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!
A thank you to all that came to our 6th Anniversary event yesterday. I'll post the video later this week of the State of the Beer Union address. We raised $3730 for Puerto Rico. Today, I will divide the money received between directrelief.org and americares.org both have links that allow donations to be ear-marked to Hurricane Maria and Puerto Rico. Both also have under 4% administrative costs.
Most of the winners have been notified but we are still tracking a few down as we are missing the information from a couple of tickets.
1. Case German Pilsner #1 336115 Keith M. (Keith the last digit on your phone number is missing from the ticket but rest assured if I don't hear from you I will be making 10 phone calls.
2. 12 pack German Pilsner Mike M. 080023 (Mike, I called but the call didn't go through. I'll call later today again.)
3. We know one of the below as they are a regular and picking up later but the other had no name on the ticket.
12 pack German Pilsner 336063
12 pack German Pilsner 336433
The entire list below of winners has been notified either in person or in a voice message. Please pick up your items at your convenience during open hours.
Case German Pilsner Jeff/Erin
Case German Pilsner David N.
Case German Pilsner Will/Hall
Hat #1 Joe S.
Hat #2 Tim C.
Tshirt #1 Marc M.
Tshirt #2 Don M.
Hoodie Rich plus case of beer
12 pack German Pilsner Tom L.
Tickets to Brewers Guild Harvest Festival Geni M.
Tickets to Brewers Guild Halloween Festival Sean/Sam
Case German Pilsner and Walrus I found in the alley behind my house Paul B.
Big Winner Dan N. Brewer for a Day!
We also sold a few extra Brewer for a day for 500!
Cheers and thanks for helping us raise money for our fellow US Citizens. Jake
Anniversary Party this Sunday! 2pm State of the Beer Union Address Open 12 to 6 pm. Jon Bonham and Friends play from 2:30 to 5:30
But most importantly we are having a fundraiser for Puerto Rico all weekend long. For the low price of $5 for 1 ticket or $20 for 5 win the chance to be a Civil Life Brewer for a day! Join us while we whip up a batch of one of our fine session beers and learn hands on how to make beer at our fine establishment. Our brewers will guide you through the whole brew day process and answer any questions you might have about beer production, what it's like to have their (awesome- Troy Bedikwhose idea this was wrote this!) jobs, and why we do things the way we do! Most importantly, when the beer is done and on tap, we'll invite you and 10 of your closest friends down for a 2 hour party on us.
For those that don't win the grand prize, we will also have prizes of Civil Life Swag and Civil Life beverages you can win! As we pass certain fundraising goals we add more swag! Whose a winner, you're a winner, your're a winner, you're a winner etc...
Drawing will happen at 4 pm this Sunday at our Anniversary party but tickets may be purchased all weekend. Need not be present Sunday to win. Check our web-site Sunday night for winning numbers. We are also considering filling in all of our tasks here with raffle winners! Clean toilets for a night at the Civil Life, Spend 8 hours doing bookkeeping at the Civil Life, Prep food at the Civil Life...etc.
One of the questions we often hear is, “How do you decide which glass to use?” We have dimpled pint mugs and tall nonic pint glasses; they both hold twenty English ounces. As a rule, we pour English-style beers in tall nonics and American- and German-style beers in mugs. Old-timers will recall that when we opened (exactly six years ago) we only used the dimpled pint mugs.
The fact is, we are happy to pour any of our beers into the glass of your choice. Most people don’t have a strong preference, but others most certainly do. On average, customers with a strong preference go for the nonic, without a clear rationale. It’s true that the dimpled mug is considerably thicker. But this, coupled with the handle, keeps the beer temperature constant.
And the old dimpled mug is the stated preference of a few. Take English Chris, for example. He once informed me that, at his local back home, if a barman handed a beer to a patron in a tall pint glass, it would be thrown back in his face … or worse. You may recognize English Chris, whose athletic physique makes it impractical to wear shirtsleeves over his well-muscled shoulders and upper arms. Every pint I serve him is in a well-polished dimpled pint mug. Though his pleasant demeanor suggests he’s above launching a pint glass at an imprudent barman, I have not put him to the test.
When English Chris orders a round, he specifies a jug for himself and pots for the others. Casual research suggests that both these terms sometimes refer to mugs with handles, but clearly usage varies regionally throughout England. The OED defines a pot as “A vessel of cylindrical or other rounded form, and rather deep than broad, commonly made of earthenware or metal (less commonly glass), used to hold various substances, liquid or solid, for domestic or other purposes.”
Handles not being mentioned either way, either of our glasses could be called a pot, yet the visual seems answered by the nonic rather than the dimpled mug. A jug, on the other hand, is defined as a “swelling vessel” with a handle on one side. This is clearly our dimpled pint mug. I, for one, have never doubted English Chris’s keen knowledge of semantics, especially regarding words signifying pub-related items.
Whatever you call your vessel, fill it with delicious Civil Life beer. The tall, thin nonics have a certain elegance. But the dimples in the mugs catch the light and allow the beers in them to sparkle like gems of rare beauty. But unlike gemstones, which just look pretty, beer is tasty and satisfying. Nonic or dimpled mug? Pot or jug? Which Civil Life beer to order? None of these questions has a wrong answer.
Head down to the pub to fill your favorite glass with your favorite beer. And if you see English Chris, buy him a pint. Just make bloody sure it’s in a jug. Cheers!
Introducing Our Newest Beer: Civil Life's Pale Ale
We just started pouring our newest beer called simply Pale Ale. For those who follow the intricacies of craft beer, it drinks very much like what the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) calls British Golden Ale. It’s basically a type of pale bitter. In Australia, beers called Sparkling Ale fall into this category. But all of this nomenclature makes drinking a refreshing ale unnecessarily complicated.
Our Pale Ale sits somewhere between our bitter and our APA. It’s something of a hybrid, with English ingredients predominating, but some American hops adding pleasant bitterness and some spice, citrus, and floral notes. There is a little bready malt, but less than the bitter. It is noticeably less hoppy than our APA.
We start with good old Maris Otter, a classic English barley, as a base. We use our ESB yeast strain and finish the beer with both Cascade and First Gold hops. The result is a beer for all seasons. Crisp, dry, and quenching with a very pleasing sharp, spicy hop finish. The beer is light bodied with subtle malt and layers of spice, citrus, stone fruit, and floral characteristics. It’s food friendly and session strength.
We hope the Civil Life Pale Ale becomes one of your favorites and that it soon graces the tap towers of the finest bars in the area. You can enjoy “pale ale” without worrying about categories and classification schemes. In a world of extreme styles and ever-changing trends, Civil Pale Ale is a true classic.
And as with all of our beers, it’s value priced. An imperial pint of delicious ale for five dollars is the best deal around. We like to think that craft beer is just beer the way it’s supposed to be, the way, in fact, it was for many years. That’s why we take so many cues from beer brewing countries like England and Germany, where great beer has a long, uninterrupted history.
Please join us at the pub soon and try our new beer. And let us know what you think. Many customers tell us, “you just don’t make a bad beer.” We appreciate your confidence and support and remain unflagging in our efforts to keep making the best beer we can for you. It’s been almost six years … we couldn’t have done it without you. We’re raising a pint of Pale Ale to you now. Keep drinking and being civil!
Eclipse Porter––A Beer as Rare and Stunning as the Astronomical Event for which It’s Named
As everyone anxiously awaits the upcoming total solar eclipse, we’ve put our time to good use crafting our first Baltic Porter to celebrate. Viewing a solar eclipse requires special protective eyewear. Drinking a pint of our new porter does not. Optimal viewing of the upcoming eclipse may require a drive on busy roads to a nearby (or not so near) location. Our porter will be available down at your local (and wherever the finest local craft beers are served). The maximum duration of totality for the upcoming eclipse is less than three minutes. The duration of your pint of Baltic Porter is … well, that’s up to you.
