Category Archives: New Beer

Hopshot!: Bell’s Expedition Stout

The snow is receding, but the journey is not yet complete. Another expedition awaits…

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Urban Chestnut Brewing Company


My wife and I had a date night last night (we’re both pretty anti-Valentine’s Day, so it is merely a coincidence that it was this weekend–at least that’s what she tells me).  We started at Pho Grand (http://www.phogrand.com/) where I had some fantastic Chicken Curry (19.04 if you know Pho) and then headed to Urban Chestnut Brewing Company (http://www.urbanchestnut.com/home).  I had been hearing a lot about this new STL brewery, so the hype factor was certainly high.  The brewery is housed in a 1920s era garage in St. Louis’s Midtown Alley (one of the newer STL urban renewal areas) and has a very calculated industrial chic feel to it–exposed beams and ductwork, brushed metal and warm wood.  The original workshop area of the building is where the actual brewery is located; large metal and glass windows (where the bay doors would have been) are illuminated at night to show off the shiny

A packed Saturday Night @ Urban Chestnut Brewing Company

brewing equipment from the street.  The main part of the building has become the warmly lit and very inviting tasting room and was, last night at least, pretty packed.  The crowd seemed to run the gamut from beardy beer geeks to older couples out for the night and, for the most part, everyone seemed to be digging the live music.  The atmosphere was altogether warm and inviting (I kept looking around for Tiny Tim and a blazing hearth) and really seemed like a great place to go and hang out on a regular basis (wish I lived closer).

Amy and I were able to try two beers (we were kind of pressed for time and the distance from home limited how much we could drink).  Urban Chestnut has two “lines” of beers:  Reverence (“Our celebration of beer’s heritage ~ brewing classically-crafted, timeless European beer styles”) and Revolution (“Our contribution to the renaissance of craft beer—brewing artisanal, modern American beers”).  We decided to try one from each.

Hopfen: "Bavarian IPA"--ABV- 6.2%, IBU’s- 55

Being the hop lover that I am, I went with the Hopfen (ABV- 6.2%, IBU’s- 55)–a “‘Bavarian IPA’…brewed and dry-hopped with a variety of Hallertau Hops”.  I loved it immediately.  Bold, hoppy, crisp and refreshing.  I could have had 10 of them, judging by how easily the first one went down.

Amy is a malty kind of girl, so she went with the Harwood Myth (ABV- 5.3%, IBU’s-28) an English Style Brown Porter with a smooth and light presence that betrays its deep brown color.  There was cocoa and caramel just like the description said and as my wife commented, “smoked chocolate?  If there is such a thing…”

I can tell  that repeated visits to Urban Chestnut will be necessary to fully determine it’s place in the St. Louis beer scene, but the preliminary data is definitely positive.  The atmosphere is like someone’s living room (assuming of course that someone has great taste and lots of beer) and the beer itself doesn’t seem like it should be from a brewery that is in its first few months of production.  In fact, pretty much every aspect of the brewery–website, logo, marketing, tap handles, glassware–is extremely polished.  I can’t wait to see where Urban Chestnut goes in the coming years. If they keep on their current track, the only place to go will be up.

Have you been to Urban Chestnut?  What did you think?  Let me know in the comments.

Hopslammed!: Bell’s Hopslam (2011)


Worth the hype?

Bell’s Hopslam
Style: Double India Pale Ale
ABV: 10%
100% on RateBeer

So let’s just get this out of the way.  This beer is 18 bucks a six pack.  Yes.  $18.  That’s like wine prices.  3 bucks per bottle makes this beer more expensive than most bar prices of Bud Light/Select/Weiser/Wheat/Dry/Ice.  That said, this beer, in so many ways, is not for the faint of heart.  But I promise you, if you take the financial leap your taste buds will thank you.  (Well….maybe that’s not entirely true.  If you are not a fan of the IPA style you probably won’t like this beer.  Also if your thing is to drink a whole lot of beer at once because you’re still living vicariously through the memory of your college days when the beer tasted like water, there are other beers for you.   At 10% ABV and nearly double the price of most sixes of “good beer”, Hopslam is meant to be enjoyed and, dare I say, cherished.)

