A Visit to Schafly Tap Room
All photos by Kevin Gibson
A visit to a craft brewery’s tap room is like a vacation in itself – especially if said tap room is as cozy and fun as Schlafly’s tap room in downtown St. Louis.
Opened in 1991, Schlafly’s was the first brewery tap room to open in St. Louis after Prohibition. While in town recently for a Monday Night Football game, a friend and I decided to have lunch at Schlafly and to take in the surroundings, along with some beer. It was a good decision, for several reasons.
For starters, I counted 16 brews on tap, from standards like Kolsch and the Pale Ale to a blackberry cider and a couple of cask ales. That’s a lot by comparison to most microbreweries I visit – I’m accustomed to choosing from between 8 and 10, or maybe 12 for a slightly larger craft brewer.
The best part is that Schlafly has a build-your-own sampler flight – you can get a beginner’s flight, which includes five permanent brews and one seasonal, or you can be adventurous, branch out and pick the six you want.
I decided to mix it up, while also ordering the Moules-Frites – mussels and fries – for lunch, opting for the Kolsch-steamed version of the latter, which included plenty of bacon and garlic in the steam pot as well.
The tap room is actually part of a spacious, multi-room layout, which also includes brewing space, plus an entire separate bar section that is reserved for night-time crowds, including live music. The brick walls and exposed ceilings mesh with the wood trim and European-feeling bar for a beer-tasting experience that’s hard to top.
I ended up tasting seven beers in all, including:
Eighty Shilling Ale (4.0 percent ABV, 21 IBU) – This is a mild Scottish-style ale with a smooth body. Easy to drink and light on the hops, you can session this beer or, heck, even buy one for your mom. (Editor's note: guess you've never had a drink with MY mom...)
Blackberry Cider (7.0 percent ABV) – This one is crisp, tart and carbonated to the point that it drinks almost like a sparkling wine. In fact, its pink complexion makes it look like a White Zinfandel.
Tasmanian IPA (7.2 percent ABV, 60 IBU) – The big nose on this beast actually outdistances the bitterness by just a bit. It will absolutely open your sinuses, and yet it isn’t the hop orgy you might expect once it hits the palate. The galaxy hops (all the way from Tasmania) are just assertive enough.
Sour Blond Ale (4.9 percent ABV, 10 IBU) – This one is crispy with a citrusy sourness – like beer meets a very tart lemonade, in a way. It’s quite unique and tasty.
Rye IPA (6.4 percent ABV, 50 IBU) – One of two cask ales on tap at Schlafly, this cloudy, reddish-brown ale has a very nice bite – almost like a ryed bourbon. A few glasses of these could kick your butt. You know, like a ryed bourbon.
Dry Hopped APA (5.9 percent ABV, 50 IBU) – This is an old favorite of mine – it’s just a solid APA, and something my palate loves. It’s golden, medium-hopped and damn near perfect. Try it with hot wings.
Coffee Stout (6.8 percent ABV, 40 IBU) – This one was probably the top taste of the day, with a nice coffee nose to go with a big flavor and mouthfeel, mixed with a nice malt character.
Ah yes, and about those mussels: For the price (about 16 bucks), I expected maybe a dozen and a half mussels, perfect for a light lunch. Instead, I got what seemed to be a never-ending pot of the shellfish – I wouldn’t be surprised if someone told me there were 50, because I lost count about a third of the way through.
When I finally finished, the empty pot sitting next to a plate holding a mountain of empty shells, the bartender collected the remains and said, “You did a good job with those.”
I thanked him, and he said, “They seem to multiply as you eat them, don’t they?”
Indeed they do. Word to the wise: If you’re in St. Louis and you order the Moules-Frites at Schlafly, be sharing or be starving.