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.
On Friday, the pub at the Civil Life is a dynamic place. Regulars abound, with the day- and the night-shift proving to be two distinct worlds. Every other week, your humble barman comes in early and cleans the pub so we can open up at noon. On alternate weeks, you’ll see Joe manning the bar.
Each Friday, Tony offers a delicious lunch special in addition to some of our regular offerings. Many customers come in specifically for this changing but always tasty meal.
Food is, of course, not the only draw. We support the long-standing tradition of enjoying a pint or half pint with your lunch. With session beers on the board, you’ll return to work sated but sharp and restored for the finish to the week.
There are, however, Friday regulars who, by working slavishly for decades, have earned the right to relax over a few pints in the afternoons. These men and women built America, and in return, they can linger over five-dollar imperial pints while the rest of us are still working.
Early most Fridays, two retirees who stay busy with woodworking can be found chatting over pints of Angel and the Sword. They discuss projects. The very man who turned our unique tap handles is there, and he has an ingenious wooden tray he affixes to the bar so he need not hunch uncivilly over his roast beef sandwich. He effortlessly dispatches his sandwich without losing a crumb.
At the other end of the bar sits a man who, in addition to being one of the area’s great harmonica players, is a crossword puzzle fanatic of no small talents. In less than thirty minutes (sometimes just 23), he effortlessly works through the fiendishly difficult Friday New York Times puzzle. Fuelled only by Ordinary Bitter and spiced nuts, his powerful brain makes quick work of the clues as he neatly and emphatically inks in the solutions.
Near the middle of the bar sits a chemist on lunch break. Who could tell from his casual conversation about beer that he is one of the world’s leading authorities on yeast. Some day, when he receives his Nobel Prize, we like to think that the half pints of Civil Life we fed him along with his lunch played a part in fuelling his important work.
As the day shift is poised to transform into the night shift, an unassuming man makes his way to the bar with a humble demeanor belying his encyclopedic knowledge of music. You know he’s there when the volume edges up and a truly great selection emanates from our jukebox. This man is the great Jukebox Pat. He can identify a Horace Silver song in one note, even in circumstances when ambient noise makes the music difficult to hear. Because of this acute hearing, he is called “The Wolf” by a cranky tone-deaf man whom Pat humors gracefully.
Some Friday, take the afternoon off and come and meet one of these extraordinary regulars. There’s nothing more civil than enjoying a session beer in the afternoon in good company. See you soon.
Thursdays at the pub tend to be pretty busy from opening on. The bar is packed with regulars, and the tables both inside and outside gradually fill with cheerful beer lovers.
The Civil Hour group generally arrives early. Among them you’ll find the Count of Monte Carlo, English professor and world traveler. He has lived in almost every city on the planet and perhaps even in cities on planets yet to be discovered. His group engages in lively conversation fuelled by good drink, snacks, and, of course, civility.
One regular couple takes a break from a hectic week of work and family to restore with pints and sandwiches. Another couple plots their strategies for the next Pennsic War (held annually by the Society for Creative Anachronism) over pints of cask beer.
By seven pm, a group of traveling minstrels arrives (twice a month) with fiddles, mandolins, banjos, and other instruments in tow. They are led by two of the metro areas most talented beer drinkers.
One of these men hosts the wildly popular KDHX program “Down Yonder” (Saturdays 11–1). Over the course of the evening he showers the staff of Civil Life with an inexhaustible supply of coins, like some benevolent numismatic deity.
The other man is a tall bearded fellow, bearing a striking resemblance to his ancestor, who famously painted a panoramic depiction of the entire Mississippi River Valley on a canvas over half a mile wide. These artistic talents were translated in musical skill in our regular, who saws madly at his fiddle, while dipping whatever is handy into horseradish sauce. So powerful is his addiction to this savory root (the densest concentration of which grows just south of Collinsville), we have to dole it out to him like methadone.
Together these gentlemen lead an old time jam band, playing plenty of bluegrass music out on our patio. We supply the musicians with some pints in order to support the arts and promote civility.
