Posted On: 05/01/2009
Itís Saturday night at the International Tap House in Chesterfield and Iím jammed, without a doubt, into the worst place to stand in the entire bar. Between the waitresses pushing past me with drink orders every few minutes and the endless string of yahoos nudging my back to contend for space at the bar, I hardly have a chance to enjoy my beer. But despite the circumstances, I canít help but smile. Iím actually having a great time: The drinks are flowing, the blondes across from me are flirting, and thereís a more-than-decent ballgame playing on the seven huge, HD flat-screens around the bar. Itís a nice place to be.
The International Tap House, or iTap, Chesterfield Valleyís new beer hall, isnít without a few drawbacks: The space, for instance, is maddeningly too small for weekend crowds, who cram in to every open nook and create a deafening atmosphere that makes conversations near impossible. But thereís a reason that iTap, which has fast become a local media darling since opening this winter, keeps drawing in the business: Itís just that good. The beer selection alone is the big reason to take notice: 40 draft brews plus an additional 460 bottles of lagers, stouts, porters, pilsners and more. A continually rotating draft menu hovers next to the bar and denotes each beerís alcohol content. European and regional domestic microbrews, starting at about $5, are served up in the proper glassware for each individual beer. Welcome to beer-snob nirvana.
The highfalutin selection aside, iTap has a perfect Everyman appeal that draws a casual crowd of friendlys out for a good time. Itís hard to pin down any certain demographic. West County 20-somethings fresh out of college are packed into the black leather chairs that line the bar next to rough, leather-clad bikers. At a table next to the massive 2,100-cubic-foot bottle cooler, middle-aged couples work on their umpteenth round of hefeweizen while negotiating a takeout menu. (iTap doesnít have a kitchen but is happy to take orders for delivery from neighboring establishments.) Live music fans appreciate the acoustical stylings of a guitarist who summoned up the voices of everyone from Eric Clapton to Better Than Ezra.
Specific beer recommendations are pointless Ė this is the type of menu you need to sample for yourself. Itís hard to go wrong. I started out with a Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier, a light and zesty little number in a tall pilsner glass, then proceeded to shift into high gear with an 8 percent alcohol Maudite, a dark Canadian ale with a heavy kick at each finish. Despite the crowd, all my drafts were served up fast and pitch-perfect in terms of flavor, temperature and carbonation.
A basic happy hour is offered Monday through Friday, but the real deal is the $12 ďKill the KegĒ special, wherein a bottomless cup is available for a certain draft option.
Obviously the word is out about iTap. As such, itís advisable to post up early and snag a table Ė especially on weekends, when mingling, people-watching and pickup line-dropping are at their height. And be sure to add to your table that roommate who spent a semester abroad and couldnít stop talking about how great the beer was Ė if this place wonít shut him up, then nothing will.
STL AFTER DARK
Check it: The 2,100-cubic-foot reach-in cooler.
Hipster or Hoosier: Thereís room for everyone at iTap, from preppies to bikers. A soon-to-open patio should help ease crowds.
Suds or ĎTinis: With 500 selections, itís all about the beer.
Where: The International Tap House, 161 Long Road, Chesterfield, 636.537.8787
When: Mon. to Wed. Ė 3 p.m. to midnight, Thu. and Fri. Ė 3 p.m. to 1:30 a.m., Sat. Ė 11 a.m. to 1:30 a.m., Sun. Ė noon to midnight
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