After an irregularly long, cold winter, Saint Louisans are searching for signs of spring’s final arrival. There are many signs, and we regard them as irrefutable evidence of the final end of winter and the arrival of warm sunny days best spent among friends in a pleasant beer garden, preferably one on Holt Avenue.
We have seen the crocus, the daffodil, and the hyacinth. We have heard the varied songs of a round of robins, a murmuration of starlings, and a college of cardinals. We have sought refreshing beers and have been rewarded with Witbier, Pink Boots Hopped Table Beer, and Circle 7 American Wheat; yet these stellar beers, while refreshing, did not seem to constitute proof positive that spring was firmly established.
This year, the most potent evidence of spring is the arrival of the first round of lager yeast. Today our team of crack brewers was hard at work making a brand new beer, cleverly named “Civil Lager.” Behind a byzantine system of polished alembics and retorts, Seymour could be heard muttering things like “dead simple beer,” “all pilsner malt,” “German hops,” and “the perfect beer to pair with tacos.”
While laughing maniacally, he dumped a metal pail brimming with German Magnum hops into his cauldron. Spring, it seems, is here.
Civil Lager is the first of this year’s lagers beers, and you can expect it on tap in about a month or so. It should be clean, crisp, and dry, with pleasant hop spice and grainy malt goodness. If you come on a Sunday in a month or so, you can test Seymour’s hypothesis about this beer’s otherworldly ability to pair with tacos.
Next, our Dortmunder will return. This old favorite will no doubt be cheered by the thirsty regulars who enjoyed this delicious lager the first time we brewed it. Our Dortmunder drinks like a big pilsner. It has a grainy/bready malt intensity, but remains crisp and refreshing, with classic noble hop spice.
And then our classic Vienna Lager will return. This beautiful deep amber beer is dry and toasty with bready malt and noble hop spice. The last time we brewed this beer, almost 10% of it was consumed by the combined Saint Louis metro area, while the remaining 90% of it was consumed by Alex and Charlie. You’ll know supplies are low when you see them arm wrestling for the final pints.
Lagers are coming back, Civil friends! Spring is finally here. We have plenty of other tasty options to slake your thirst until the lagers hit the taps, but know they are on the way as surely as the return of yard work and sunburns. Welcome spring and welcome lagers!
“Bee Civil”: How Your Three Favorite Brewers (with the Help of 138,240 Honey Bees) Made the Most Exciting New Beer in Saint Louis
COMING SOON: FEB. 14, 2018 to be exact!
We are very excited to release a brand new beer here at the Civil Life. As some of you may know, Jake’s family has been keeping bees and making honey. His cousin Nick and his parents Justine and Pete have been hard at work managing about twenty hives spread around Saint Genevieve County, Missouri. With a lot of local honey available, a honey beer seemed like a great idea.
Our “Bee Civil” Honey Wheat is something of a hybrid. Essentially an American style wheat beer, it uses a Kölsch yeast strain and a new “noble” variety of Citra hops with reduced bitterness. Expect a beautiful bright yellow beer with snow-white foam. As honey is extremely fermentable, the beer is dry. Although honey accounts for a full 20% of the total mash, its sugars were easily transformed into alcohol, yet the delicate flavor and aroma of wild flower honey are evident.
We worked closely with a representative of the USDA’s National Honey Board in developing our recipe and brewing procedure. Though we did not boil the honey, we did carefully raise it to pasteurization temperature before cooling it and adding it to the fermenter. In this way, we preserved the delicate aromas and flavors that would be lost at higher temperatures.
In addition to 150 pounds of local honey, we used pilsner malt and three types of wheat. The bready character of the malt marries beautifully with the subtle honey notes. Kölsch yeast gives the beer a clean finish without the overpowering notes of fruit or spice common in some wheat beers. Noble Citra hops impart pleasant notes of citrus and tropical fruit without the harsh bitterness common in traditional American hop varieties.
Overall, this beer is crisp and refreshing with layered flavors and a dry finish. We couldn’t have done it without Jake’s family, though, and all those hard-working bees. Nick really does estimate the number of bees involved as 138,240. It’s rumored he has named each one of them. Nick claims that to make just one pound of honey, bees travel 55,000 miles total and visit 2,000,000 different flowers. And they don’t take as many coffee breaks as our brewers.
Come down and try our new beer. Celebrate its nuanced flavors and brilliant color. And don’t forget to lift a pint to the hardest workers around. It’s said that bee-pollination of flowering plants helps produce about a third of the food we eat. Without these under-appreciated, industrious creatures, we’d be in trouble. Be Civil, “Bee” Civil, and Drink Civil. Cheers!