Baltic Porter is a variation on standard English porter originating in the 18th century. A great deal of porter was being shipped from England to the Baltic States. Much of this porter was destined for Russia. Rumor has it that Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia, consumed the lion’s share of it herself (she must have been as strong as a horse). It is indisputable that a sharp uptake in Russia’s consumption of porters and stouts coincided with the so-called golden age of the Russian Empire.
Shipping all that porter from England was inconvenient and expensive, though. Soon, Baltic brewers decided they could make a version at least as good themselves. The style was not as intensely roasty as a stout, but had a profound maltiness. The brewers used their native lager yeast and an English-inspired grain bill along with the latest German and Danish brewing techniques.
The hops were Saaz type varieties, with nice spiciness but the not the woodsy characteristics of English hops. Some versions were somewhat sweet, others dry. The roasted malt had complex notes of licorice, chocolate, and dried fruit.
We based our Eclipse Porter on our English porter, but used a lager yeast strain and weeks of cold conditioning. We replaced English Maris Otter with Viking malt, sourced from the Baltic region. Sterling hops marry the best of Saaz with more complex aromatics and give our beer a layered spice, with notes of candied citrus and grass.
This is a long-awaited beer with our signature balance and plenty of flavor. Enjoy safely without ISO-certified eyewear. Or don any glasses you want for the occasion. Drink it in the path of totality and achieved total contentment. Cheers!
Around the time the lunch menu is replaced with the expanded dinner menu, our pub is in the midst of changing from one convivial group of patrons to another. Many regulars come in pairs or larger groups. Many are creatures of habit. A couple entertaining their granddaughter will order two pints, some spiced nuts, and pretzels, then repair to the middle snug upstairs. A doctor takes his place at the bar and orders a half pint of bitter. A retired Saint Louis city police officer pays for each pint he orders, saying “Cut me off after this one.”
Then two notorious local engineers arrive and take their seats at the bar. To protect their identity, let’s call them “Hall” and “Oates.” Hall orders a pint and Oates orders a half pint.
Here’s a word problem for the mathematically inclined: if Hall only drinks beer in volumes of 568.261 milliliters and Oates only drinks beer in volumes of 284.1305 milliliters, and if Hall consumes beer 41.9% faster than Oates, on which round will they finish their beers at exactly the same instant?
Take your time. A problem such as this takes care in formulating and calculating, the same care that Hall and Oates themselves take when they discuss thorny philosophical questions. For example, what is the precise nature of the sandwich? What are the defining elements that set the “sandwich” apart from other handheld comestibles?
Hall and Oates have been hotly debating this problem for as long as anyone can remember. On the face of it, “what constitutes a sandwich?” is a simple enough question. But consider this common definition from the second edition of the Random House Dictionary of the English Language: “two or more slices of bread or the like with a layer of meat, fish, cheese, etc. between each pair.” Notice the devilishly vague phrase or the like, not to mention the maddeningly expansive etc.
That could be just about anything. “I can’t go for that,” Hall says. “Can’t go for that, can’t go for that,” Oates echoes emphatically. Hall tries his own working definition, after being dared by Oates to draw a line. “Baked, risen dough, partially enclosing fillings, such as meat and cheese.” But the question of what portion of the filling may be enclosed by the bread quickly derails this attempt.
Wraps are out. Tacos are right out. But what of the hotdog? Our value-priced G & W frank, for example? One vote for and one against. Can the bun enclose three sides of the filling of the sandwich? This is clearly not a case of “a drink and a quick decision.” The definition needs work.
Hall sketches X and Y axes on the bar. “WHO-OA, YEAH!” Oates hollers encouragingly. They are talking foci, they are talking sines and cosines, they are talking limits of integration. Pints and half pints are refilled and the conversation continues.
It’s late now, and a voice from down the bar can be heard saying “cut me off after this one.” The sandwich remains a riddle, though a tasty affordable one. Next time you’re in, share your thoughts on the sandwich with Hall and Oates. Order a pint and a sandwich. Feel free to play some eighties music on the jukebox. No need to over-think it. But do raise a glass to some of the regulars who make each night at the Civil Life special.
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.