Outdoor drinkers and diners listen and sometimes even dance while enjoying pints of great beer and tasty snacks lovingly prepared by Tony and Dave.
When you head back to the bar, just be careful not to get roped into a lengthy conversation about Estonian woodworking with a regular having a crazed look in his eye and his hand clamped in a death grip around his dry cider (or Czech Pilsner, when it’s available). You’ll remember this regular as the young man who was almost Civil Life Customer of the Year last year!
Good beer, good food, good music, friendly regulars, and conversation. That’s Thursday at the Civil Life. See you then!
Civil Life June Updates
The month of June is already almost half over and we are already feeling summer in Saint Louis. We’ve been busy making great beers to keep you hydrated all summer long. Great new things are afoot here at the Civil Life.
We released a new T-shirt with our mantra “Be Civil” spelled out in rainbow letters. It’s a celebration of diversity and civility. Wear it with pride!
We also canned a huge batch of refreshing German Pilsner, a crisp golden lager that can stand up to the punishing heat and humidity that mark our summers here in south Saint Louis. It’s the perfect restorative for any outdoor activity.
Like Pride Fest, for example. The first Pride Fest events in Saint Louis date back to 1980. Organizers representing the local LGBT community planned events, including a parade, which originally centered around the Central West End and Forest Park. By the nineties, Pride events had moved to our own Tower Grove neighborhood, with a parade down South Grand to Tower Grove Park.
You could say the core values of this annual celebration are diversity and civility, and Tower Grove was the perfect venue. As it attracted more people, it moved downtown, with a parade down Market Street. Last year’s Pride Fest events attracted a quarter of a million people. That’s a lot of people braving the heat and humidity to celebrate. If you go this year, remember to drink Civil!
Though the parade moved from Tower Grove, the area is still filled with outdoor opportunities to drink cold cans of Civil Life beer. The Whitaker Music Festival (formerly Jazz in June) brings neighbors and music lovers to Shaw’s Garden (a.k.a. The Missouri Botanical Garden). They bring picnics and coolers and enjoy music in a beautiful outdoor setting. Just don’t bring glass bottles. Cans of Civil Life German Pilsner are the perfect option.
Tower Grove Park itself will be hosting many parties and reunions all summer. When you find yourself at one of these events, be sure to enjoy a cool Civil Life beer under the shade of one of the park’s almost 7,000 trees.
Civil Life cans travel well, so pack them up for your camping and float trips. Even when you venture out, take a little of Tower Grove with you. Summer in Saint Louis is the perfect time to enjoy great beer and to celebrate diversity and civility. And you can always do so at our pub and beer garden. Wherever you drink Civil Life this summer, thanks. We’re proud to have you as our customers.
Civil Wednesdays––A Day to Honor Craftsmen and Craftsmanship
Like Tuesday, Wednesday is a day when our pub is a little slower, with many regulars lining the bar. But among those regulars, you’ll find two unsung heroes of the Civil Life. Let’s call them “Ray” and “Jim.”
Way back before our bar opened, the unassuming structure that would house the Civil Life was in need of distinction and character. Plans were drawn up with our friend Shamus, Saint Louis’s tallest architect. The founders turned their eyes to the details that would make our pub special. Lots of wood was critical, but any bar in Saint Louis should have some brick, too. And so the founders reached out to two legends in their fields, Jim the Carpenter and Ray the Bricklayer.
Jim constructed our beautiful ash bar. Its clean lines and simple beauty evoke the designs of the arts and crafts movement of the early twentieth century. Every inch of the elegant ash expanse was lovingly cut, sanded, and assembled by the skilled hands of Jim. The bar’s solidity and aesthetic perfection tell the story of Jim’s supreme artisanship. When the work was done, Jim sipped a beer and lovingly inspected his handiwork.