Every winter, we have been kicking off the new year with three delicious beers. It all started with our famous Big Year Brown. These special beers have been (for us) a little higher in alcohol and packed with big flavor.
We’ve done special Belgian and Scottish styles, big stouts, and a doppelbock. This year, we are pleased to introduce three brand new beers. Each one is sure to satisfy the needs of every civil drinker in the area.
Oatmeal Brown Ale is a rich but drinkable dark ale with stylistic similarities to both brown ale and oatmeal stout. It’s a deep mahogany color with a dense beige head. Oats impart full body and a lush creamy mouth feel. Complex layers of deep roasted malt are balanced by an earthy hop note and subtle hints of fruit. Don’t miss our latest take on brown ale, one of out favorite styles. This one can stand up to the coldest nights.
Hop lovers rejoice! Our Dry Hop Red Ale has good clean bitterness with robust citrus hop character. It’s light bodied but still has some caramel malt structure. Dry and refreshing, Dry Hop Red Ale is finished with American Amarillo hops. This take on a classic style celebrates hops but keep them balanced, because balance is what we’re about at the Civil Life.
Our biggest, darkest stout yet will also be on draft soon. Extra Stout is a deep black ale with intense roast character a dry finish, with intriguing earthy notes of herbs and licorice (think Fernet or Underberg). This big complex beer will satisfy the most demanding stout lover.
Hurry in to sample these limited releases. Winter is a great time to enjoy a pint in our well-wooded pub, and all of these beers will be drinking great this season. Don’t miss out on our newest releases. And thanks for another year of support from the best regulars a pub could hope for. Cheers!
Sometimes a question comes my way that is difficult for me to make up an answer that makes it seem like I know what I’m talking about. Such questions include “Why?” (-as it comes from my 7 year old son Noll) and “What’s New?” (-as it pertains to Patrons at the Brewery).
It may seem like I should know how to respond to “What’s New?” in the brewery – I mean, I work there and boss myself around right? But this long-winded blog post is in direct contradiction of such. So! What is the problemo? The problem is the notion of “New” as I take it to relate to our Brewery’s Basic Brewing Beliefs- or the 4B program I just invented in this sentence.
We, the brew people of Civil Life Brewery, (Troy, Seymour, Me, Brandon- who broke my heart, and Mike- who broke my heart and then fixed it) use the 4B program to assert our position amongst the vast field of Classic Beer Styles. I have found in life (just as I’m typing this) that seeking out the best examples of whatever is around you, researching those examples, and then improvising upon them reveals the uniqueness that only you can bring to the table. Making it up as you go is a sure fire way to end up parroting something else to give merit to what you’ve done. The lesson is provided by the Master Himself- the Late-Great David Bowie who played himself in the movie Zoolander. “Now, this will be a straight walk-off, old school rules. First model walks; second model duplicates, then elaborates.” Some day I will be learning from non-2001 PG-13 Comedies, but hey man it made 60.8 million dollars.
So, “What’s New?” Dylan?
Well, we are making 3 beers to celebrate one more trip around the sun! The beer styles though have been coming to us for thousands of years from the introduction of agriculture and civilization (first model walks). Decades of brewers have been honoring their craft and forging these native brews into regional specialties that have become truer, more precise renderings of what is “Classic” (second model duplicates). We are now elaborating. See how “New” gets tricky?
The 3 beers are effectively APA, Extra Stout, and Oatmeal Brown (which isn’t a BJCP style yet but a rose is a rose is a rose). They aren’t “new” in the fact that we’ve not invented anything, but rather (I hope) they simply provide us the chance to channel things that we enjoy about other beers and perhaps find something unique that can only come from the team right here at 3714 Holt.
I realize I haven’t really exactly explained the 4B program but it has taken me right up until this sentence to really begin to see it. I mean it was just realized three paragraphs ago. If anything, it is not about wishing that beer were something else (I blame the Glade Company. Did you know your living room can smell like N#1 Enraptured? A sensorial tangle of Jasmine, Cedarwood, Apples and Rose Petals?). My living room smells like Legos and bills. Reality Bites (1994 PG-13 Drama Romance, 20 million).
The Venn diagram of Water, Malt, Hops, Yeast, and our Brewery represents an immeasurable depth of possibility. None of this is to say that new (to us or others) ingredients, techniques, tools, etc, run counter to the 4B program- they simply can’t define it. Just as it appears I can’t define it according to a brief re-read of the previous paragraphs even though 4 paragraphs ago I said “we use the 4B program to assert our position amongst the vast field of Classic Beer Styles”. (Back to the Future, 1985, PG, 381.1 million.)
