Sj was in contact with our local friends Steph and Paul and organizing our next stop.  "Why are you drinking at that place?" They asked, as we got directions to a "Real" brewery:  The Schlafly Taproom.  This place was much more like it!  Taking up a large old brick building not too far from where where we had been, it boasts a large white tank, some foliage and a few old barrels outside.  Inside it has two large seating areas, each with a separate bar, and large wooden beams and open duct work.  Each bar is unique, with my favorite showing a back-splash of deep green tiles and a goat, hop and grain crest in complimentary colors.  I was able to get a sampler of six beers, but they had about 12 on tap, not including one or two cask offerings.  All the beers I had were quite good.  The coffee oatmeal stout was well done, with a perfect mix of coffee and malt.  My favorite was a 2011 vintage barleywine that had a deep color and lots of dark fruit complexity and firm hopping.  I bought a bottle of this year's vintage to age on my own.  Thank goodness they had some food!  I had amazing fries that came with a sampler of 5 different dipping sauces, as well as a spent-grain beer bread with a blue cheese spread.  The feel of this brewpub is relaxed, comfortable and classic brewpub.  I automatically felt like this was "my" local brewery and I would certainly spend a lot of time here if I lived in town.  Reminds me a lot of Town Hall Brewery in Minneapolis, but with slightly more upscale food.

From here we checked into The Moonrise Hotel, a really unusual boutique hotel featuring a ton of moon related art, and memorabilia.  A TV in the lobby plays old moon-landing footage, and old toys and decorations line packed cabinets around the place.  A huge moon rotates on the roof, up by the (closed this time of year) Rooftop bar.  Tastefully frames old 1900's prints of people hanging off moons adorn the walls in the room, adding some charm.  The service here was amazing with everyone we met being incredibly friendly.  The place is located along the St. Louis Walk Of Fame on the loop and is walkable to a lot of cool stores and restaurants.

For dinner we walked across the street to Pi, a local pizza place featuring fresh local ingredients and amazing pies.  They had a great beer list and did samplers, so we got to try some more local brews without over doing it.  One beer in particular was Pi Pale ale brewed for them by upstart local brewery 4 Hands (more on them later!) Also a great California Common brewed for them by Schlafly. 

After this we were in food and beer coma mode and promptly staggered back home and to a restful night's slumber under the watchful winking eyes of several moons.

No comments: