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.
Come for hazy IPAs and an extensive guest tap list.
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.
Great Hencini Southern English Brown
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.
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.
Plains – open-fermented farmhouse ale
Caves – open-fermented lager
A lot of people first become interested in craft beer when they taste an IPA and fall for the bitter punch or the pine resin but many brewers and beer drinkers eventually learn to appreciate the delicate flavors of a well-crafted lager, usually in the German or Czech style. There are many types of lagers in all ranges including the higher alcohol baltic porter, a strong dark beer brewed with lager yeast. For purposes of this article, I will focus on lower alcohol versions of the style and breweries in San Diego where you can consistently find an excellent version of that style.
1. Societe Brewing Company – Societe is one of the first San Diego breweries where I encountered an excellent lager. They often have two or three variations of the style on tap at once, including single-hopped versions to showcase a hop or more classic varieties. Around Oktoberfest, starting in September, they put on some delightfully authentic versions of the festbeer and kellerbier.
2. Fall Brewing Company – Fall has been delivering six-packs of their delightful pilsners for some time with Plenty for All first followed by the Rise Up Czech style Pilsner. Both are excellent and always refreshing examples of the style. I’m hooked on Rise Up and the lovely wildflower honey flavor I get from it.
3. Burning Beard – Burning Beard’s Normcore Pilsner has been named best beer in San Diego in 2016 as voted by readers of The West Coaster. Then for 2017 it was named best lager in San Diego from the same readers. This beer has quite a following just as the Beard has its loyal fans. Though not brewed in as large quantities as others this is always a reliable choice when you are craving a good lager.
4. Alesmith – Alesmith didn’t always have lagers on tap but then recently they released both the Sublime Mexican style lager and the delicious Spezial Pils, a German style lager. Both are excellent though I prefer Spezial when I am craving something classic. This is now available year-round in cans.
5. Pizza Port – Though not a brewery generally associated with lighter beers, I was really blown away by the quality of the Festbier that Pizza Port released in 2017 as a limited release through their tasting rooms. I was craving more once I finished that six-pack. They also brew a number of one-off beers throughout the year.
6. ChuckAlek Brewing – Chuckalek is the only brewery I know of in San Diego that lets you order a full liter of their German styles at their tasting room, usually limited to the altbier and helles German style lager. Though I usually end up ordering their delightful ESB, ChuckAlek makes a consistently delicious helles lager and altbier, a malty traditional German style.
7. Eppig Brewing – Eppig has a regular pilsner and schwartzbier (dark lager) on rotation along with a Japanese style dry rice lager. I was most impressed by the schwartz, which to me is one of the best examples of the style I have had in California and most authentic to the traditional style. Eppig displays their commitment to this classic style in their choice to open a large beer hall on the waterfront recently.
8. Stone Brewing – Stone brews their year-round lager called “Who You Callin’ Wussie” but they have also released some delightful small-batch lagers throughout the years. More recently I was quite impressed by their Kolsch, an ale brewed with lager yeast. Though not technically a lager, the Kolsch would satisfy most people’s craving for the style.
9. Gordon Biersch – Gordon Biersch is often overlooked as a big brewery that happens to have a location in San Diego but their head brewer is the local guru when it comes to brewing lagers. They are not flashy but the lagers coming out of the Mission Valley location are consistently of high quality.
10. Bagby Beer – Like Gordon Biersch, Bagby gets overlooked by people looking for beers to hype up because they consistently brew beers to style rather than trying for the next big thing. Most times you visit Bagby you will encounter at least one if not two excellent lagers. They also tend to have excellent lagers from out of town on tap as guest beers.
Live Oak is out of the center of Austin and much closer to the airport. It is so close to the airport that for beer drinkers it is a bit of an unofficial cell phone lot, a great place to stay while you are waiting for your flights to depart. They have a wide variety of beers available, though no food. They also server their flights featuring half pints of beer, rather than 4 ounce pours. If you don’t feel like taking the trek outside of central Austin you can always find their beers on tap and in cans all around town.
Their pilsner was dry with notes of toast and crackers with light spice and herbal hops and a medium body. This is one of their flagship beers and available around Austin and I can see why. Their Berliner Weisse has some smoked malts though they are quite mild. The beer has light citrus notes with a tart finish though i would have preferred to try what they would do without the smoked malts it was quite good.
The dopplebock had notes of caramel and plum with a nice dry finish and notes of molasses and mild herbs. I preferred this to the weizenbock which I found was overpowered by the flavor of cloves. The weizenbock had a clean amber base and was nicely done. My husband preferred the weizenbock so if you don’t mind cloves that is a good beer to try. The Vienna Lager was dry and tasty with a light herbal finish, and an excellent example of the style.
Though this is my third time visiting Austin, this was my first time visiting Live Oak. I will certainly try to visit again next time I am in town as it makes a great stop on your way out of town if you enjoy a good German style beer.