Review: Center Ice Brewery in Midtown
"GOAL!” is what hockey fans most likely think when they walk into Center Ice Brewery. Finally, a craft brewery lovingly conjured for those who bleed blue.
The Midtown spot embraces its hockey theme, but with enough restraint to be fun without sinking into kitsch. Decorated with Blues memorabilia and Blues-themed art, along with plenty of big-screen TVs, it’s more tasteful man cave than cheap, overstimulating sports bar. The long attractive bar and backdrop, made with reclaimed wood from the old St. Louis Arena, lend the space an inviting warmth.
No promises if you show up in a Blackhawks jersey, but service is generally friendly and laid-back, adding to the comfortable atmosphere. On a weekend night, especially when a game’s on, the place buzzes with an enthusiastic crowd adorned in Blues gear. Classic arena tunes blare over the speakers and patrons jovially shout over the din, resulting in a cheerfully loud vibe reminiscent of an exclusive private box at a game, but with better beer.
A quieter experience can be had in the back, around the brewing floor. Either way, you’ll want to take a peek – the brewing equipment is ringed by a rink wall, and there’s a penalty box in the corner perfect for selfies. Owner Steve Albers has thought of every detail, including a game-day shuttle to Scottrade Center.
Although the beer likely won’t wow die-hard craft enthusiasts (or snobs, however you want to look at it), there are some solid pours available among the half-dozen or so house beers on tap. Tasting flights are available, as well as wines, spirits and a few guest taps.
The American Golden is an easy-drinking ale with a clean finish. With a touch of citrus and just enough yeast to be interesting, it’s a refreshing, crowd-pleasing option. The American IPA on tap, Hop Shelf, is only mildly bitter – a solid choice for those who enjoy IPAs but not blasting off their tongues with hops.
Center Ice also offers two fruit-infused cream ales, the Raspberry Picker and the Blackberry Picker, both brewed with vanilla beans and lactose. In the former, fresh raspberries lend a nice acidic bite to balance out lactose creaminess, resulting in a sweet, but not sickly, option.
The Blackberry Picker, made with blackberry puree, is less successful. Unlike other blackberry beers, this curiously lacks any purple coloring, and the fruit flavor is too faint to make much impact. Similarly, the seasonal Ugly Christmas Sweater Stout, brewed with bourbon barrel-aged maple syrup, could use some tinkering – although it certainly smells of smoke and caramel, those strong flavors don’t come through on the palate.
Food is not currently offered, but patrons are welcome to bring in their own – and Center Ice is conveniently located next door to Southern and Pappy’s Smokehouse.
Sports fans looking for a local brewery where they can kick back with other enthusiasts and enjoy a few beers have found their spot. Not a die-hard or even lukewarm sports fan? Not required to enjoy Center Ice.
3126 Olive St., St. Louis, 314.339.5733, centericebrewery.com
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