Craft Beer Magellan

For those who aren’t on the Twitters, last weekend we held our annual Boys Lost Weekend. This is usually an extended weekend where we travel to see a hockey game featuring the Blues and then scout out tasty craft breweries. Why the Blues? Friends Joel and Jim are big fans. The rest of us don’t mind indulging them because it’s a weekend away where we can seek out beer we can’t enjoy locally.

First up on the trip was the hockey game at Scottrade Center. As fortune would have it, they were hosting a Guy’s Night Out event, so our tickets included a buffet (your standard nachos, wings, toasted ravioli, etc.) and beer. Unfortunately, it was all Budweiser products which elicited this response:

Cue the sad trombone sfx

We know, Josh, we know.

After some hijinks which I will not detail here, we concluded our evening at the Flying Saucer while waiting for one lost boy to catch up with the group. Why did we go to the Flying Saucer when there’s one here in KC? It was very close to the hotel and Scottrade Center. Since we were walking, it seemed an intelligent choice. It was also Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS) release week and I wanted to check out how it was on draft (SPOILER ALERT: Fantastic).

Saturday was for exploration and the three of us who didn’t overdo it the previous night headed off to Heavy Riff Brewing. This establishment offers craft beer and BBQ with a guitar motif. It was a pretty chill location until the craft beer tour bus arrived. For those who don’t know, one of the great things about many craft bars/brewery tasting rooms is that they offer flights so you can sample many of their offerings in addition to offering the usual snifter/pint pours. Sadly, Heavy Riff doesn’t do flights, but they do serve half-pints. They pour between 12-15 of their own creations in addition to a couple guest tap offerings. It was well worth the trip and I would go back.

Next up was my favorite on our mini-tour – Side Project Brewing. Just as the name would suggest, this is the baby of owners Karen & Cory King (Master Brewer for Perennial Artisan Ales). When we arrived, the smallish place was packed thanks to a local coffee crawl that ended at their location. Several patrons who we bumped into (literally) were very friendly and explained what was happening at the tasting room – namely, five one-off coffee infused brews crafted with their base beer, Barrel-Aged Coffee Crawl Stout (15% ABV):

Yes, this is beer.

As you can imagine, this was so heavy and boozy that we could only have two before it was time to hydrate and move to the next location. If you’re looking for craft beer and are in the STL area, Side Project Cellar is a must visit.

Next on the tour was Modern Brewery. This little gem is tucked away at the back of a parking lot behind several other businesses. We passed it once and almost twice if not for some deft driving. This brewery appears to be built from an old garage, but don’t let the appearance fool you, they’re doing good work there. Modern offers 10-12 of their own creations that include several barrel-aged varieties (oak, various wine barrel, etc.). Fair warning: the bathroom situation is limited with only a single unisex (a toilet and a urinal) one available. I only mention it because I was joined by a particularly insistent woman who followed me in because she didn’t care about societal conventions. “There are two places to go, so why shouldn’t they be in use simultaneously? Who cares which genders are sharing?” Yeah, she was fine holding a conversation while she went too. Uh, fine…

The final brewery stop was Alpha Brewing. This place was the enigma of our explorations. It had decent reviews. So, since none of us had ever tried their beer, we headed in. The good news: Alpha offers flights. The bad news: there was only one decent one in the bunch. Know the smell of cat urine? That’s what the first one tasted like. I’m told this is often the result of over-Citra-hopping the beer. The second tasted of pepper and butter (diacetyl). The third tasted like dirty gym socks (I had one sip and couldn’t take another). The fourth was the one redeeming beer. Perhaps it stood out in my mind because of how awful the others were. The fifth beer was decent if you could tolerate the heavy smoked flavor. If not, it would probably be rated as poorly as the first. I’m hoping this was just a bad batch and want to give them the benefit of the doubt. I would probably go back, but it would have to be the first stop on a tour of several. That way I could at least wash away the bad with something tasty.

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