I still feel like there is so much to learn about how to run our own brewery, increase its production, work safely and with new materials and tools that I am really looking forward to the constant elaboration that has gotten us to this point. I look to the years past in which we began this brewery undertaking and I can see even then many attitudes, friendships, hopes, and dreams that help muster us forward despite the bumps and bruises that come with it all. After all, searching to find new meaning in what you do and who you are is the task of a lifetime (Groundhog Day, 1993, PG, 70.9 million).
From early on, the Civil Life has hosted a book club on Monday nights. The pub is closed to normal business, so we have the space to ourselves to discuss books and, of course, have a couple of pints (or glasses of wine). This year was the first with a theme. The year of Dante will come to a close Monday 11 December 2017 as we discuss Paradiso, the final book of Dante’s Divine Comedy.
Next year, we will have another guiding theme and will again meet just three times. We will be reading three different selections by women who were associated with the surrealist movement. All three of these women were known primarily for their artwork, but they produced great writing that was overshadowed by the better-known male figures who dominated the surrealist movement.
Many people dismiss surrealism as melting clocks and nonsense, but it is keenly concerned with getting beyond (or beneath) “sense,” and exploring the darkest and most rewarding corners of the unconscious, often employing dream imagery.
16 April 2018
The Hearing Trumpet by Leonora Carrington
First we will read The Hearing Trumpet, a delightful short novel by Leonora Carrington. The 92-year-old protagonist Marian Leatherby receives a silver and mother of pearl encrusted hearing trumpet from her good friend Carmella, and, when she places it to her ear, she learns of her family’s plan to ship her off to an institution run by the Well of Light Brotherhood and financed by a “prominent American cereal company.” Expect to laugh out loud as Marian learns about the mysterious past of the institution and the winking abbess portrayed in oil in the dining room. That surrealist wink starts a chain of events that will turn the institution upside down.
13 August 2018
The Crying of the Wind: Ireland by Ithell Colquhoun
Ithell Colquhoun, who was expelled from the English surrealists for occult practices, will be our tour guide through Ireland in this one-of-a-kind piece of travel writing. Her pagan/pantheistic sense of the natural world gives her account of her Irish travels in the mid-twentieth century a strange timelessness. Her style has a rare elegance and her quirky personality is immensely appealing.
10 December 2018
The Lost Lunar Baedeker: Poems by Mina Loy
We will finish the year with a collection of poetry by Mina Loy, described by Wikipedia as “artist, writer, poet, playwright, novelist, futurist, feminist, designer of lamps, and bohemian.” Long out of print, Loy’s strange and beautiful poetry was rereleased in the late 1990s. Both her style and her subject matter shocked many, but the greatest poets of her day, including T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, and William Carlos Williams, considered her an artistic equal. The introduction states, “In order to read her with profit, you need at least four things: patience, intelligence, experience, and a dictionary.” Don’t be intimidated by the work (or poetry in general). To paraphrase Archibald MacLeish, a poem doesn’t mean a thing, it is a thing. Enjoy the music in Loy’s language and pick some pieces to read over a few times.
See you next year! Until then, happy reading.
With everyone’s favorite stuff-your-face holiday approaching, we here at Civil Life thought you might be looking for some fine beverages to fill out your table. You need something to balance out your Uncle who only drinks fine scotches or your Cousin who just insists this $3.00 wine is possibly the best she ever had. What goes with all those fine thanksgiving foods? The stuffing, the pumpkin pies, mounds and mounds of potatoes? To me, Troy, brewer here at Civil Life, the answer is obvious: English Beer!”
Now you might be saying to yourself, wait a minute, this is a traditional American meal. Why would I drink English beers? The basic answer is that the many of Civil Life’s malty, slightly bitter, low-ABV beers are the perfect complement to the rich, decadent, Thanksgiving foods that we wolf down every year. Here are a few of my suggestions to round out your Thanksgiving table.
Now, my favorite part of my family’s Thanksgiving meal actually comes out first: the cheese board. Cheese is a fine pairing for many beers, but if you are going to have a variety of cheeses out, Civil Pale is a versatile choice. Our newest offering, Civil Pale is an equally fine accompaniment to sharp cheddars, creamy bries, and tangy goat cheeses. A citrus and woodsy hop character balances out your cheese board’s nut and dried fruit accouterments while the crisp bitterness cuts through the fat of the copious amount of cheese you (I) plan to eat, making your palate ready for more!
