6 St. Louis breweries with great food
We know they make great beer, but area breweries have stepped up their gastronomic game, too. Some, like Schlafly and Civil Life Brewing Co., hire in-house talent; others partner with established concepts, as 2nd Shift Brewing did with Guerrilla Street Food. Still other breweries and chefs aim for something exciting and new (we’re looking you, Rockwell Beer Co. and Niche Food Group). Whether you’re hunting for tasty vegetarian ’cue or classic German fare to accompany that Pilsner, these six area breweries offer so much more than great beer.
1. Perennial Artisan Ales
Chef Kaleigh Brundick works wonders with a hot plate and panini press. Perennial’s menu changes weekly, but the humble grilled cheese with thick slabs of fontina, Prairie Breeze and a rotating jam (right now, it’s onion-thyme) is a constant that satisfies our inner child and our indulgent adult. (Pro tip: Accompany each bite with a Kicker Billy Goat chip for the perfect spicy/gooey/salty combo.) There’s always a locally sourced seasonal salad or tartine, each thoughtfully composed with pickled/shaved/raw/roasted elements that elevate this brewery fare to so much more than utilitarian snacks for continued drinking.
2. Heavy Riff Brewing Co.
Some of St. Louis’ best vegetarian barbecue is found at a rock-n-roll Dogtown brewery. Heavy Riff’s seitan actually spends significant time in the smoker and doesn’t require a deluge of sauce to make it enjoyable. Before you roll your eyes and jump to the next brewery on this list, pause and pay respect to Heavy Riff’s monster Reuben. This mountain of house-cured and smoked brisket, gooey cheese, kraut and smoked Thousand Island dressing is a force to be reckoned with. And everyone can agree to break Heavy Riff’s spent-grain beer bread; slather each dense slice with green onion cream cheese or orange-tinged butter.
3. Urban Chestnut Brewery and Bierhall
On any given night, the long wood tables at Urban Chestnut Brewing Co.’s massive Bierhall are laden with pints and trays of schnitzel, sausages and paper bags of pomme frites. We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: Eat. These. Fries. Order a large – for yourself – with garlic mayo and fry sauce, and live your best life. UCBC chef Andy Fair has a knack for making heavy German dishes seem lighter than they are, like the ethereal salt cod brandade beignets with house tartar sauce and puffy cinnamon-sugar churros (a decidedly not German dessert) with warm chocolate sauce.
4. 4 Hands Brewing Co.
James Beard Award-winner Kevin Nashan and sous chef John Messbarger bring a taste of Peacemaker Lobster and Crab Co. to 4 Hands, right down to the brisket po’boy and seasoned potato chips. The chopped salad lulls you into a false sense of health; surely the mountain of romaine and tomatoes (covered in ranch, bacon, egg and avocado) means you deserve another beer. We opt to split platters of meaty peel-and-eat Gulf shrimp with house cocktail sauce. Just wash your hands before you faceoff on “Tapper” – no one likes a shellfish-scented joystick.
5. Earthbound Beer
The quirky Earthbound crew has always championed Cherokee Street, so naturally they partnered with neighbor Vista Ramen to helm the brewery’s food program. Mothership is the meal you’d eat if Vista chefs Chris Bork and Josh Adams invited you to a backyard barbecue in North Carolina. Ascend to the floating mezzanine with a mushroom-y veggie burger (doctored with house Carolina mustard sauce and extra pickles, per Adams’ advice), all the sides and cornbread so good, you’d swear they stole the recipe from someone’s unsuspecting southern granny, if not for the gochugang-honey butter on the side.
6. Narrow Gauge Brewing Co.
Yes, dear reader, we know this Italian-American eatery was around long before Narrow Gauge co-owner Jeff Hardesty brewed in the basement, but Cugino’s has become the de facto tasting room for Hardesty’s stellar Northeast IPAs. Cugino’s unpretentious meaty, cheesy menu hits the spot after a drink or two. Exhibit A: Softball-sized meatballs, stuffed with a glob of Provel, then breaded and deep fried like a carnivore’s arancini. Crack them open and watch the cheese lava ooze. Exhibit B: The Luigi burger, the simplest on the menu, still weighs in at a whopping half-pound and is smothered with bacon and four cheeses. It’s not healthy, it’s not diet-friendly – and we’re so happy.
Catherine Klene is managing editor, digital at Sauce Magazine.
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