Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Beer Trip 6.5-Day One

Few things help me get through winter like a Beer Trip. I think for a variety of reasons, I was looking forward to Beer Trip 6.5 quite a bit. The terrible winter weather we’ve had played a part. I also was needing a break from work. But I think the main reason was that we were able to get tours at both Schlafly locations, including a VIP tour at Schlafly Tap Room that I was really pumped about. For this trip, we had seven of us going, which is a lot for the EM-50. Most of the normal crew went, with Kelly, Andy, Tim, and me going. Rob also joined us, because he was helping out his family, we picked him up in Columbia. Ed decided that goose hunting was more important than beer, so he was out. In his place were two Beer Trip Point Five veterans: Adam (Beer Trip 4.5) and Dave (Beer Trip 5.5). The game plan was to leave at 7:15 am, and thanks to an oversleeping Tim, we left about 7:25 am. Luckily, Kelly had a lead foot as he took over the morning driving, and we made it up quickly. The trip across Missouri on I-70 was like most other drives along it: pretty eventful with exit after exit alternating with fireworks warehouses and porn shops. Thanks to Kelly’s driving, we got to Schlafly Bottleworks a little early, even after picking up our Wisconsin friends, Travis and John, both who have hung out with us on previous Beer Trips. This would be Travis’s third Beer Trip appearance (after Beer Trips V and 5.5), and this would be John’s fourth in a row. So it was great having them with us again. I’d never been to Bottleworks before, and it was a really cool place. It is a refurbished grocery store, and it seemed to fit the space well, with the brewery (including bottling line) on one side, and the restaurant and bar on the other. They had tasting rooms for tours, and was really a cool spot and layout for a brewpub. Saying I was a little excited about coming to Bottleworks would be an understatement, not only because Travis and John were here and that I’d never been there before, but because at Schlafly we were going to meet Troika. Troika is a good friend of my friend Adam from East Troy, and he was cool enough to let Troika know about Beer Trip and our visit. So when we walked in, Troika was there waiting for us. I have to admit, there are few things that make me feel cooler than when come into a brewery or brewpub and having someone say something to us about us being the Beer Trip guys. Troika greeted us and took us to a table for us to have lunch. For being the Communications Director who claimed he didn’t know a lot about beer, he knew a lot about beer. He told us a lot about Schlafly’s history, what they are up to now, the brewing scene in STL, and just chatted with us about whatever for awhile; just a great guy. Luckily for us, they were tapping a new beer that was a collaboration beer with a famous St. Louis bar, The Royale. It was a Vanilla Milk Stout, and Troika had them bring us some samples of it. It was a phenomenal beer, and I wasn’t surprised to read online the next day that both Bottleworks and the Tap Room had gone through it all. Later on, after our really good meal, they brought us out bottles of their ’07 and ’10 Schlafly Reserve Barleywine, which Troika explained were made differently. It was a cool vertical, as the ’07 was a cloudy beer, while the ’10 was clear. Both, however, were extremely tasty. After lunch, where Troika treated us to those fantastic beers, we took the 1 PM tour. The tour was a standard brewery tour, both informative and interesting. Our guide did a good job explaining the process and ingredients to those less seasoned in taking beer tours, but for those who are veterans of scores of tours, it was a good tour as well, especially because the bottling line was running. That’s always pretty cool.

After the tour, we went into the tasting room, where they poured us samples of some of their beers. As we were short on time and had just had some of their finest beers thanks to Troika, we had just a couple before we decided to head out on to our next stop. Six Row Brewing Company was a really quick stop, but that was no fault of their own. We just had to get to our next stop soon after. It wasn’t far from Bottleworks, and we quickly grabbed a table and ordered beers from their bar. I had their Dubbel, and other guys ordered their Foreign Extra Stout among other beers. They all were really good, and before we headed out we got a couple of glasses of their Imperial IPA to share. That was a terrific beer. I think everyone enjoyed that one. We finished up our beers, said farewell to Travis and John for the day (they were staying in STL for the night), and headed south in the RV to Sainte Genevieve. The Facebook fan page has been a pretty cool thing for us. Andy and Tim did a great job in deciding to have one. They are much smarter than me when it comes to certain things (most things, probably), but that page had been a great benefit to the Beer Trippers. Anyway, because of the page, we’ve reached out to various places to let them know we were coming to visit. Not that we want special treatment or anything, but it seems that most places appreciate what we do. Which is, they appreciate us driving hundreds of miles (thousands on the big summer Beer Trip) to check out their place and try their beers. Plus, I’d like to think we are pretty generous to those who have welcomed us. I did this for Crown Valley Brewing and Distillery as well, letting them know that we would be stopping by and hoped they’d be able to stay open past 5 PM, although I didn’t suspect that they would. I had to give it a shot, right? Well, I have made it my business to not knock people for treating us poorly on the Beer Trip blog, so I will try to word our visit to Crown