As you move on to main course, there are a couple different beers that you might pair with your classic Thanksgiving sides. I always look forward to stuffing. Why it isn’t a regular item year round, I’ll never know. The toasted, turkey soaked breadcrumbs pair perfectly with the rich English malts in Civil Life’s Best Bitter while the peppery hops bring out the spices that make each bite of stuffing so satisfactory.
Next, reach for the Best Bitter’s big sister, ESB, to help wash down your mashed potatoes. You need something a little stronger to help cut through the heaviness of the pools of butter and salt that is often laden on top of the starchy, creamy potatoes.
If you’re wondering why I waited this long to talk about the TURKEY, it’s because I intend to cheat with this pairing and suggest that you gulp down some of our classic American Brown with everyone’s favorite holiday bird. The crispy browned skin from the roast will sync up perfectly with the toasty, nutty notes of Brown, while the relatively high hops flavor will cut through the richness of a the gravy, making every bite of turkey taste as good as the first. That is, until you eat so much that you decided that it is absolutely nap time.
Post nap, bring on those desserts! For the slightly gourdy, spiced pumpkin pie go for an English Porter. The roast on this dark beer will help balance out the sweetness of the pie while the rich mouthfeel brings out the creaminess of every bite. For the pecan pie, grab a CAN of our Northern English Brown! Finish off your meal by pairing this bready, toffee laced, slightly nutty beer with the rich molasses center and toasty nuts of pecan pie.
Come see us the day before Thanksgiving to fill your growlers and grab a few cans to share with your family and friends at your Thanksgiving table. Tag me (@STBEDIK) with your favorite Thanksgiving pairings for the chance to win Civil Life Swag!
A Pint of Plain for All Life’s Ills
“When things go wrong and will not come right,
Though you do the best you can,
When life looks black as the hour of night -
A pint of plain is your only man.”
(Read the full poem here: https://www.maths.tcd.ie/~bradyn/flann.html)
So begins “The Workman’s Friend” by Flann O’Brien. In Ireland, that nation of great drinkers, Flann O’Brien was one of the greatest. A character in the novel At Swim Two Birds composes this short ode to the restorative powers of beer, porter in particular.
“Plain” refers to plain porter, a beer we at the Civil Life love. You have been enjoying our new Eclipse Baltic Porter for several weeks now. As supplies dwindle, you needn’t worry, our classic London Porter will be returning in a few weeks.
Let’s consider the differences between these great beers. The Baltic Porter, being a lager, is somewhat lighter bodied, though registering a respectable 7% alcohol. Its layered roast has notes of chocolate, dried fruit, and even licorice.
Our London Porter is a classic English recipe, with all English malts, including Maris Otter, brown and black malts, and some crystal and flaked barley for body. We use our ESB yeast strain and Northdown hops. This Porter is rich and full-bodied, with rich roasted malt character, including cocoa, coffee, and caramel. Our own barman, sign painter, and Swedish automobile mechanic Chris Valier refers to it as “a meatball.”
Just in time for the autumn and winter, it’s comfort food in a glass. You can’t go wrong with porter. According to Flann O’Brien, a pint of plain combats bad luck, poverty, ill health, hunger, and even national strife. Talk about a timely tipple! Porter is the worker’s restorative. And whether you carry a hod of bricks all day, or shift zeros and ones on a screen, you deserve the blessed consolation of a pint of one of the finest porters available.
Join us in our well-wooded pub for a pint. Enjoy the transition from Baltic Porter to London Porter. Feel free to call it plain (though in truth, it’s anything but). As always we wish you good luck, wealth, good health, a well-stocked larder, and national unity. Sláinte!
Though we are a self-described malt-forward brewery that judiciously uses hops for balance, we have made a few versions of what may still be America’s favorite style of craft beer, IPA.
America’s craft breweries were built on distinctive, hoppy pale ales. Breweries like Anchor, Sierra Nevada, and Bert Grant’s introduced these hoppy ales to intrepid American beer drinkers looking for more flavor and traditional ingredients and techniques.
Only Bert Grant called his beer IPA, but arguably Anchor Liberty Ale (dating from 1975) is the grandfather of the American IPA. These beers generally used dry hopping to increase flavor and aromatics. For the time, they were quite bitter (averaging around 50-60 or so IBUs). They often used a single hop like Cascade.
These days, American IPAs go well beyond this. Our take on the American craft classic celebrates the origin of the style, but highlights several hop varieties, without punishing your palate with over-the-top bitterness.
We start with American Pale Ale malt and a little Maris Otter and add some specialty malts for flavor and body. We add three American varieties of hops to the kettle for bittering. The beer is then dry-hopped with Chinook and Falconer’s Flight, a proprietary blend including Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, Citra, Cluster, Columbus, and Crystal, plus several mysterious experimental types.
