Narrow Gauge Brewery – Northern Saint Louis Missouri

Narrow gauge is inside an Italian restaurant and bar slightly north of the St. Louis airport. When you drive up, it is easy to expect that the brewery should have its own space and entrance, although it is inside the Italian restaurant. When I stopped by they only had four hazy beers on tap that they brewed although thankfully they also had quite an extensive guest tap list.

In essence, they really only had two beers on tap because two of them were variances of others. For example, I had both the standard cloud city and the DDH cloud city. All of the beers were generally excellent hazy with creamy bodies and soft mouth feel. The standard cloud city was a nice mix of citrus and tropical fruit with mild hop acidity. The DDH version was stronger with flavors of tropical fruit and overripe fruit typical from the use of galaxy hops. I preferred the standard version but both were excellent.

Similarly, the next two beers were both variances on a beer they call flag. The Queen flag is different because of the addition of honey. It had a slightly boozy bite with bright citrus hops and mild honey sweetness at the finish. Comparatively, the DDH flag was equally acidic and grassy with notes of grape. After having four tasters of their Hoppy hazy beers, I decided to order more traditional styles to finish off the visit. If you are already staying in down town St. Louis, I recommend stopping by narrow gauge before you go to the airport rather than making a separate trip because of how far North they are from everything.

While the hazy IPAs I had were all a bit green at the time I visited, I expect they will mellow out nicely like most proper examples of the style. They were so good that I am a bit sad that I was unable to get some cans to bring home.

Known for:
Come for hazy IPAs and an extensive guest tap list.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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The Civil Life Brewing Saint Louis Missouri

I will admit that I typically do not seek out breweries that are known for excellent versions of traditional styles, including traditional English ales. Primarily this has to do with my generally disappointing experiences with these styles in the United States. So I was pleasantly surprised when I visited the civil life brewery and walking inside felt like visiting an English pub. The beers were equally impressive as well.

Sticking with the English pub theme, you are not able to order tasters but instead can choose between 10 and 20 ounce pours of beer. Thankfully, this was my first stop of the day so I was able to order four different beers in 10 ounce pours. Those beers were also fairly low alcohol, all under 5%.

I started with their English mild on cask. It was creamy and smooth with low bitterness and mild biscuit character and light hops. The STL best, was more full in body and better at the finish with light floral hop character and mild caramel malt. After the first two, I decided to try two versions of English brown ales that they had on tap.

The Great Hencini, a southern English brown style was nice and easy drinking with character of toffee and caramel. I preferred the hearty bite of this beer over the northern English brown. The northern English brown was lighter in color and overall thiinner with less dark malt roast.

I enjoyed the beers I had at the brewery so much that I tried to more beers later that day while I was at narrow gauge brewery after my hazy flight. They had both the American Brown ale and the amber ale on tap. Both were excellent examples of the styles. The American Brown was so good that I had wished at that point I had purchased some cans before I left the brewery. The amber was good and roasty with low hops and light notes of cherries. The American Brown was roasty with light character of coffee and medium body.

If you are at all interested in experiencing traditional English beers without having to go across the pond, I suggest stopping by the civil life to see how they are supposed to taste. I also read elsewhere that they make excellent versions of German beers, although they did not have very many choices in that variety when I stopped by. And if you live in the surrounding areas and can’t make it to the brewery directly, I suggest picking up some cans to enjoy.

I recommend visiting the brewery directly both for the fantastic atmosphere and for the great food options. We stopped by on a Sunday when they highlighted various examples of soups and we both enjoyed their butternut squash soup quite a bit.

Top 2:
English Mild
Great Hencini Southern English Brown

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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Side Project Brewing Revisited March 2018

When I first visited Side Project a few years ago I ended up at their Cellar location, where they serve not just their own beers but many varieties of guest beers. I didn’t realize at the time that the main brewery location was down the street. Still, I returned a few years later, in March of 2018, because I was generally impressed by the quality of the beers the first time and my friends continue to post about how good they are. On this return trip, I was able to try three interesting beers on tap and ordered a bottle for on-site consumption because I wanted to taste something with fruit.

