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Attention my Jefferson County brothers and sisters, there is a location to buy craft beer in Barnhart! For those of you looking to get your craft beer fix in Jefferson County, I’m happy to report that U-Gas Convenience Store on 1727 Catlin Rd. in Barnhart is now offering up a selection of craft beer.

After dabbling with craft beer at their Waterloo, Illinois location, I think that U-Gas is starting to see the benefit of bringing in more craft beer into the area.  For those of you that will frequent this new location and are looking for something that’s not on the shelf, be sure to ask for the management and tell them what you’re looking for.  They’re very receptive to their customers and are always looking for something new.

I’ve also been told that they’re looking to expand the selection you see below and also provide a cold selection of their craft beer in the future.  So, head on out and get your fix.

Full Disclosure: My brother Andrew Sweeney works for U-Gas. While he and I will not personally benefit from any additional sales from this store, I thought I’d still get this info out there.. Great beer is still great beer and I thought people in this area would like to know about this store.

Southern Illinois and South County people rejoice, there is a location to get some of the Illinois beers you’ve been craving since the closure of Bon Vivant Wines.  U-Gas Convenience Store has begun dabbling with offering craft beer at their newest location in Waterloo, Illinois.

Is it the biggest selection in Illinois?  No.  This is a new world for U-Gas and I think they want to gauge the support for this. But they are offering up things like Dogfish Head, Ska and Hoppin’ Frog.  I know that they’re looking at possibly bringing in some other things this week.

If you want to have them expand their selection, then you need to go buy some beer from this store.  Waterloo is only about an additional 8 minutes from the JB Bridge, so if you were previously a fan of Bon Vivant, this is about your best choice for some great beer in this area.

Full Disclosure: This store is being managed by my brother Andrew Sweeney.  While I will not personally benefit from any additional sales from this store, he possibly could. But great beer is still great beer and I thought people in this area would like to know about this store.

Looks like we’re going to have another competitor for our beer dollars coming in the next few weeks.  The Brick House Tavern and Tap, opening in Chesterfield, claims to be “Man Cave Meets Temple to Beer”  and is offering up what looks to be an extremely boring beer list. (Note, this is a chain, so everything you see on this list won’t necessarily be available in Missouri.)

But this is the part that caught my attention:

We’re not here for a long time we’re here for a good time and with table side micro-kegs, 40 ounce bottled beers, 100 oz beer bongs, hand pulled cask beer and affordable wines we’re sure ‘a good time’ is what you’ll have. Hang out in the bar with us or grab a seat anywhere you want. We’re here to dispense happiness.

Call me an elitist if you want, but beer bongs and hand pulled cask (which I hear is going to be Schlafly) beer?  Really? And, oh look, you can even get a bong full of cask beer!  Oh joy!  Judging by the photo below, maybe “bong” is just a clever marketing term for what amounts to nothing more than a modern day pitcher.

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I know it doesn’t seem like it, but I’m going to hold off judgment untilI visit the place for myself.  But all of the accoutrements of a great bar don’t mean jack if the beer selection sucks.

An out-of-state friend of mine IMed me the other day asking about some suggestions as he was about to go beer shopping.  Unfortunately, I had to tell him that since I didn’t know what his state did and did not get, it makes it a bit difficult to make suggestions.  I found out later that he went to the store and picked up Buffalo Bill’s Orange Blossom Cream Ale.  Ouch.

beer 1700_1280x960.jpgI’m sure we’ve all made this mistake in our early beer days.  We walk into a store, overwhelmed by the choices presented to us, and so we begin to just look over the labels and box art to determine our choice.  I made this same mistake with Buffalo Bill’s about 4 years ago in Chicago.  So, how can you keep from making this mistakes in the future while also expandaing your beer horizon?  Here are a couple of hints I’ve picked up over my short beer drinking career:

Know Your Favorite Styles

Big fan of Bocks? Love Lambics?  Enjoy English Bitters?  Then I’m sure you have specific go-to beers that you always reach for, but maybe there is another brewery putting out a similar style that you may also enjoy?  This will help you not only try new breweries, but also to become familiar with the differences from one beer to another even if they’re the same style.  This may be one of the easiest options if you run into a store for a quick beer pick-up.

Know Your Breweries

If you have a go-to beer that you pick up over and over again, try some of the other beers available from that brewery.  Sure not every beer from every brewery will always beer an A+ beer, but if they’re making one beer consistently well, it’s a good chance they make they make a couple of really solid beers.