Chinook hops give the beer notes of pine and spice, while the Falconer’s Flight hops impart floral, citrus, and tropical characteristics. The aromatics are intensely pleasant, and the varied flavors are nuanced but persistent. There is enough malt to keep the beer balanced and just modest bitterness.
Just because we don’t focus on IPAs doesn’t mean we don’t make a great one. If you haven’t tried it yet, what are you waiting for? So far, it’s doing well here at the pub, so hurry in for a pint.
Happy Sixth Birthday … Raise a Civil Pint of Dortmunder
We just celebrated our sixth anniversary. If all of you fine regulars keep coming in, we may make it another six years. To celebrate this milestone, we brewed a special beer. In keeping with our philosophy of reproducing some of the world’s great traditional styles, we made our first Dortmunder-style beer.
This crisp, refreshing lager originated in the late-nineteenth century in Dortmund, a town in southern Germany. In those days, the beer of choice was dunkel, a dark, malty, somewhat sweet beer. Dortmund is in the middle of a region with lots of coalmines and steel mills. After a long, hot day of hard labor, the workers weren’t terribly excited about consuming dark malty beers; they needed crisp golden beers to quench their thirst. They gravitated to helles.
Dortmunder Export was created to compete with helles. The epithet “export” was appended to the name since much of the beer was sent north, were the people of Holland and northern Germany were thirsty for the style.
Much like Burton-on-Trent, Dortmund had hard water with exceptionally high sulfur content. This water gave the beer a special character lacking in the helles lagers of the day.
The beers were light, crisp, and dry. Hard water gave them a lighter color, like many of the pilsners in northern Germany. Dortmunders are similar to both pilsners and helles beers. They are a little more hoppy than helles and a little less hoppy than pilsner. They are somewhat malty but quite dry, consequently satisfying and refreshing in equal measure. They generally come in around five percent alcohol, an ideal strength to promote conviviality but not incivility.
Our Dortmunder drinks like a big pilsner. It has a grainy/bready malt intensity, but remains crisp and refreshing, with classic noble hop spice.
Come down to the pub and help us celebrate our anniversary, as well as the long and noble brewing traditions of Germany. You won’t find a beer more suitable to the waning days of summer in Saint Louis, a city with no mean heritage of German brewing. Thanks for supporting us for six years. Prost!
Fall Updates from Your Civil Friends
We are starting our seventh year of civility and great beers, both on tap and in cans. You can still fill your growlers with any of the twelve draft beers we feature each day, but don’t forget about cans to go. We only sell them at the pub for now, but the more you drink, the sooner we can launch our plan for global domination … or at least an expansion including our own canning line.
A canning line will bring our cost down so that you can find Civil Life beer at your favorite stores. But for now, don’t miss out on our continued great deal on cans to go. Six packs are just nine dollars. And you can walk away with a mixed case for just $32!
We currently have three great choices in cans: American Brown Ale, German Pilsner, and Vienna Lager. And come mid-September, our delicious Northern English Brown Ale will be available in cans.
And next time you are planning where to go with family and friends, remember that we always have some great wines by the glass. Not everyone drinks beer. We like to think we have a beer for every taste, but for dedicated wine lovers, we have excellent choices.
Drawing on years of experience with wine, Joe curates a changing list of great offerings from around the world. Take two unique wines currently available: Furmint and Refošk.
Furmint is a grape hailing from Hungary, where it often finds its way into the sweet wines of Tokay, the best of which rival French Sauternes. But Furmint also makes an excellent dry white wine. It’s the color of moonlight with racy acidity and some balancing minerality. Until recently, one rarely saw dry Furmints outside of Central Europe.
We also have a delicious red wine from Slovenia. Slovenia, you say? It turns out wine has been produced in that region since before the Romans introduced wine making to France. Refošk is a grape native to the Istrian peninsula, with dark skins and great intensity. This unique offering has lots of dark fruit and a hint of violets on the nose.
Bring your committed wine drinker friends along next time you come to the pub. Whether you love beer or wine, the Civil Life is a great place for friends and family to spend time together. And don’t forget to grab some cans to go! We raise our dimpled mugs, nonic pints, cider tumblers, and wine glasses to you, friends and valued customers. Cheers!
The Civil Blog has returned. It is predominantly authored by Civil Life Barman, Dr. Patrick Hurley, who can be found tending to our bar patrons on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. He is also responsible for tending to our draft lines, which is recognized as one of our most important tasks. Special guest writers will appear from time to time. We hope reading this blog will give you much insight about the Civil Life and most importantly help you understand a bit more about all of us that work here and the beers we put our hearts into.