I started with the Foedre Fremier, a foedre aged golden sour. I enjoyed that it was complex tart and funky with a nice buttery oak finish. After that, I tried the Provence Lapsang, a barrel aged Saison with tea and orange peels added. While initially I thought the foedre version was more complex of the two, as both of the beers warmed up I’d had a difficult time differentiating between the two.

The Noir Fremier was creamy with light roast and notes of honey and citrus with vanilla on the finish from the bourbon barrels. I enjoyed this the most of the three on tap and brought home a bottle for myself. In order to taste some of their more sought after beers, I ended with a bottle of fence row. This is a popular blackberry sour that they bottle. I initially thought it had aromas of mustard although as it warmed up I found it mildly acidic, smooth and dry with flavors of a dry red wine with notes of berries. I thought overall that the berry character could have been much stronger but it was a solid beer.

While I was at side project, they also had some new IPAs that they were releasing. I did not try those because I was focusing on the sours. However, they appeared to be quite popular and there was a can release that same day. I look forward to trying more beers from side project in the future. When combined with the other breweries in the Saint Louis area, it is worth a trip out to Side Project or connecting with some locals to trade for some of their beers.

Known for: 
Come for farmhouse ales and wild ales though they recently started brewing IPAs and other clean styles as well.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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American Solera Revisited 2018 Edition

Since my last time visiting Tulsa, American Solera opened a second tasting room closer to downtown where you can generally get most of the bottles that they have at the brewery without the extra few miles drive out to the brewery. The new location is small but has some outdoor seating for when the crowds get a bit larger. You can tell most people come in for a few hours to try some beers on tap, grab a few bottles, and leave. Both locations have a wide variety of beers though certain sours may be available only at one location or the other. You also can not order archive bottles for on-site consumption at the new Sobo location.

I focused on the sours this visit and was glad to see that the selection was much better than the last time. They had quite a few different sours on that I was able to enjoy in full 12 ounce pours in large wine glasses for $10 a pour. I can tell that all of these sours were barrel aged for a time and some of the bottles available now were spontaneously fermented. While I really liked the beers the last time, the sours have taken a massive leap forward in quality and maturity of the whole program. I am very excited to try the Amso Dry, 2 year spontaneous sour that I brought back bottles of.

Peach sour (right) and zinfandel sour (left)

I started with the Peach Fellowship, a barrel aged sour with peaches. It was quite peach forward in flavor and aroma with mild acidity and great balance. This is one of the more peach forward sours I have had and I was sad to see it was off the tap list the following day, perhaps because they sold through the keg. The zinfandel grape sour called biere de zinfandel was delightful, and tasted to me like carbonated red wine. The grapes flavor came through strongly both on the nose and on the taste and it had nice jammy character of currants and cherries. Though 10% alcohol, this beer was incredibly dry on the finish and scary easy to drink. This was my favorite beer of the whole time there though others were also quite good.

The Party Stout had notes of cinnamon, vanilla, dark chocolate, and graham crackers. I only had a few sips from my husbands’ beer but it was quite delicious as usual. The raspbarrel, barrel aged sour with raspberries was an explosion of raspberries both on the nose and in the flavor, reminiscent of raspberry jam or juice with a nice mild tart finish and fairly low acidity. It was so good that I bought two bottles to bring home. I also tried an interesting beer called Rymera, which is described as a rye beer. It was low alcohol and dry with notes of spice, a tart kick from behind, and a light sweetness on the finish. This went down easy and I was tempted to get a crowler but they weren’t selling them. They later released bottles of this delicious beer.

I came back the next day after Heirloom Rustic Ales and tried a few more beers at American Solera. I started with the Solera Kush, and ended the hoppy beers there, because it wasn’t as good as the Terp Serp was the last time I visited. It was a solid hazy IPA though with lots of notes of candied fruit. My notes left off anything else. The Biere de Picpoul, a sour beer with white wine grapes, was fantastic. The wine grapes were very mild in the beer either because of the choice of grapes or because it had been aged a while. I got tons of great house lambic character that reminded me of a bottle I had the last time I was at the brewery. It had some light notes of peach but otherwise I would not have noticed the white wine grapes if it was not mentioned.

