Beer, Glorious Beer!

The Centennial Beer Festival happens this weekend at Moulin Events and the Malt House Cellar at 2017 Chouteau in St. Louis. Sadly, I’ll be out of town and will miss the fun.

If you’re going, my advice is to take lots of pics with your phone of the beers you taste. Later, after you’ve sampled dozens of beers, you’ll better be able to recall more than just a handful of standouts.

During the last 12 months, I have drunk less beer than in other recent times, but I have enjoyed the beer I did drink quite a bit more. Here are a few fave beers from my Instagram account. (If I hadn’t taken these pics, I might’ve forgotten a few.)

First, Lazy Magnolia Southern Pecan…

Lazy Mag

Lazy Magnolia is brewed in Kiln, Mississippi. I enjoyed this tasty brew at Jim ‘n’ Nick’s BBQ in Birmingham last fall. This beer is not, to the best of my knowledge, available in St. Louis city or county, but is available throughout Jefferson County, Missouri.

Next up, Left Hand Good Juju…

GoodJuju

This beer was served at The Shack in Valley Park. It has a bit of ginger flavor. Left Hand comes from Denver.

Oktoberfest #1—Schlafly…

Schlafly OKT

Loved this beer! Drank it at the Wing Ding at Queeny Park in August, then enjoyed it at the Bottleworks in Maplewood in September.

Oktoberfest #2—Goose Island…

Goose OKt Biergarten

 

Another delicious fall brew. This one from Goose was poured at the Biergarten at the A-B brewery. I also enjoyed this brew at VB’s Chocolate Bar in Cottleville this fall.

From my hometown of Birmingham comes Good People Coffee Oatmeal Stout…

Good People Coffee Oatmeal

Had this at Saw’s Juke Joint in Birmingham. It brings a ton of flavor but doesn’t overdo it (like some stouts do).

From Nashville comes Yuengling lager…

Yuengling

Had this one with my pulled pork at Saw’s BBQ in Homewood, AL. Not my favorite, although I know many who love this brew.

Another favorite from Left Hand, their Milk Stout…

Left Hand MS

I still recall my first LHMS, poured at the recently closed Plush at a Pecha Kucha night in 2012. I’ve enjoyed it at home and at bars and restaurants every since. I like the foamy head! I turned my cousin Randy on to this one at last year’s Centennial Beer Festival but he did not love it.

My favorite Urban Chestnut brew…

Schnickelfritz

This is Schnickelfritz. I had it at the newer Urban Chestnut location in The Grove last summer and just last week at the 21st Street Brewer’s Bar. Hard for me to describe, except to say that it tastes really good!

Here’s one you may have never heard of…

Phin and Matt's

As you can tell from the frosty glass, Phin and Matt’s Extraordinary Ale was enjoyed at PW Pizza (in the same building where the Beer Fest is held). Brewed by Southern Tier in Lakewood, NY.

The old standby…

Pale ale

For many of us in St. Louis, Schafly Pale Ale was our gateway craft beer. I had Sam Adams earlier, but Schlafly Pale Ale had more going on than did the early Boston brew. This cup was enjoyed on a warm spring day at Paddy O’s, just south of Busch Stadium.

And a new favorite…

Honkers

Goose Island Honker’s Ale is now, following Goose’s takeover by A-B/InBev in 2011, available in more places than before. Less bitter than Schlafly Pale Ale and great with a burger.

From Italy…

Menabrea

At Acero in Maplewood, more people order wine from the Piedmont region of Italy. (As do I much of the time.) But I really like this Menabrea brew from the city of Biella.

Like Belgian beer?

Mikkeller

This Mikkeller was among a mixed six-pack I got at the new Craft Beer Cellar store on Maryland Avenue in Clayton. I liked it but doubt that it’ll enter my regular rotation.

From back in the day…

Stag

Yep, had a Stag at a gathering at Spoke Marketing on Locust back in the summer. Hey, after a round of salty snacks, it hit the spot.

Another local brew…

Marzen Kirkwood

From Dave and the crew at Kirkwood Station, their delicious Marzen beer.

And from a year ago at the Beer Fest…

Jah-Va

Another from Southern Tier in Lakewood, NY. Their Jah-Va Coffee Stout.

If these beer pics made you thirsty and/or curious, you’ll want to hit the Centennial Beer Festival this weekend. Sessions are set for Friday night, Saturday afternoon and Saturday night. Click HERE for a link to all the info.

