Joe, Joe he’s our man. If he can’t paint it nobody can.
Years ago, a great man by the name of Joe Alhoff found his way into my bar and ordered a German beer. And then he ordered another. And another. Then he ordered beer from other countries but you could tell he had a fondness in his heart for some of the great German beers. Then his good friend, Matt came over to the bar and they ordered beers together. I could immediately tell they had drank together for years. The beer ritual was evidenced by clinking mugs, looking the other directly in the eye, tapping the glass on the bar and then drinking. I picked this up from Joe and when you cheers me, I always will tap the glass on the bar and look you in the eye. It is the correct and noble way to consume with a friend.
Over the course of that day and many years to follow. Joe and I became really great friends. He is responsible for our logo and I admire him tremendously as an artist and as a close friend. He is also responsible for this great sign and a few more of the things which will be displayed in our bar. He is a chap that I never could thank enough for all he has done for me.
So it is a fitting honor to place our hand painted by Joe, “Biergarten” sign on the front of the building signifying the role the German Biergarten plays in the lives of one of the greatest drinking cultures. German Biergartens are an essential part of life in Germany and Oktoberfest in Munich is recognized handily as the single greatest Biergarten in the world. Biergartens are community spaces where friends meet on long picnic tables soaking in the sun and suds. We have over 75ft of picnic tables in the front of our building and another 30ft on the side of our building. Small by German standards but by my standards it is just fine. Our biergarten tips its hat to the importance of relaxing over a pint with friends. Kids have found our Biergarten to be a place they can play among the pebbles. I had never imagined when I chose the less expensive option ground cover for the Biergarten how incredibly popular it would be with children. My nephews, Dylan’s boy and many children spend hours moving the pebbles around and playing in them. I suppose it is the tactile sensation of pebbles slipping through their fingers that enthralls them but I really don’t know as I am a grown-up...most of the time.
During my last trip to Germany, I met up with my friend Bryan. He is a transplanted American living in Munich. He has a great biergarten within walking distance of his house and it is something everyone should have. He also is in walking distance of the worlds’ greatest Oktoberfest biergarten. He is a gracious host and I look forward to one day having beers with him again.
Cari, Jim (our kickin’ carpenters) wife, who once looked at the building after Jim and I had been working on it for 4 months and stated, “It looks like sh*t.”, spent many of her childhood years in Germany. She no longer thinks that about the building (she was right at the time) and she noticed something that many people didn’t notice during our grand opening. But with the music going and kids playing in the pebbles as their parents chatted it brought back some memories from her childhood in the great German Biergartens.
And to that we say, “Prost” and thanks for the inspiration for our biergarten.
Flags from the Czech Republic, Germany, Belgium, England and Ireland are placed in the brewery.
A few years back after I sold 33, I hit the road with the intent to learn more about some of the great beer producing cultures in the world. I have always worked long hard hours and my time in Europe was no different. For 7 months, I criss crossed and wandered from city to city in search of beer, beer halls, and pubs. Munich, Bamberg, Pilsen, Ceske Budejovice, Cologne, Dusseldorf, Brussels, Brugge, Ghent, London, Dublin.
When I arrived in Bamberg, I was greeted with the aromas of a brew in process. I smelled it time and time again when I walked through Pilsen, Ceske Budejovice and Dusseldorf. The sense of smell is one of the most powerful human senses and its deep roots in the brain has the ability to catapult you back to a time in your life when the same aroma occurred. When we brew here at the Civil Life, I have been known to walk around the block and enjoy the aromas wafting through the neighborhood. It is such an amazing aroma because it signifies the creation of something. Like the sound of hammers working on an old warehouse, someone feverishly typing a novel into their computer, an artist toiling away on a canvass or a chef cooking. The aroma of brewing gives me the same feeling I get when I see a painter dipping her brush onto a palette and reaching for the canvass, an author pulling words from their mind, a chef creating a new dish or a ninja doing origami. It is these things we all must do.
I grew up in St. Louis and am well familiar with the aromas of Anheuser-Busch and it truly is my first experience with a brewery. But I realized while walking the streets of Bamberg that I felt differently about Brauerie Heller-Trum/ Schlenkerla than I ever felt about Anheuser-Busch. When I was hit with the smoked beer aroma wafting through the town, I realized I had come several thousand miles to Bamberg because of the way the beer they make tastes. Not because I had seen some super model drinking their beer or a dog named spuds mackenzie or even ridiculous frogs sitting in a pond. And not because they had sponsored some sports teams or donated money to some charity I believe in. I was there simply because I adore the smoked beer from Brauerie Heller-Trum and the uniqueness of drinking it on cask at the brewery was something I will always remember.
