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stlouis_festlogo.jpgUnless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that the 2nd Annual St. Louis Brewers Heritage Festival takes place this weekend. This festival was started last year to not only honor the longstanding brewing traditions of St. Louis but to also gather together the area’s brewers and showcase all of the talent we have in the area.

  • The kick-off to this Festival begins this evening with a 5-course VIP dinner co-hosted by The Food Network celebrity chef Dave Lieberman and festival brewmasters.
  • Friday begins with a new session, the “Business Man’s Special” which runs from Noon-4PM. This $50 event will not only allow you first crack at all of the festival beers, but the price also includes food as well.
  • The grounds re-open on Friday for a session that runs from 6 – 10 p.m. and again Saturday, May 10, from noon – 4 p.m. and 6 – 10 p.m. Tickets for the Friday evening session and Saturday events cost $30 per person ($35 day of the events, so get your tickets now).
  • This year will see a slight change (for the better in my opinion) of three tasting tents, instead of last year’s two. The three tents will be devoted to Ales, Lagers and also Specialty Beers.
  • Restaurants participating in this year’s Festival are all from the St. Louis Originals group. Companion Bakery, Harvest, LoRusso’s Cucina, SqWires and Vin de Set have all created dishes designed to compliment the more than 70 beer styles available at the event.
  • Not only will you be able to taste beer from 8 local breweries, but this year you’ll also have the chance to sample beers from a number of area homebrewers.
  • The Heritage Festival Dark Lager recipe is back again this year, but we’re also privy to try Augie Altenbaumer’s Rye American Pale Ale recipe this year as well. The Suburban Journal recently featured an article on Augie and his beer, be sure to check it out.

The weather is looking wonderful for the weekend (a change over the last few weekends) with clear skies and 70°. It’s seriously looking like this year will be even better than last year. I’ll be attending tonight’s dinner, the Saturday Afternoon Session and maybe be attending part of the Friday Afternoon and Evening Session as well. I promise to provide plenty of pictures and hopefully a few interviews as well.

12_newbelgiumlogo.jpgI heard about this a few weeks ago and it looks like it’s finally coming to fruition. New Belgium Brewery is going to be doing a new sour beer program where select restaurants will be receiving a few kegs of each beer as it’s seasonally released.  The first of these beers is New Belgium’s La Fleur Misseur.  I’ll let New Belgium Beer Ranger Ryan Beech describe it:

La Fleur was originally concocted for New Belgium’s 15th Birthday Party. But lucky all of us there was such a buzz about the beer by people that drank it at the brewery, we were forced to make more.

La Fleur is an ale with a deep hazy gold color. It opens with flavors of pineapple, clove and honey. Dry-Hopping gives it a nice flower-leaf aroma supported by tones of fresh bread and honey.

Because these are very special beers it means that they’re very limited in their release.  Bailey’s Chocolate Bar and Cicero’s are going to be the nly two locations in St. Louis will be receiving kegs of this beer (and it will be draught beer only).  I’ll make sure to let everyone know when this beer is available in a few weeks.

Last week Irene and I had another fantastic meal at a fantastic restaurant with another shoddy beer list. So rather than continue to complain about it (though I know I will) I came up with another idea instead. Create a cookie-cutter beer list that will allow area restaurants to not only make money, but to also provide upscale beers that are more fitting to the cuisine they serve. I’m going to offer up a small (10 beers), medium (15 beers) and large (20 beers) list depending on what a restaurant is wanting to offer. I’m sure this post will generate a bit of discussion and controversy, but I welcome it. Feel free to give your 2 cents and I’ll be more than happy to explain my rationale for each choice.

Small

  • Budweiser
  • Bud Light
  • Schlafly Pale Ale
  • New Belgium Fat Tire
  • O’Dells 90 Schilling
  • Boulevard Bully Porter
  • Bell’s Two Hearted or O’Fallon 5 Day IPA
  • Unibroue La Fin Du Monde
  • Blue Moon or Hoegaarden
  • Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout

A few thoughts on the Small list. First of all, you’ll notice I picked some of the old money making standbys. We all need to keep in mind that a restaurant is in the business of making money. A lot of people enjoy some of these beers and therefore a restaurant needs to carry some of them to retain business. One of the problems with a list this small is that you’re left lacking things like a dark clean lager or a brown ale. If I were to drop one beer, it would either be the Porter or Stout. I think you need a dark rich beer to pair with dessert, but you may not need two different choices. Removing one of those would open it up to a brown ale like Avery’s Ellie’s Brown Ale.

One of the main things people may say is, “Why no Guinness?” My rationale for that is that Guinness is pretty fricken expensive (especially draught) and cost is always a factor for restaurants. I personally think you can accomplish the same thing with a Russian Imperial Stout that may be a bit cheaper in the long run. See the rest of the lists after the jump.

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Dave from O’Fallon Brewery reported on the BA forums that there will be a new brewpub opening in St. Louis not too far from the new SLU arena.

Sometime in January “Buffalo Brewing Co.” will be open in St. Louis. The location is at Olive and Compton just behind the new SLU arena in the Parrish Laundry building.
Updates soon.

No Round-Up today, it’s  pretty slow due to the holidays.  It’ll be back next week.  Have a Happy New Year.

unclesam.gifAs I mentioned in the last Round-Up, last Friday was my girlfriend Irene’s birthday. We celebrated by going to an amazing restaurant that we had heard excellent things about. When we had arrived I was not at all surprised by the lack of a beer menu or even the inclusion of a beer list in the wine menu, that’s pretty par for the course.

I asked my server what beer choices they offered and after the obligatory St. Louis selection he then began listing their craft selection. New Belgium, Boulevard, Schlafly, and a couple of the standard Belgian choices. I was completely deflated. Here I was in one of the best restaurants in St. Louis and these were their choices for beer? It felt like the beer choices were an afterthought and not something chosen to compliment the cuisine.