Meanwhile, sparing no expense, Jake enlisted his mother and some of her retired friends to stain the new bar. They then applied hundreds of layers of nautical-grade polyurethane. This thousand-year bar was built to withstand anything, even a long ocean voyage. We have broken open millions of rolls of gold dollar coins on its uncomplaining surface. Every time we do, you can see Jim the Carpenter wince, as if that solid roll of gold was brought down upon his very soul.
Even gallons of spilled beer and copious sprays of natural cleaning compounds have left our bar in beautiful shape, showing just the warm patina imbued by the sustained use of our thirsty patrons.
But before you even enter our bar, you’ll see fine craftsmanship adorning our pub. The brick façade of the east exterior wall of the tasting room was constructed by a local legend, Ray the Bricklayer.
He built so many buildings in Saint Louis, he can no longer remember them all. If you ask him about those historic buildings, he will get a faraway look in his eyes, before saying, “Hell, those places all fell down.”
Like the Roman Forum and Coliseum, those ruins are a crumbling testament to a powerful vision, one man’s monochrome vision of a red-brick city rising up beside the nation’s greatest river.
Ray’s self-deprecating jokes aside, our brick wall still stands almost six years after its construction. With luck, Ray’s handiwork will last another six years. Rumor has it, Ray mortared a beer can on top of the wall, after quenching his thirst as the work neared completion. Thousands of years from now, archeologists will stare in awe at that can and wonder who put it there.
Ray and Jim like to come inspect their work on Wednesdays. You’ll find them at the bar drinking from special gemstone encrusted goblets (actually small mugs with handles to keep Ray and Jim from dropping them).
Lewis and Clark, Laclede and Chouteau, Ray and Jim––visionaries who built Saint Louis. Come in some Wednesday and raise a pint to them in the best-built pub in town.
A Civil Week
We’re proud of the great beers we brew and always grateful for the compliments we receive for our tasty pints. But more often than not, customers also praise the atmosphere we’ve created in our pub. We can’t take all the credit, though. Our regulars shape our pub every night of the week.
In fact, every night the Civil Life is a different place, with different bartenders working and different groups of regulars coming to see us. Unless you’re that tall, blond, white-wine-quaffing friend who comes in every night, you probably have a picture of our pub drawn from the experience you have on a particular night.
Tuesdays and Wednesdays tend to be a little slower, with lots of regulars taking their seats at the bar. Thursdays are generally busier, with lots of regular faces. You might even hear our notorious bluegrass jam band that plays twice a month. The early part of Friday is slower, but with a loyal coterie of regulars served by either Joe or me––we take turns bartending Friday’s early shift. The night is busy, but plenty of regulars are still in attendance.
Saturdays bring a diverse crowd, with regulars weighted on the early end of the day. Many people from the hinterland make their way in, often for the first time. We sometimes get buses of revelers, and we are thankful when they don’t come in drinking cans of beer and raising a ruckus. Getting twenty customers at once, who’ve already been drinking, makes it harder to attend to our cherished regulars, which is one reason we continue to discourage buses. On the plus side, all of our full-time bartenders work Saturday, including the Captain of the barley ship himself.
Sundays feature tacos in the warm months and soup in the cold months with lots of regulars in attendance. We’re only open noon till seven, but the kitchen stays very busy.
Whichever day you come in, we thank you. Over the next several weeks, we’d like to paint a series of pictures of what the Civil Life is like each day of the week. We hope you’ll enjoy this peek into the different faces of the Civil Life. As always, keep drinking and being Civil!
The Tent Returns
While summer doesn’t officially arrive until June 20, the most reliable indication of this seasonal change is the reappearance of our compact tent, providing a modicum of protection against the punishing rays of the sun, as well as beer-diluting raindrops.
Normally, the tent also symbolizes the coming of our Pigs and Pints festival. Unfortunately for this event’s legions of rabid fans, we are not doing it this year. Our expansion plans are underway, and soon many changes will be gracing the Civil Life.
