Tap Into the Microbrew Craze in St. Louis

1. Where to Stay

Hotel Ignacio's décor is inspired by the arts.Photo: Courtesy of Hotel Ignacio

Sleep in the space age at The Moonrise (from $190), a lunar-themed hotel that balances galactic quirk (a giant moon sculpture sits on top) with mid-century furnishings designed by Eames and Bertoia. Catch the view of downtown from the rooftop bar, where performers and concertgoers head after shows let out at nearby music venue, the Pageant.

Wake up to a sprawling vista of the Frederick Law Olmstead–designed Forest Park from your room at the Chase Park Plaza (from $209), which rises above the Central West End neighborhood and its turn-of-the-century mansions. This grand hotel has roots going back to the twenties, but wasn’t restored to its former glory until the nineties. After lounging at the pool, retreat inside for a movie on one of the five screens at the Chase Park Plaza Cinemas.

Surround yourself with the arts at Hotel Ignacio (from $190), which features an art collection amassed by nearby Saint Louis University. Rooms are themed by medium — performance, architecture, music, and fine art, and boast green elements such as bamboo sheets and towels. Stop into Café Pintxos after 4 p.m. for Basque small plates like albondigas ($5) or octopus salad ($11).

2. Where to Eat

Entre: Underground switches its location and menu every month. Photo: Tuan Lee

Sign up for the monthly dinner hosted by supper club Entre: Underground and dine in a cornfield, Victorian house, or a sprawling art gallery for one of chef John Perkin’s multi-course “clandestine” events (around $60 a person). The menus, often inspired by a theme or ingredient, are posted on the website and accessible by password, but the locations are revealed only on the day of the meal.

Tuck into locally sourced small plates at Farmhaus where Chef Kevin Willmann, one of Food & Wine magazine’s Best New Chefs for 2011, cooks with products from regional farmers and artisans, including everything from artisanal cheeses to heirloom tomatoes. Try the bacon-wrapped meatloaf for dinner ($14), or for lunch, the blue plate special ($10; Mon.–Thu. only) features elevated takes on classics like macaroni and cheese and green bean casserole.

Savor chef Gerard Craft’s five-course tasting menu (about $65) or the Monday night three-course suppers menu ($30) at Niche, hidden away in Benton Park. If available, have the crispy octopus, the duo of shredded pork and pork belly, and finish it off with hickory-smoked ice cream. Alternatively, seek out other options from Craft’s mini-empire, like Taste, a cocktail-focused speakeasy of sorts, and Brasserie by Niche, a soaring, banquet-lined space where classic French dishes dominate the menu.

3. What to Do

Urban Chestnut's brews are made on-site and can be sipped in the beer garden or in the tasting room.Photo: Courtesy of Urban Chestnut Brewery

Start your beer tour at The Stable, opened in 2008 in the space that once housed horses that hauled beer for the now-defunct Lemp Brewery, once the country’s biggest brewer. Sample the in-house Amalgamated IPA ($5) or one of the other 36 beers from around the country on tap. If you’re there in October, head to the “Monsters of Beer” gathering, which exclusively features high-alcohol-content brews.

Grab a growler at Urban Chestnut, opened in January, where brewmaster (and former Anheuser-Busch employee) Florian Kuplent taps into his Bavarian roots with beers like the Winged Nut ($5.50), brewed with chestnuts, or the Zwickel, a classic German lager ($5). Sample the beers in the biergarten or the tasting room, housed in a sleekly renovated twenties garage, or take some to go ($27 for first growler, $12 each thereafter).

Head to the southern edge of the city to find Perennial Artisan Ales (opening in September) in a sprawling loft complex that once was a Coca-Cola plant. Avoid the lager-and-ale rut with unique offerings from brewmaster Phil Wymore, who trained at Chicago’s Goose Island Brewery, like a chamomile saison or a strawberry-rhubarb witbier. ($4–$6) Inspired by the city’s burgeoning artisan food scene, Perennial’s tasting room will feature small plates by the cured meat specialists at Salume Beddu.

Get a view of the brewing operation a few feet away at a standing-only table at The Civil Life Brewing Company (opening in September), a former newspaper distribution center that’s been transformed into an old-world-inspired pub and beer garden. The brewing program is helmed by first-time brewer Dylan Mosley; he’s currently producing standards like American brown ale and British bitter ale ($4–$6).

4. Insider’s Tip

The Wine and Cheese Place ships regional beers around the country.Photo: Courtesy of The Wine and Cheese Place

Missouri law prohibits all breweries from shipping directly to consumers, but sidestep the rules by heading to The Wine and Cheese Place, which has four locations in the area, including one a short trip outside the city limits in Clayton. Ask for Paul Hayden, the in-house beer expert, and he’ll assemble a line-up of Missouri-made brews that you can send home, and you can also order online.

5. Oddball Day

Tower Grove Park (left) and the Missouri Botanical Garden offer green space in the middle of the city.Photo: Courtesy of Tower Grove Park and Missouri Botanical Garden

Take a day off from sitting and swilling beer to walk around two of the city’s greenest neighborhoods. Start with a vegan burrito with soy bacon ($6.75) or even a vegan cupcake ($2.75) at Sweet Art in the Shaw area. Then saunter over to the Missouri Botanical Garden and commune with orchids and tropical birds in the Climatron. Next, head over to Local Harvest Café for lunch and take your pick from a menu of inventive, locally sourced dishes. Wander around the surrounding “Mofo” area, named after Morganford Road, and stop into Local Harvest Grocery, where you can pick up Missouri specialties like pear jam and honey wine. Spend the afternoon exploring the Victorian touches in Tower Grove Park where you can see striped, onion-domed pavilions, throw a game of horseshoes, or catch some fierce softball games. If you’re there for “Food Truck Friday,” held once a month, pick up an evening snack from one of the city’s best food trucks. Then give your legs a rest at your hotel before finishing the day with St. Louis–inspired cocktails like the Soulard Sling ($7), named after a neighborhood that hosts the second largest Mardi Gras outside New Orleans, and Sriracha-laden fish tacos ($10) at The Royale.

6. Links

Check out the calendar of events on local indie radio station KDHX, or tune in to some of their programs, like Coin Operated Radio, on Tuesday nights.

For the latest on what breweries and bars are pouring, hit STLHops. Or get local blogger Evan Benn’s recommendations and insights at Hip Hops.

To get reviews of restaurants and find out where the latest food-centric gatherings are, refer to Sauce magazine or pick up a hard copy.

Go deep into the underground food scene or find a local bartering circle at underWAREs, a food ‘zine launched in January.

Tap Into the Microbrew Craze in St. Louis