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Sep 01, 2014
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Intelligent Content For The Food Fascinated
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
Nightlife
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Welcome to Forgotten-Beer Heaven at Tin Can Tavern
By Sean Hixson - Photo by Allyson Mace
Posted On: 09/02/2005   


I don’t know why I thought I could handle Camo Super
Premium High Gravity Lager. I’d seen Camo on the shelf at city convenience stores for years. The fact that it always sat next to the MD 20/20 rainbow – let alone came in a camouflaged can – should have been a sign. But, after drinking one Stag, one Schlitz and two Olympias, my judgment was shot. I thought I was tough. I talked junk to my friends: “Four beers for the price of one, fellas.”

When the first sip tasted like boxed wine, I should have put it down, but at $3 for 24 ounces of 8.5-percent beer, I finished my Camo in spite. By sip seven, I had a slight headache. By sip 12, I was uncomfortably buzzed and text messaging girls I shouldn’t. By sip 18, I was way loaded and had to leave the bar. Yes, bar. I wasn’t drinking Camo outside Big Bob’s Market; I was inside a South City tavern.

The look …
While a recent addition to South City, Tin Can already fits right in. The exterior would be incredibly nondescript, but the entrance has been emblazoned with a large, kitschy, red-and-black “Tin Can Tavern and Grill” sign. Readers may remember me criticizing bars for having exterior marquee signs too small or too poorly lit. Stevie Wonder could see this thing.

The interior divides into three sections, slightly reminiscent of a small split-level ranch in Crestwood – a ranch dominated by red paint, corrugated aluminum and beer signs. The large middle landing holds the bar, four-tops and a table-and-pew combo, as well as antique beer cans and Cardinals memorabilia behind Plexiglass trophy cases. The rear upper section (nonsmoking) is all tables, while the rear lower section (dubbed The Mill Lounge) is all fun. Rows of “antique” beer cans circle all three sections, making great conversation pieces: “Yikes, is that VP Fair Beer?”

The Tin Can is reminiscent of college downstairs in The Mill Lounge with a black-leather couch and loveseat, a small television actually built into the wall (with a Sega Genesis gaming system straight out of 1993) and stand-up pinball and video games. I think this is exactly how I wanted my apartment to look from ages 18 to 24.

Nearly every item on the menu is listed on the chalkboard hanging from the wall; no seat is out of view of a television, which is inevitably showing the Cardinals game.

The scene …
With live music ($2 cover for acoustic rock) Thursday through Sunday, it would seem that Tin Can would attract Rolling Stones/White Stripes fans. But, on my visits, music seemed to be an afterthought, with the Cardinal game attracting the vast majority of attention. A plethora of televisions makes Tin Can at least some part sports bar. Heck, people stood and cheered during the Cardinal games. Patrons hit a wide, but nearly all-white, age range – tatted 21-year-old college hipster, Polo-wearing 55-year-old sales rep, 35-year-old Zubaz-wearing hoosier.

A friend with rural-Missouri roots compared the look and feel of Tin Can to country culture in which, come weekend, the men sit in the shed out back, drinking beer and watching the game, while the women sit inside and gossip. The analogy holds somewhat – particularly in The Mill Lounge – but, females, pretty females at that, are well-represented. On a Friday at 11 p.m., I’d give a 3-to-1 male/female ratio. I’ve never seen Tin Can not crowded. A recent Tuesday night saw 75 percent of the tables occupied. Weekends are more packed. Dress is casual.

Honestly, beer – incredibly cheap, nostalgic beer – is the main draw for Tin Can. People come for the novelty of drinking beer they haven’t had for 13 years or haven’t seen since sitting with their grandfathers in the shed.

The products …
You’ll be shocked at the beer menu’s length (more than 50 mostly low-quality varieties) and prices (cheap as hell) but more so in the fact that some of these beers are still being produced. I mean, who is drinking Olympia Gold Light, Schlitz, Stroh’s, Colt 45? WHO? Well, tonight you are, for $1.50 per can. Read that again. You can buy a beer, at a bar, for under $2. More importantly, buy a koozie for $2 from the bar and Sharpie marker it up however you like it.

The aforementioned “low-quality” designation is by and large true, but my brother swears Stroh’s is a great, hoppy beer, and he’s a beer snob. The biggest novelty item in this novelty bar is, by far, the 40-ounce bottle of Olde English 800. You know, “8 Ball,” “OE” – the preferred beer of ‘80s gangsta rappers and ‘90s frat boys. Lastly, at whatever cost, stay away from Camo. It’s mean.

While Tin Can offers the usual mixed drinks and some wine, I don’t care. Canned beer is the gimmick and canned beer you’ll have. The food menu is generally comfort foods best accompanied with, as Mike Shannon would say, a “cold, frosty one.” Stuff like pork steaks, meatloaf, chili and fried bologna.

The friendly staff is as attentive as possible, but on weeknights, it seems like only one bartender works the whole bar. Weekends aren’t much better.

The straight 411 …
To drink beer you didn’t know still existed for less than $2 in a frat-boy/shed décor, head to Tin Can.

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