I stopped by Savagewood for their industry appreciation night. Since I went with my brother I was able to try a few more beers than I might have if I was alone doing pints. I tended to stay away from anything O’Sullivan Brothers had already made prior because they were solid but nothing I cared for. They managed to license the recipes of a few of the more popular beers O’Sullivan Brothers had made, which is nice because otherwise they wouldn’t have a dark beer on tap.
I started with their ESB, which was solid though not up to the quality of my other favorites around town. It had a nice malt backbone with light apricot hop character and low bitterness. It could have been a little more attenuated (less sweet). They have the same beer available on nitro though they don’t seem to understand how nitro works because the nitro version is quite under carbonated and not all that different from the regular.
The saison was below average with a strong bubblegum flavor and an overpowering sweetness that bordered on cloying. I’m glad I wasn’t the one who ordered that pint. The session IPA was equally underwhelming with a strong malt backbone that wasn’t attenuated enough leaving a syrupy sweet base with minimal hop character to balance it out. The IPA was solid, if fairly standard for the classic West Coast style. It blended notes of grapefruit, pine, tropical fruit, and light floral hops with a dry finish and low bitterness. The IPA, while clearly better than the rest of the lineup, isn’t that different from the other offerings in the area.
Though Savagewood is still an overall improvement over O’Sullivan Brothers, they need to do more if they want to differentiate themselves from the crowded beer scene in the Mira Mesa/Miramar area. Their core lineup of a Mango Heffeweisen, blonde ale, ESB, session IPA, IPA, and saison isn’t going to do much to bring in beer geeks though the IPA should satisfy hop heads who are looking for a solid IPA to knock back.
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