In the meantime, enjoy our beer garden and the pleasures of taking a restorative pint al fresco. Bask in the cool shade of the tent in the full knowledge that the sun will not skunk the delicious pint you are about to enjoy. Yes, just minutes of sun exposure can cause your beer to become light struck.
True, a sip of skunky beer may bring nostalgic memories of a clear bottle of Corona consumed at the beach or poolside, but Civil Life beers are best enjoyed in the shade. And you will no doubt enjoy many in shady bliss this summer. The time is now! Come enjoy the beer garden.
Your traditionalist friends at the Civil Life know that once upon a time, our South City neighborhoods were dotted with crowded beer gardens, where Saint Louisans enjoyed good beer in good company (and sometimes good weather). Relive these days with us, a time when local breweries thrived and neighbors enjoyed the kind of community that a good beer garden fosters.
And you’ll also be enjoying some great traditional beers, staged for a comeback soon. Our delicious German Pilsner is lagering in a big tank now, and will soon be ready for consumption by our thirsty neighbors. If we keep our regular Mark from siphoning all the pilsner into his gigantic growler, there may be enough to go around.
We are brewing a double batch of this refreshing summer beer exclusively for cans! They will be released in June … just in time for float trips and outdoor events. Our cans protect against the light and air that could damage your beer. That’s more than can be said for glass, especially clear glass. And let’s face it, the taste of Corona is better as a distant memory.
Come visit us soon and enjoy the weather and great beer in our beer garden. We’ve got a nice tent up for you again. No need to thank us … it’s all part of the Civil way. As always, be Civil and drink Civil.
Beer … It’s Mostly Water
“Brewed with water from when the earth was pure” … “from the land of sky blue water” … “it’s the water” … “brewed with pure Rocky Mountain spring water.” Many big breweries tout the water they use in their ads. Some of these beers taste as if water is the only ingredient, but there is truth in assertions that water is critically important. In terms of volume, it’s the main component used in making beer.
We’re lucky here in Saint Louis. Our city regularly makes lists of the best water in the nation, with special note of its superior flavor, aroma, and clarity. As a local brewery, we’re glad to start out with such a good ingredient. We do filter our water and sometimes treat it to adjust the pH, depending on the style we are brewing.
The world’s greatest brewing cities happened to have great water and be near to areas producing excellent barley, and eventually hops. Almost every list of the greatest brewing cities in the world will include Munich, Germany; Pilsen, Czech Republic; and Burton on Trent, England. The interesting thing is that these cities had very different types of water that led to the styles that originated there.
One of the most important factors in water chemistry for brewers is the “hardness” of the water. Harder water has higher concentrations of minerals, especially calcium and magnesium. Softer water has less.
Burton on Trent was known for extremely hard water with very high concentrations of calcium sulfate and magnesium sulfate. Beers brewed with this water even have a slightly sulfury note. The hardness of the water allows greater hopping and promotes yeast growth. The great beers from Burton achieved tremendous clarity and were bright and sparkling with a delightful hop bitterness.
The early IPAs from Burton on Trent were also an aesthetically pleasing lighter color. Hard water is efficient at extracting fermentable sugar, but pulls noticeably less color from roasted grains.
Pilsen in the Czech Republic, on the other hand, has remarkably soft, sandstone-filtered water. This is why Czech pilsners are generally darker than their German counterparts. They are also more delicately flavored, with hops expressed subtly in grassy and floral notes rather than just sharp bitterness.
We take authentic beer styles seriously, so when we brew Burton on Holt or UK IPA, we use gypsum (calcium sulfate) to harden the water. This method of hardening water for brewing is so historically tied to the water at Burton on Trent that it is called “Burtonizing.”
When we brew our Czech Pilsner, we give the water a good long boil to drive off excess minerality, achieving a softer water. This will help achieve the delicate flavors and deep golden color we are after.
When you drink Civil Life beer, raise a glass to Saint Louis water and join us, too, in celebrating authentic recreations of the world’s greatest beer styles. And remember, we are always being told to drink more water. If beer is mostly water, that means we ought to be drinking more beer!
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.