Because we often head back to the St. Louis area to visit family and friends, it's not unusual for Gina and me to speak fondly of the city while in the company of friends. With a sunny summer weekend staring us in the eye, we decided it was time to share the city with some of our Indianapolis friends. Hoping to back up all our previous enthusiasm, we planned to pack as much in as possible.
Bogart's Smoke House, a "Memphis-style" BBQ joint opened in 2011 by former Supersmokers and Pappy's Smokehouse pit master Skip Steele. Picking Bogart's was a difficult decision - Pappy's Smokehouse does equally excellent BBQ - but a previous visit a couple months back convinced me that Bogart's was the right choice.
My first taste at Pappy's (and equally so at Bogart's) was a revelation - the jump in quality from my previous BBQ experiences to what the folks at Pappy's/Bogart's do was as eye-opening as the first time I had Chimay after a lifetime of drinking Miller Lite. While there are many foods that can amaze and satisfy, I've found that Bogart's side of ribs might be the most rewarding and genuinely tasty food I have ever eaten.
With a whole Friday afternoon in front of us, we headed west to the Midtown Alley neighborhood and settled into drinks at Urban Chestnut Brewing Company. Opened in early 2011 by former Anheuser-Busch brewmaster Florian Kuplent, the brewery occupies a former garage space and recently added an outdoor biergarten. Urban Chestnut divides their beer into two series: Revolution, focusing on "modern American" beers, and Reverence, focusing on "timeless European beer styles". Our group worked our way through five beers, including Old Tjikko, a spruce beer not unlike Sun King's Norwegian Blue, and a shared Thrale's bourbon barrel aged imperial stout.
Hoping to eventually catch up with some friends, we headed back downtown for a quick pint or two at the Schlafly tap room. Visits to the tap room often feel like a homecoming for Gina and me, as we've made many friends in our many visits over the years. We were greeted at the door by Schlafly brewmaster Stephen Hale (he wasn't waiting for us, it was just dumb luck), who welcomed us back.
Indianapolis has no brewery like Schlafly - a "face of St. Louis craft beer" brewery that's as almost as well known to Average Joe St. Louisian as it is to the dedicated craft beer drinker - though there are a few Indy breweries working their way towards that crown. Although Schlafly has been playing leader in St. Louis for over 20 years, they've continued to grow at a significant pace, and remain as relevant today - and perhaps even more so - than ever.
Hoping to catch up with some St. Louis legends - Mike Sweeney, Eric Hildebrandt, and Andrew Mark Veety, we scurried back to Soulard to make a visit to the International Tap House (ITap), where we also sort of met/looked at Bill Burge - 3 of the 4 being responsible for the excellent podcast StewedSTL.
Our fifth stop of the day brought us to Bailey's Range, a "burger and shake restaurant where everything is made from scratch using only 100% grass fed Missouri range beer" (their copy). We were met at the door by the soothing sounds of a blaring fire alarm - staff promised that nothing was on fire and that it would be turned off as soon as they found out how - so we took a seat at the end of the long communal table that fills the first floor.
Ski (a staple of my youth).
Taking a short break from the beer (but not the alcohol), I ordered up the Bailey's Horchata, a shake made with cinnamon ice cream, RumChata, and vanilla vodka. Others at the table ordered from Bailey's Boozy Ice Tea and Lemonade menus, and all of us were happy with our selections. Paired with a collection of burgers ranging from the Buzzed (an espresso rubbed burger topped with apples, diced onions, bacon, and blue cheese) to a temporary selection called The American (beef, grilled cheese patty, I forget what else), we left with our bellies over-full and happy about it.
Slightly unable to walk now (thanks to our full bellies) and teased by a tweet, we attempted to catch up with the namesake behind the beer known as Carlbock at the Civil Life Brewing Company.
Being pretty exhausted from a full day, we headed back to our hotel in the Central West End, for a quick rest before a reasonably forgettable nightcap at a neighborhood bar. Then to bed - another day calling.