After enough poking and prodding by Bill (it really didn’t take much) my girlfriend and I were finally able to visit 222 Bakery* in Edwardsville. While I was eating my ham and cheese croissant I got a chance to talk to Matt, the owner, a little bit. As is normal with me, the discussion came around to beer. Matt grew up on the West Coast and as such is used to beers that in his words “have a lot of flavor.” I didn’t to get a chance to ask what he meant, but my guess is he meant a lot of hop flavor as is common with most West Coast beers.
One of the other things he said that struck me was that he found a lot of locals beers pretty boring because he thought the breweries weren’t taking very many chances. This of course got me to thinking, was he right? Are beers in St. Louis really that humdrum?
One of my biggest complaints about some of the breweries and brewpubs in St. Louis has always been that when I walk in I almost always see the same beers: Wheat, Pale Ale, Porter/Stout, Pilsner and maybe some fruit seasonal. They always seem to be the same safe beers that I can find at most of the local bars and restaurants. Why is this?
I know one of the reasons is also the most glaring, money. These beers are relatively easy to produce (which also makes for a more consistent product) and people are comfortable with these choices thus making them easier to sell. You can’t really fault a business with going down this road, after all part of the reason they started the business is to make a living.
There is also something to be said for those “safe” beers. Because they’re safe it makes it easier for people to use them as gateway beers, the kind of beers where people realize that beer can have flavor and color and also taste great. Those safe beers also allow brewers to make enough money to step out onto a limb and brew things that are out of the ordinary, like Schlafly’s Wood Aged series or O’Fallon’s Smoked Porter.
But what I’d really love to see is a brewery in St. Louis take the Stone Brewing philosophy, “We’re going to brew what we like. If you don’t like it, too bad.” I’d love to see a brewery that steps away from the Pale Ales and Pilsners and brews something that’s completely without a specific style or maybe even a style that isn’t regularly brewed here like a Flemish Red.
I think this is why I’m so excited about Augusta’s new farmhouse ale. It’s something different and unusual that no one in St. Louis is currently doing. It’s a breath of fresh air in a land of Pale Ales. Am I right? Am I wrong? Am I being unfair? Comment and let me know.
* I’d strongly suggest visiting, it’s just an amazing bakery.