Bill and I have had the wine/beer debate for quite some time and for the most part I agree with him. Wine still has the perception of being a more upscale drink than beer, which is normally viewed as the beverage of the working man. Wine can be sold for a much higher profit margin, especially when sold by the glass, than beer which makes it more attractive to restaurateurs.

Some of the things in beer’s favor is that it has less of a footprint and therefore requires less storage space than wine. You’re usually only opening one 12oz bottle at a time so there is no need for quality control concerns (unless the beer isn’t selling.) Not to mention that draught beer also provides a mighty mark-up if you have the space and the equipment to do so.

So given some of it’s upsides why is it that restaurateurs and chefs don’t put more effort in choosing the beers that they offer in their restaurant? If you were to visit a world class restaurant and ordered a cup of coffee, would you be unhappy if they served you Folgers? If you ordered a mixed drink would you be OK with them using Popov? Of course not, you expect more out of a restaurant like this. So why is it OK for beer to get the shaft?

I fully understand that (especially in St. Louis) you’re never going to get away from serving beers from the big boys. People love their light lager and when they order a beer, they better have their go-to. I also understand that there is always going to be limited shelf space because of the smaller mark-up that beer has compared to it’s cousin wine. But if you’re going to offer a selection of beer, why can’t the beers that aren’t from the big boys be something that offers your customers some intriguing flavors and aromas that will help to compliment your food? Why should the beer choices be so blasé?

If it’s just a matter of education all you need to do is find a local beer nerd, we’ll be more than happy to talk your ear off about beer and help put together a beer menu to be proud of. If it’s a concern that the beer won’t sell then maybe it’s a matter of educating your staff or even providing a beer menu! There is no reason that you have to have the same old beer choices as everyone else, you just have to take the first step and make it right.

(If you haven’t figure it out by now I’m being very ambiguous about the restaurant we went to on Friday night. I really liked the place and don’t really want to trash it. But this post is really directed at all restaurants who want to hold their food and wine selections to a very high caliber but don’t do the same for beer. )

ntph.gifWay back when (ok, only about 2 months ago) I talked about the Gastropub’s invasion into our fair town. Now that I think about it, invasion sounds like a bad thing and more beer places are never a bad thing.

Anyway, Ian let’s us all know that the Newstead Tower Public House opens this evening.

Here is their website, if you happen to go, please let me know how your experience was.

I was originally dreading doing this post. Not because I don’t want to talk about the evening, but because I have a really hard time reviewing the pairings. I feel that I start repeating myself and I just keep talking about the same thing over and over again. Maybe as I do more of these I’ll feel a bit more comfortable, but for the time being I think I’ll just provide the sights and stories of the evening.

We arrived around 7PM, the cash bar started about 6:30 and everything was already in full swing. I want to say about 20 crowded around the bar at Duff’s drinking down their favorite New Belgium beers. In my case I was about to partake of my new favorite New Belgium Beer, Eric’s Ale.

If you’ve never had a sour beer, your first one will always be bit of a shock. They’ve got this tangy, funky interesting taste that you never would have expected from a beer. What made Eric’s Ale so special for me was that the tartness of the beer was relatively mild and completely refreshing. It provided this fruity funky aroma and an ever so slight peach finish. I really hope beer-225_1280×960.jpgthat New Belgium starts bottling it because it’ll be my gateway sour beer.

Around 7:30, Karen Duff sat us at the table we selected and it turned out that we were sat with Andrew from Bon Vivant Wines and his lovely girlfriend Colleen. As each dish and beer pairing arrived Eric and Lauren Salazar provided us with information about the beer and why the they made the pairing choices they did.

Here’s the part where I’m going to post all of the pictures of the dishes:

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Mothership Wit
Lobster Enchilada, Mothership Manzano Chili, Avocado Relish

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2 Below
Cranberry Duck, Sweet Potato Pear Bisque

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Trippel Belgian Style Ale
Mirin Glazed Salmon, Braised Red Cabbage, Chinese Mustard

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Fat Tire Amber Ale
Lamb Chop, Goat Cheese Moussaka

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1554 Brussels Style Black Ale
Braised Beef Brisket, Potato Pancake, 1554 Pearl Onion Gravy

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Abbey Belgian Style Ale
Frozen Chocolate Hazelnut Truffle With Abbey Ale Sabayon

Just a few quick notes about everything. First, hopefully one of these days I can buy a camera that will allow me to take pictures in dark places without a flash. All of the pairings were quite excellent. I really think it helps having a representative (in this case one of the best representatives you can have, a brewer) help to make the beer pairing selections. The brewer is going to know their beer better than anyone. They know all of the subtle flavors and aromas and therefore what foods will pair well with them.

The lobster enchilada was nice and crispy and much lighter than the name would let on. The squash and duck soup was Irene’s favorite dish, I mean almost everything goes better with duck. And as silly as it sounds one of my favorite things of the night was the potato pancake. In fact I turned to Irene as she’s making a stir fry and asked if we could have potato pancakes tonight. She just gave me a dirty look instead.

beer-241_1280×960.jpgI also found that the portion sizes were just about perfect. By the end of the night I felt full, but not stuffed. Which is both a good and bad thing because as the dinner wound down the bar filled back up. All of us beer nerds made our way back out to the bar to talk about beer and food and anything else that struck our fancy. The next thing you know you have two glasses of Eric’s Ale in your hand and it’s getting close to 11PM. I’m glad to have someone smart enough in my life to say, “Don’t forget, you need to be up at 6:30 tomorrow.”

Damn responsibilities. Why do they always need to ruin a good time?