As the Dos Equis guy says, “Stay thirsty, my friends!”

—–David Craig

By the way, I invite you to follow me on Instagram at @davidcraigstl. Not just beer, but also food, animals (including humans) and outdoor scenery.

The Diner’s Dilemma: Something New or The Old Familiar?


Michael Pollan’s great 2006 book The Omnivore’s Dilemma asks the basic question: What should we have for dinner?

Ominivore

The St. Louis diner’s dilemma is: Where should we go for dinner?

(Caution: baseball similes and metaphors ahead.)

Often the choice is between a place that’s new or a place that has been in your restaurant rotation for some time. Actually, there are two kinds of new places.

First, places that have only been open for a few days/weeks/months. Second, restaurants that have been open for a while that you’ve never visited. They are new to you, like that unfamiliar shortstop for the Padres who makes a great play and when you look him up online you find he’s been in the bigs for 7 years.

new3-1

With the place that’s just recently opened you take a huge risk. The kitchen crew and the wait staff may not yet have their acts together. Employee turnover can be an issue in those early days. Even if the chef and/or owner has a good reputation, a new joint can be like that rookie outfielder just up from Memphis—3 for 4 with a home run one day, 0 for 4 with three strikeouts and an error the next.

The big upsides of patronizing a spanking new restaurant are: you’re supporting a new business at the time it most needs your support and you may discover a true gem whose virtues you can boast about to both online and IRL friends. Not unlike buying a Randal Grichuk jersey at the Cardinals team store last summer.

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With a place that’s a few years old but new to you, you can sift through online reviews and talk to chums to get an idea about what are “must try” dishes and which ones have been less than successful. A restaurant that has been open for a couple of years or more must be doing something right and making enough people happy to keep rolling, even if it’s not always getting attention from the foodie media. Comparable to that manager whose career record is right about .500 even though he’s never taken a team to the postseason.

The familiar place that you’ve visited numerous times over the years has much to offer. You know your way around the menu, you may be familiar with many staff members, you know which table or booth you prefer. But, like at Holiday Inn (supposedly), there are no surprises. (Okay, maybe the manager will surprise you with a free sample of a new dessert or wine, etc.) Generally, you know how things are going to go. Kind of like Yadier Molina—you marvel at his defensive prowess, his hitting and (lately) his improved base running, but you are no longer surprised by his abilities.

St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina (4)

A downside of the familiar restaurant is that it, like Yadi, it can be costly. (You should note that, in some cases, the newer spots—especially those that have spent big on design and fixtures—can also be pricey.) Even at $15 million a year for Yadi, you know that you are getting value for your dollar. Similarly, a long-running old familiar place can require you to pony up some bucks. But you know it’s worth it.

Would you rather drop $70 for a dinner for two that’s just a bloop single or $110 for a dinner for two that’s a tape-measure homerun?

Typically, younger folks are the ones who crave new, fresh things in life while older people prefer to stick with things they know and love. This is why a 25-year-old will prefer today’s hits on radio to oldies. (Although even most 25-year-olds must surely be getting sick of All About That Bass by now. And most 60-year-olds have surely heard The Joker a sufficient number of times for this life.)

I encourage older folks to try something new when you get the chance. Enjoy the familiar places that consistently make you happy. But take a chance every now and then on something different. It’s like when the Cardinals play at an American League ballpark and use the designated hitter—you may or may not like it, but at least you’ve had a change of pace.

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At the same time, I encourage younger diners to patronize restaurants that have proved their mettle and delivered year after year. Like Yadi or Miguel Cabrera or Andrew McCutchen, these places have achieved a level of consistency that assures you are unlikely to be disappointed. They may cost a bit more. The other patrons may be older than you. But, like when Adam Wainwright starts for the Cardinals, you will be witnessing greatness.

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Photo credits…

Yadi: http://www.flickr.com/photos/27003603@N00/5886771536, http://photopin.com, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Cioppino: http://www.flickr.com/photos/69655432@N00/6566610871, http://photopin.com, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0

McCutchen: http://www.flickr.com/photos/27003603@N00/7185728251, http://photopin.com”>photopin, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Wainwright: http: http://www.flickr.com/photos/27003603@N00/14871796562, http://photopin.com, photopin, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/