Apr 3, 2014

Music for my beers

A night at the Schlafly Bottleworks

I have to admit, between work and a rougher than average winter, I didn't have many blog-worthy experiences at the start of 2014, but I did capture a few moments from one memorable road trip – to Schlafly Bottleworks in Saint Louis.

For those not from my neck of the woods, or if you’re just unfamiliar with Schlafly Beer, the Saint Louis Brewery, Inc., which makes all Schlafly products, began in 1991 and has become the largest independently owned brewery in Missouri and second largest brewer in the city after some other company I can’t immediately think of … I think they own horses, too.  With the  Schlafly Bottleworks building opening up in 2003, all Schlafly Beer is produced in Saint Louis.     

Chalk the idea for this adventure up to my friend, Kent.  At his recommendation, I became a passenger with our mutual friend Tom Irwin, as Tom drove down to Schlafly Bottleworks one cold January Saturday night, to perform with one of his bands, the Hayburners.  It’s not often you have the lead singer of a band be the designated driver for his fans.  Even with a bad case of laryngitis, how could I pass this up?

To whet our whistles on the drive down, we stopped at Weezy’s Bar and Grill in beautiful Hamel, Ill., right on historic Route 66 – a fun small town bar I previously blogged about here and here.  I was shocked to learn that neither Kent nor Tom had ever been there before, so I was happy to rectify that oversight.

On to the show, and the Bottleworks, which is technically in the Maplewood suburb – the main attraction, of course, is the beer and the brewing process on display for all to see.     

Tanks?  You're welcome!
I would like to say I took better pictures, but the cold medicine had kicked in at this point. 

At the center of the brewery, from where all sorts of seating areas for dining and drinking spring out, is a rather large gift shop.  It seems even more spacious when you factor in the high ceilings necessary for the entire building.  

I liked the overall appearance of the gift shop, but having cases of beer randomly piled on the center of the floor made me think someone wasn't finished putting things away.     

The bands play on a stage at the end of the tap room, which provide the bar feel you’d most likely want to experience after you get here (unless you’re planning on taking a tour of the facilities). 

This is where Kent and I hung out for most of the night, sampling various Schlafly products on tap and enjoying our front row sear for the Hayburners. 

Tom Irwin & his Hayburners -- live and rocking!
I must confess that prior to this evening, I had not sampled many Schlafly beers, except for the standard pale ale, but I developed a new-found appreciation for the kolsch and hefeweizen. 

But perhaps the most positive surprise of the night for me was how diverse the dinner menu was at the Bottleworks, and how darn good everything tasted.  They seem to dabble in a little bit of everything (the pork chop dinner was a big hit with most of the band).  Kent raved about their sandwiches, particularly their four-cheese grilled cheese. 

A big, giant bowl of yummmmmm ...
To the shock of nobody, I went Cajun-style with their tasso, beans and rice.  It was an amazingly tasty throwback to your classic red beans and rice dish, and the full dinner portion they provided for only $9.75 was more than enough for me.  I couldn't finish it, and believe me when I say I wanted to.  There was more than enough tasso and andouille in every bite.

The show was excellent, of course, even though most of the patrons considered live music more of an afterthought than the main attraction.  However, Tom and his Hayburners play at Schlafly’s every other month, so hopefully they will develop a following in Saint Louis as devoted as what Tom has here in Springfield, Ill.

I wish I had some pictures about the rest of the night, which only got more bizarre after we left the Bottleworks.  Our stop at B.B.’s Jazz, Blues and Soups near Busch Stadium was blog-worthy all by itself.  I never have before, and may never again, see an Australian funk band with a lead singer who plays the didgeridoo.  They even covered "Brick House."  Who knew!?

Oh, well.  Some stories are best left to the imagination. 

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