Review: Urban Chestnut Brewing Co. in St. Louis

The most recent in the string of new microbreweries popping up around our fair city, Urban Chestnut Brewing Co., mixes innovative flavor with traditional, Old World style. Drowning out corporate stereotypes, the barkeeps here shell out tall frosty ones that remind drinkers why St. Louis is the beer capital of this hemisphere.

Moreover, this is a fun place to be. Housed in a renovated 1920s garage on the quiet western strip of Washington Avenue, UCBC is the latest addition to the rapidly growing nightlife renaissance of the up-and-coming Midtown Alley area. Smartly situated blocks away from the thumping house music, watered-down cocktails and incessant traffic of downtown Wash. Ave., the microbrewery is well-suited for a laid-back night out or post-dinner drinks with friends.

The space: The main hall, or tasting room, located on the east side of the vintage structure, sits adjacent to an enormous brewing room stocked with custom-made equipment visible through massive glass doorways. Patrons grab what chairs they can around a handful of dark wooden tables and the bar, which fill up a minimalist space replete with exposed brick walls and a stone floor. Still under construction is an outdoor German biergarten with traditional narrow wooden tables shipped in from Europe that will seat about 100 when it’s up and running.

The scene: Live acoustic performers and a steady hum of lively chatter fill the tasting room, which is full by 8 p.m. on a Saturday night. Just a couple months old, UCBC is already packing in tables full of thirsty masses of trendy, attractive, upwardly mobile, post-college, craft brew connoisseurs from throughout the city. Dress code? Not so much. Think casual, come as you are. Think flip-flops.

The booze: Now to the important part. Like any good beer hall, Chestnut focuses on one thing and one thing only: the brew. In this regard, Chestnut is a standout. Co-founders Florian Kuplent and David Wolfe honed their craft during tenures at Anheuser-Busch, the former as a brewmaster and latter as a marketing director.

Their brewery offers a dual approach with two beer lines: Revolution, or artisanal modern American craft beers, and Reverence, which embraces more classical, European styles. The rotating draft menu features about a dozen varieties, which, on my visits, ranged from a sweeter Weissbier to a rich, dark English porter (the Harwood Myth, probably the best offering in the house), each in their own distinctive glasses. To my disappointment, the Zwickel, UCBC’s smooth flagship lager, was unavailable on my visits. Still, the other options didn’t disappoint. A good starting place would be the Hopfen, a Bavarian-style IPA dry-hopped with a variety of Hallerhau hopfen (hops) that gives it a swift kick. Still can’t make up your mind? Not a problem. Without a doubt, the best aspect of UCBC is the free sample tastes generously poured by the congenial staff behind the bar, who provide prompt service despite the occasional overcrowdedness.

Though it’s still getting on its feet, UCBC is already a happening place to pass a fun evening on the lesser-trodden section of Washington Avenue. And with the promise of the addition of a new biergarten to St. Louis’ social menu, expect UCBC’s popularity to only increase as the weather warms.

Where: Urban Chestnut Brewing Co., 3229 Washington Ave., St. Louis, 314.222.0143
When: Tue. and Wed. – 11 a.m. to midnight, Thu. to Sat. – 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.
Check It: Massive, custom-made brewing equipment pumping in fresh suds.
Hipster or Hoosier: An enjoyable mingling of craft brew enthusiasts, ex-frat boy types, laid-back groups of friends.
Suds or ’Tinis: Suds and only suds. Ask the bartender for a sampling.

Tags : Places, Reviews, Beer