Learn About New Styles

This option will probably require more research.  Let’s say you’re interested in learning about Russian Imperial Stouts, well how are you going to know which ones are good and which ones are bad?  This is where the internet really helps, using sites like RateBeer or BeerAdvocate will help you see some of the top rated and most popular beers in each style.  Now, just because they’re highly rated or very popular doesn’t mean they’re available in Missouri.  So make sure to have a list of 4 or 5 beers from the style available when you visit your local store.

Ask For Help!

Us beer nerds get a bad rap (though sometimes deserved) for being snobby.  But I honestly think that for the most part, beer enthusiasts are some of the most infectious and excitable people when it comes to talking about beer.  If you need help or advice for getting into new beer, ask for help.  We have a lot of people here and on the forums that are always willing to lend out plenty of advice.  If you’re in a store selling great beer, it’s an excellent possibility that the person picking it out knows a thing or two about beer, be certain to chat them up for advice.

Do you have any advice for the new beer drinker?  What would you suggest?

When I started my great journey of beer all I kept hearing was, “You have to visit Corral Liquors!” After hearing this from at least 6 or 7 people, I was beginning to wonder, “Can this place live up to the hype?” After my first visit, I can enthusiastically say, yes.

Store: Corral Liquors
Address: 3304 Nameoki Rd., Granite City, IL 62040 (Map it)
Phone: (618) 451-9116
Selection: Over 400 beers.

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Photo courtesy Porcelain Monkey Garage

Corral Liquors houses one of the largest beer selections in the metro area, providing a large variety of beers that you can’t find in Missouri. We had a user in the forum asking about where to find the best mix-a-six selection in St. Louis and a number of users (including me) said that Corral provides the largest variety of beers that can be bought in singles.

Corral also offers a large variety of beer in kegs, just be certain to call first to find out what’s available. Corral may be a little out of the way if you live on the western side of the river, but it’s a fantastic place to find some gems.

Dear Dierbergs,

dierbergs.gifYou may not know me, but my name is Michael Sweeney and believe it or not, we go way back. I worked for you during high school, tending the produce department on many an early Saturday morning. I’ve shopped at your stores for my entire adult life. I’ve always appreciated your efforts to strive to not only be the friendliest store in town, but to also offer a wide selections of premium products (even if they are at premium prices sometimes).

One of the first things instilled in me during my first few days of employment was that Dierbergs Markets went out of their way to try and offer the best products and the best service one could find in St. Louis, which is why I don’t understand the disconnect when viewing your beer selection. I don’t think it always this way. In fact I can remember a time when you offer mix-a-six selections, but they are no more.

I understand that shelf space is always in huge demand, but why is it that you can offer such a large and diverse wine selection (even at case pricing) but still not have the same sort of love for beer. Sure if I want to find all of Sam Adams, Leinenkugel, Schlafly, and O’Fallon’s offerings, they’re always on the shelves waiting for me. But sometimes I want something more, sometimes I want an impulse buy.

I just can’t quite understand why a store that emphasizes itself as offering some of the best products in St. Louis fails to offer things like Bear Republic, Unibroue, Avery, or even Bell’s. It seems like you attract the perfect clientèle to offer some of these “unusual” beers from around the globe. Perhaps you could even have beer samples on the weekends sort of like you sample many of your other products.

With more and more breweries making their way into St. Louis, this is your chance to step out in front and say, “We’re your beer store in St. Louis.” Seize this opportunity and make us believe that you really do provide some of the best products in town.

Sincerely,

Michael Sweeney

P.S. Thanks for helping instill some great customer service instincts that have helped me my entire professional career.

cask01.jpgA few weeks ago I had to travel to Champaign, IL for business. I’m not a huge fan of traveling for business, but I can usually make the best of it by finding some of the interesting beer stuff in other cities. While in Champaign I made sure to stop and try The Blind Pig as it was rated as one of the top 50 beer bars in the world by RateBeer in 2007. I was not let down. One of the first things I spied was New Holland Existential Hopwine on cask, which got me to wondering, “when do we see a bar in St. Louis that has a rotating cask selection?”

Don’t get me wrong, the addition of Dressel’s Pub to the cask beer scene is extremely welcome and I’d almost kick over my own brother to get a pint of cask 5 Day, but maybe I’m getting a bit greedy. I’d love to see a bar in St. Louis that not only serves cask beer, but serves a rotating selection of it. Now, I realize that this dream may not be as easy to attain as I’d like, because I’m sure there are plenty of logistical challenges. But a man can dream, can’t he?