Review: Flying Saucer Draught Emporium in St. Louis
It’s easy enough to dismiss Flying Saucer Draught Emporium as a prefabricated beer hall/restaurant chain. It is a chain – and a kitschy one at that. The St. Louis location – the 16th by the Texas-based group making serious bank on the imported and craft suds market – has all the hallmarks of its sister spots in Arkansas, Texas, Tennessee and the Carolinas. The company’s ubiquitous “beerknurd” culture is in full effect: Random collectable plates line the walls. Quirky-cute roller-derby-type waitresses deliver pints in uniform short skirts. And Beerknurds who join the UFO Club checkmark their way across a list of 200 beers to eventually get their name on the wall.
All the franchised hokeyness aside, St. Louis’ Flying Saucer is a beer-lovers’ dream. More than a fine addition to a downtown area much in need of new businesses, this is a great bar.
The Beer With 80 ever-revolving tap options and 150 bottles to choose from, it’s easy for even a veteran hops connoisseur to be intimidated. Rather than toss around a book-length, leather-bound beer menu, the Saucer folks offer a user-friendly, four-page newsletter-style handout that’s broken down by beer type: ales, lagers, hybrids, ciders, etc. Overall, there’s a nice mix of choices, both foreign and domestic, ranging from heavy to smooth and everything in between. The list even includes handy bullet points and highlights to call out local selections like Perennial, Civil Life, Urban Chestnut, Six Row, 4 Hands, Schlafly and Morgan Street. For just $3 on Sundays, you can enjoy a pint of the approximately 20 local options that made it onto the draft menu.
Those befuddled by the myriad options are welcome to free samples. Better yet, spend about $10 on a Saucer Flight, which includes five generous half-glass pours in themes like the Wheat Lover’s Flight, American Hophead or Around the World. The brew infusions take mixing and matching to a new level, combining Belgian witbier with framboise for the Raspberry and Cream, or a Bavarian hefeweizen with a splash of orange juice for the Hefe-Mosa. New arrivals and daily specials are called out on blackboards hovering over the bar. The “beertenders” and waitresses are exceptionally trained and happy to help out with detailed beer descriptions. But be prepared to settle in with your pint, as this well-informed service isn’t the swiftest.
The Food Heavy on brats, burgers, cheese, bread, German plates and cured meats, the menu is thankfully absent any Provel-infused flatbreads, deep-fried ravioli or “Stan the Man Burgers.” Instead, the build-your-own pizza option turned out the best pie I’ve had in recent memory. The herbed tomato sauce and savory finocchiona are the stuff of dreams. Less impressive was the Saucer Bratzel, a seemingly fantastic coupling of bratwurst and pretzel. The former was hardly enough to satisfy, and the latter was cemented to the plate by hardened Swiss cheese.
The Location It’s almost criminal that The Flying Saucer didn’t land here in time to lay claim to the landmark Flying Saucer building adjacent to SLU. Regardless, the Saucer’s actual location at 900 Spruce St., was especially well chosen to cater to stadium-goers and out-of-towners. As such, the Saucer serves to complement other beer halls (i.e. nearby iTap) that will no doubt continue to appeal more to local beer nerds.
The Crowd Unsurprisingly, on game days at nearby Busch Stadium, the Flying Saucer is awash with fans crowding the bar in deep lines – angling for open seats, navigating through an overflowing patio space hazy with cigarette smoke, or simply giving up and leaning against the nearest patch of brick wall to enjoy a stellar pint before piling into the stadium to overpay for plastic cups of blander beer. A much tamer, more laid-back crew of urban loft-dwellers, beer snobs and out-of-towners inhabit the Saucer during non-game days. It would be hard to imagine a more relaxed vibe than the one that seeps out of this place. Like any beer hall, this is a T-shirt and flip-flops, come-as-you-are type of joint that caters more to old college friends in their mid-30s than actual college kids. There is a not-so-subtle hint at this on the menu, which limits customers to only six pints per visit.