Hopslam also seems to be one of the more sought after beers in the area, despite its price.  It is only released as a seasonal and is therefore limited.  There’s a good chance that even as I write this that St. Louis retailers might be dry.  I got mine at Bombay Wine and Spirits in St. Charles and it was the second to the last six pack of two cases that had only come in an hour before.  The Wine and Cheese Place tweeted that Hopslam was finally in stock on January 18th and then tweeted again shortly thereafter that they were sold out.  The Stable tweeted today that they were tapping a cask of Hopslam tonight (1/21) at 6 pm, which is sure to go extremely quickly.  Now, this may be a case of Bell’s shorting supply to increase demand–like Cabbage Patch Kids, Tickle Me Elmos, and the Wii–but when you taste it, it’s hard to argue that Hopslam is merely hype.  This is a good beer.

The first thing that hits you when you pour the beer, is the floral aroma of the hops.  It’s sweet and citrusy, but definitely hints at the bitterness to come.  If you’re not a fan of IPA bitterness, this will definitely drive you away.  However,  if you are adventurous your pioneering spirit is rewarded with an extremely balanced and fresh tasting hoppy treat.  Grapefruit and honey.  Peach and Pine tree.  And a nice hop bite on the back end.  And you will never realize this beer is 10%.  There is no alcohol burn during any part of the tasting.  It is easy drinking and smooth.

Hopslam is a fantastic beer–one that I wait for each year, but I don’t think I would recommend it to everyone.  This is mostly because I’m selfish and that would push demand even higher 🙂 , but also because I don’t really think this beer is for everyone.  If you aren’t a fan of bitter beers, you aren’t going to like this and it will possibly turn you off of the IPA style altogether (I would recommend a Founder’s Centennial IPA or if you want to get local an O’Fallon 5 Day IPA those are much more akin to “gateway” IPAs than Hopslam).  This is a serious beer for serious beer drinkers with a fairly steep entry fee.  But I promise you….it’s worth it.

The following band, Sleigh Bells, is an acquired taste–and I’ll be honest, I haven’t really acquired it yet–but I love the sound of this song and thought it would pair nicely with a bottle of Hopslam….plus the band has the word Bells in it so it totally fits 🙂  Here is “Rill Rill” by Sleigh Bells:

Pure Comfort: Schlafly Christmas Ale

Schlafly Christmas Ale: Great for the holidays!

Schlafly Christmas Ale
Style:  Spiced Amber Ale
ABV:  8%
85% on RateBeer

I picked this beer up just before Thanksgiving and as anyone who has been following me on Twitter or Beerby knows that I’ve had a bunch of these since.  There just seemed to be so many occasions to keep buying it. Plus, it’s good.  Really good.

The beer pours a nice deep amber.  First thing you get in the smell is the citrus–specifically orange peel– and a little bit of spice (pepper or the cloves–I’m not sure which).  The first taste, for me, was a ton of vanilla and thickness- like they added lactose to it to beef up the body.  The spices come next: cloves and cinnamon, but unlike some of the ratings on RateBeer, I didn’t think it was too much.  Then again, I was expecting a decent amount of spice; it is a holiday beer after all.

To me, this beer is just pure goodness.  Warm.  Extremely palatable.  Comforting like Mom’s meatloaf and mashed potatoes.  This is the perfect beer to curl up with by a fire after a full day of wrapping Christmas presents or playing in the snow.  Go out and get this beer today before it’s gone!

Summer Camp is Jeremy Warmsley and Elizabeth Sankey

Pair this beer with a cover song that has been making it’s rounds on music blogs this year: a cover of “Christmas Wrapping” originally by The Waitresses. This one’s is by the indie-pop duo, Summer Camp. Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

Sunday Snapshot!

Christmas tree lights shine
Schlafly Christmas Ale’s sooo good
Season in full swing

A Celebration in My Mouth: Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale 2010

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale (2010)

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale
Style:  India Pale Ale
ABV:  6.8%

Celebration Ale is a much loved seasonal beer (98 on RateBeer!) from Sierra Nevada.  The beer is, “dry-hopped for a lively, intense aroma. Brewed especially for the holidays.”  Even though this tastes nothing like the holidays to me (maybe it tastes like California holidays), this is a great beer.  I’ve come to look forward to it each year.    It’s so fresh and grapefruity.  I love it.  It makes a nice counterpoint to all of the rich, dark, spicy beers I usually drink at this time of year.  The beer has an excellent hop bite that gets you right on the back of the tongue, which for some reason feels different than the typical IPA bite.

I wouldn’t say that this beer is for those who are generally not a fan of IPA’s–it does have a kick–but if you are open even just the littlest bit to the floral/bitterness of hops, then you might want to seek this one out.  It’s not going to knock your socks off with the hops, but it’s no Pale Ale either.