Valley Brewing and Distillery as fairly as I can. When we pulled up around 4:20 PM, we were greeted at the door. I believe the lady said, “Are you the guys who’ve been contacting us on Facebook? Well, welcome, but know that we are still closing at 5:00 and last call is at 4:45.” Not quite the “Hey Beer Trippers!!!” that we got from Tim at Snake River Brewing Company, but I get it. I never expect special treatment, and we don’t deserve it either. We went up to the bar, ordered some beers, and headed out to the back to check out the scenery. It really was a cool looking place, and Kelly, being the Guv’nuh that he is, talked the lady into giving us a tour. She took us to one side of the brewery where the brewing equipment was, and it was nice and shiny. She said that all of their equipment was brand new, and it looked like it. The only brewery I’ve ever seen that looked cleaner than that was Gerald Wyman’s brewhouse at Gella’s Diner and Lb. Brewing Company in Hays, KS. She led us to the other side of the building to see the bottling line and the distillery portion of the place, and that was all really nice too. They even roast their own coffee there, which Tim decided to buy when we left. As it was approaching last call, we went back into the bar area/tasting room. I wanted to buy my son some of their root beer and get my wife a bottle of their wine. Some of the others did the same. As I was purchasing the root beer and wine, it was 4:47 PM according to my phone. I asked the lady if I could please order a glass of their IPA (which I hadn’t seen at the liquor stores in the KC area) to share with the guys so we could try it. Now I knew last call was at 4:45 PM, since that was explained to us in the second sentence to us on their grounds, but the other bartender was pouring a round of about three or four beers for people sitting down at the other end of the bar. She told me flat out, “Nope, we already had last call!” When I again said, “Please!” and mentioned that the other lady was still pouring beers for other people, she told me, “They’re different!” and walked away. I was a little in shock to say the least, but I guess maybe I was different. Andy also bought two six-packs of root beer, and was told to go to the front to grab it as we left. That is what he did, however they only had them in cases, so he took two out of the box and then took the rest in the box and stood outside waiting for the rest of us to leave. As he waited, right in front of the door, the other bartender bolted out towards him and rudely said, “You only paid for two six packs!” He explained that that is exactly what he took, and even opened the box to show her. I’m not sure if he asked her if he looked stupid enough to steal root beer and then just loiter in front of the building, but he should have. Anyway, it was a really disappointing stop for us, especially since we could have just stayed in STL with our friends and had fun there. But stupid me wanted to visit and support a new, small brewery who sold their beer in the KC area (and that I had bought a few six packs from). But I guess I’ll spend my money on Schlafly, Odell, New Belgium, and Goose Island when I head to the beer store instead from now on. Oh well. It was still early (remember, it was only about 5 PM now), so we went down to Cape Girardeau for our last stop of Day One. We checked into our hotel (a pretty nice Super 8, actually), and asked about a cab. They gave us some numbers, and we called and asked for a cab for seven of us. When the cab showed up in a mini-van with someone already in the passenger seat, we figured we couldn’t manage that. But the Guv’nuh jumped in the back, and Adam crouched between the two middle seats, and we did it. The best part was that we were able to get a round trip for all of us to the brewpub and back for just $21. I would imagine that is the cheapest cab fare in the country. The cab took us to Buckner Brewing Company, and we sat down for dinner. Our service was really good, and they had just tapped their India Brown Ale that day. I ordered that (which was terrific), along with a pizza, and it was a pretty nice meal. Some of us were feeling really good (me and Kelly, especially), while some of the guys were tired (like Andy, who went to see Motorhead the night before). We walked over by the Mississippi River, decided it was too cold and too early to just stay outside or call it a night, so we walked into the bottom part of the brewpub. That was a funky place, in a good way, and it reminded me of college. Not just because it was a college bar in a college town, but because you could smoke in there. I didn’t like that, but I had a good time. We played shuffleboard and darts, and chilled out. Andy was really chilling out because he was so tired, but even my jukebox selections like “Linger”, “Grace Kelly” by Mika, and “MmmBop” accompanied by my singing couldn’t get him going. We enjoyed some more India Brown Ales (while Dave switched to rum and Cokes and Adam had some gin and tonics), before calling the cab and heading home. Apparently there was a slutty looking chick in the van on the cab ride home, but that is all hearsay as I think I was too “well on my way” to notice. I do remember being told by the guy with the slutty chick about Old Chicago in Paducah having 110 beers and that “Boddington’s in the big, yella can” was his favorite, but soon enough we were home, just short of midnight. And then I crashed. All in all, it was a great day, and Buckner Brewing Company was a great follow up to our not-so-good Crown Valley experience. Schlafly, of course, was the highlight of Day One, and thanks to Troika’s hospitality, we were all really excited about heading to the Schlafly Tap Room the next day for the VIP tour. And to put it mildly, it did not let us down at all.