I was already a huge fan of American Solera when I visited but this time I left even more excited for the next time I return. It is one of my favorite sour breweries in the country within reasonable plane rides from San Diego.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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Tulsa Breweries – Cabin Boys and Heirloom Rustic Ales

Cabin Boys Brewing

Both Cabin Boys Brewing and Heirloom Rustic Ales have not been open very long when I stopped by. Cabin Boys had an interesting line up of beers though sadly they were having issues with the big imperial stout that I was most interested in trying. I tried a flight of four and then went on to American Solera where I planned to spend the most time. I was surprised by the taster prices at these new breweries but it seems that $3 tasters (and thus $12 flights of 4 beers) are here to stay in some parts of the country. Cabin Boys has a great little tasting room with a fantastic theme that you can see in the photos included here. I think they will grow into a solid spot for the locals.

I started with the saison, which was good though a bit unbalanced. It had notes of spice and a good dry finish but also a strong bubble gum flavor that may be from their choice of yeast. The bubble gum flavor was strong and overpowered the rest of the beer but with some tweaking this could be a great saison. The stout was excellent with tons of smoke and notes of toffee with a thick chewy mouthfeel. This should stay on as one of their core beers if it isn’t already. It also makes me extra sad that they had issues with the imperial stout while I was there.

The IPA was very classic west coast with low aroma and high bitterness with notes of grapefruit and pine. Though I am generally not into this style anymore, they nailed the classic flavor. This again should stick around as a mainstay. The wheat beer was also a bit unbalanced like the saison, though this one a bit bitter and spicy on finish. If actual coriander was added to the beer, they could have added too much to cause this. Since this was recommended to me by the bartender, I think it may simply be a variation between batches that isn’t common to this beer.

Though I didn’t find anything particularly unique, the beers at Cabin Boys were good enough that I would visit again the next time I am in Tulsa for American Solera. The stout and IPA were well done and to style. Plus their space is quite welcoming in the winter when it is cold outside.

Top 2:
IPA
Stout

Heirloom Rustic Ales

Heirloom Rustic Ales is also quite new in Tulsa though they appear to be enjoying quite the following. When I visited they had recently released some crowlers and they were mostly sold out on the Saturday I was there (the day before Super Bowl) so I was told by the brewery I should buy cans on Saturday if I wanted any. I stopped by on Saturday first to get two cans of Sticky Bottles, their deliciously hopped pale ale with Vic Secret and Citra hops. Because I had crowlers i did not drink it while I was at the brewery the following day. It was a delicious pale ale bursting with hop aromas including citrus and light herb character. I am also glad because this taught me well what Vic Secret hops taste like.

I started with Caves, an open-fermented lager made with all French hops. It had lovely notes of toast and funk with light hop character and a good full body. This is fairly unique as far as lagers go. Next I tried Plains, an open fermented farmhouse ale. This was my favorite of the day, with bright notes of peach and tangerine, some light funk, and a good dry finish.

The Black Cauldron, dark lager, was delicious and balanced with light caramel and raisin notes. This is quite a tasty dark lager. I finished with a strange beer called Devil’s Snare that was more of a novelty beer than anything else. It was unique and something I would not try again but since they mentioned it was made more for novelty I won’t bother going into tasting notes, though I would warn you to not order more than a taster unless you have tried it and know you like it.

I finished with three other tasters though I preferred the first flight minus the novelty beer. The Porter was quite good with notes of cherry and roast. The old ale had notes of maple, apricot, and bitter grapefruit with mild hop bitterness to finish it off. Sub genre, their dry hopped Trappist ale had notes of bright tangerine, mild sweetness and flavors of candied apricot. None of these three beers inspired me to order more although I was also encouraged to leave because my husband wanted to go somewhere else.

I quite enjoyed the feel of their tasting room and may have stayed longer to try more beers if my husband wasn’t pushing me to go on to another brewery. I quite liked the Plains and would love to see where they go from here on future visits. They seem to have some interesting ideas of brewing styles and so they should mature nicely.

Top 2:
Plains – open-fermented farmhouse ale
Caves – open-fermented lager

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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Exploring San Diego's Craft Breweries