Yes, These Are Our Real Jobs
You may have noticed that your friends behind the bar at the Civil Life aren’t the youngest lot. And you will also have noticed that there haven’t been a lot of personnel changes since we opened almost five years ago. For some people, tending bar is a fun college job or a decent paying gig in between real jobs. For us, it’s a noble profession and one we take quite seriously. We hope to further your understanding that many men and women working as bartenders, waiters and waitresses are serving you drinks and food because they considered and then chose this as their profession.
In Europe, the hard-working men and women who serve food and drink have long been considered professionals and have been well compensated for the consistently high level of service they deliver to their customers. This is starting to become more common in better establishments in the US.
With the growth of craft beer, serious wine, and elevated cocktails, those who serve drinks must be more and more knowledgeable each day. But knowledge alone won’t make your night (remember that genius professor you had who couldn’t teach worth a damn?). Personality plays a big part, too.
Regulars want to see the same faces and they develop real relationships with their servers. At Civil Life, we regard our regulars as friends and try to provide everyone who walks through our doors the same experience we would expect to have ourselves.
There are plenty of bars and restaurants with rapidly changing, often quite young staff, who provide adequate service, but don’t always have the knowledge, experience, and professionalism to really make your visit truly exceptional. Some will become seasoned professionals. Most will move on to something else. Fortunately, those that move on from well run establishments, do so with a deeper respect and understanding of the profession.
A traditional public house provides more than just good food and drink for a fair price in a pleasant atmosphere (though we are fanatically committed to doing just that), it also serves as a community space, a place were friends, family, and neighbors (as well as visitors) come together, not just for food and drink, but for conversation and good cheer. And that is just what you’ll find at the Civil Life, where the men and women behind the bar want you to feel like a part of our family.
Maintaining the best professional bartenders is a real commitment at the Civil Life. Good pay, insurance, paid vacation, and a retirement plan certainly help all of us here at Civil Life stay on for the long term to keep serving all of you. Our hair may get a little gray (those of us who still have hair), but our affection for customers and our commitment to the best service possible will never waver.
And remember, every time you spend your hard-earned dollar coins on Civil Life beer, you provide a good living to the eight full-time and two-part time employees at the Civil Life Brewing Company. We’d like to say, thanks … and cheers!
Rye Pale Ale—GABF Gold Medal Winner—Back on Tap!
We’re not the types, here at the Civil Life, to indulge in the most uncivil spectacle of chanting, “We’re Number One … We’re Number One,” but when our Rye Pale Ale was awarded a gold medal at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival, we were more than a little bit proud. See, we really do believe our Rye is the best beer of its kind.
Think for a moment of some of the most popular rye pales on the market. For the most part, they are around 6–7% alcohol and are generally hopped quite aggressively. And that’s fine, but we think that if a beer has the word “rye” in its name, you should probably be able to taste the rye. If a beer is mouth puckeringly bitter and has discernable alcohol heat, you’re probably not going to taste much rye.
Rye imparts a really wonderful spice to beer (and bread and whiskey for that matter). It’s a deep earthy spice that many perceive as having a pleasant peppercorn note. This should be discernable in any truly balanced rye beer.
Our Rye Pale Ale is a nice sessionable brew at just 4.5% ABV. At 66 IBUs there is some pleasant bitterness. The base malts are very traditional ones from England and Scotland. We use a neutral American ale yeast strain and Centennial and Chinook hops, venerable varieties from the Pacific Northwest.
Pick up your pint glass and take a taste with me, if you would. Do you get that lovely pine and citrus and a little nice clean bitterness? Now you get a load of earthy, spicy goodness, then a pleasantly sharp finish. And don’t worry, all that flavor comes in at under 5% alcohol, so you can always get a second pint.
This beer has been a favorite of your Civil barmen since very early on. When we opened way back in 2011, we had just four beers on tap: Bitter, German Wheat, American Brown, and British Best. The fifth beer to join the lineup was Rye Pale Ale. It was a worthy addition. We didn’t need a gold medal to know we had crafted one of the best rye beers out there. Just the same, it was nice to get the recognition (thanks GABF!).
Come in to the tasting room and celebrate the return of this old favorite. Oh, by the way, the rumor around here is that Rye Pale Ale is going to be one of the excellent brews we put into a can for your drinking pleasure. Civil drinkers will have yet another reason to celebrate. Until then, drink Civil Life draft wherever you can find it.
Civil drinkers who enjoy a more pronounced hop note are celebrating the recent return of our American Pale Ale. This is truly one of the great American craft beer styles and one of the first. And as with all the beers we brew, it is balanced with a strong enough malt backbone to support its bright, citrus hop note.
From the beginning, we’ve been unapologetic about being a malt-driven brewery. Outside of water (of which St. Louis is blessed with some of the best in the nation) malted barley is the main ingredient in beer. Before hops were cultivated, beers were bittered with all manner of herbs and weeds. Malt is sweet and requires something bitter to balance it and keep the beer from coming off as cloying. Eventually hops began to be cultivated across Europe and used in brewing beers. These hops balanced the malt, helped preserve the beers, protecting them from spoilage, and provided some subtle flavor characteristics, often somewhat spicy and fruity.
As craft beer exploded across America, extremely hoppy IPAs became popular and are still one of the most dominant styles. These beers grew out of the early American craft beer movement, but many of them no longer achieved the balance that made the first craft pale ales so drinkable. Our American Pale Ale is an homage to the first great American craft beers.
Two of the most famous beers that helped launch the American craft beer revolution are Anchor Liberty Ale and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. These balanced American pale ales remain popular, but if you tasted them alongside a contemporary high-IBU hop bomb, you’d be hard pressed to discern any familial similarity at all. Some of these newer beers are tongue punishingly bitter without the balance great drinkable beers have. Those early craft pale ales were in the neighborhood of 40 IBUs. By comparison, one of the most popular West Coast IPAs today is 77 IBUs.
Our own take on the classic American Pale Ale is a modest 35 IBUs with 5% ABV. The base malt is split between American pale malt and Golden Promise, a delicious Scottish malt with honeyed cereal tones. It’s hopped straight through with good old cascade, once the dominant hop used by the older craft breweries. The final product is deep golden to light amber in color, with medium body, a slightly grainy cereal malt character, and citrus and faint grassiness combined with a refreshingly sharp finish.
As a whole, American craft breweries can be proud of all that we’ve managed to accomplish. We’ve come a long way from the early days of our nation’s first craft breweries—and that’s very good—but let’s not forget our roots, brewing flavorful, balanced, drinkable beers.
~Dr. Patrick Hurley, Barman at the Civil Life Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays
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.