I spent considerable time in the great German Beer Halls and for that reason we have installed the German Flag in our Brewery. But please don’t ask me to chose between Bamberg and Dusseldorf, I couldn’t possibly. I always feel quite comfortable in Germany and i suppose it is because my family has German roots. The Czech flag reminds me of the day I spent taking the brewery tour at the never updated Eggenberg brewery. It reminds me of the massive quantity of Pilsners produced traditionally with barley, hops, water and yeast that somehow gave rise to American beers produced with rice and corn. This will never make sense to me. If someday they rank our beers with the great session beers of England, I will die a happy man. Better yet, if the Civil Life Pub can get a crowd on a Tuesday like a great English pub, I will know we are doing things right. The England Flag flies as a brother in arms commitment to session beers. The pub culture and the people of Ireland are as welcoming as any people I have come across and music is so entwined in their culture that I could spend my life wandering the streets of Galway. It is with great pride of my Irish heritage and my adoration for their pub culture that I fly the Irish Flag. Brugge in Belgium ranks as one of my favorite small cities and it is without a doubt home to some great bars and the most unique bar experience of my life was at T’velootje in Ghent. The Belgian monks have contributed a tremendous amount to the world’s beer styles and you can find these styles emulated by many American Breweries.
So we fly many flags here, including a pirate flag on the top of our building and we proudly put out the American Flag every day at opening time (read the Grand Opening re-cap post and yesterdays post if you are wondering) and we are immensely proud to acknowledge the inspiration in our beers and design of our pub from those countries who for many years have been providing the world with truly beautiful pubs and beers.
If you live a life without being influenced by the dynamic world around you, you have yet to live.
Either way, you should come on down to our public house and have a beer. Cheers!
The First of 100 days (Sept 27). The American Flag is our first addition outside of a few things (Pirate Flag) added during our grand opening.
So it begins. The most crucial aspect of a new business is the start of the business...that first impression. Most people will make a decision about us the moment we say hello and I myself have to constantly remind myself the importance of that split second meeting. Read “Blink” by Malcom Gladwell. That exchanged smile and welcome can leave a permanent impression.
During the first 100 days we are open, readers of this blog will get to see the building we changed into a pub take shape. You will see it slowly gain personality and we will explain the meaning behind our additions. I will post information about the new item the day after it is placed in the pub/ brewery. I hope you can come along for the ride and when you are in please say hello to me.
Our first of the hundred days involved a gift from a neighbor. Mary, lives up the street from the brewery and is an absolute treasure to all of us that know her. She is the eyes and ears of Holt and porch sitting is her forte. Last week, Mary came down and gave us an American Flag to hang on the front of our building. It was definitely something we were going to do but it sure was a nice gesture and less expensive for us that Mary chipped in and purchased the flag for us. Mary is the warm neighbor you always wanted and always waves to me when she drives by the brewery.
So each day Mary drives by when we are open she will wave to us and soon she will realize the American Flag she gave us hangs proudly on the front of our building during our open hours.
So it is with great pride, that at 4 o’clock each day, I will walk the American flag outside and place it on the corner of the building to signal we are open and each night I will take it down from it’s position and put it inside when we close. I know this is the world’s greatest place for entrepreneurs and this great country of ours can come together under a common purpose. In particular, right now I hope that all of you can come together under the common purpose of keeping us open.
So Cheers to you and your family. I hope to see you and your family here soon.
Before the parade, I distributed signs to the crowd in Tower Grove Park. We are the first ever, South Tower Grove Brewery. This was followed by a speech and our walk to Holt Street.
First of all, I would like to thank all of those that made it out to the Parade and to our opening day ceremony at the Brewery. Having everyone there made the day something very special for the Civil Life Brewing Company and the so many people that have worked so hard to get this brewery open.
We are about to begin our first hundred days and during that time there will be one additional item added to the Civil Life Brewing Company’s pub each day we are open (Tuesday through Saturday). I will blog about it here and note it’s significance to our brewery. Many of these items will begin to make this place feel like a true pub to many people. We did our soft opening with bare walls because I didn’t want to detract from the incredible woodwork and craftsmanship in our pub. But now, we are ready to add the ambience and allow the space to develop before your eyes. So stay tuned as it all begins tomorrow.
We began the day at the corner of Oak Hill and Arsenal in Tower Grove Park with a good hundred or so people waiting for us to arrive. After passing out some signs, I began a prepared speech in which I “borrowed” and took a few liberties with the Gettysburg Address, President John F. Kennedy, Monty Python “Life of Brian”, Albert Einstein, Shakespeare to name a few. We then took to the streets and walked through the neighborhood. Our great volunteer, Kevin drove Dylan’s van and set up two stations along the way in which we distributed beverages to all of the people walking with us. The Third District was kind enough to provide crowd support along the way and I am forever indebted to the great work they do here working with our community to make it a better place to live. Our alderwoman, Jennifer Florida made it down as well and Tower Grove is so lucky to have her.
Our parade represented what I consider to be the major beer producing cultures of which emerged the current brewing and pub culture. We had the Czech flag with a man wearing an Eastern European hat, the Irish Flag, A monk (Matt) carrying the Belgium Flag, Joe (wearing lederhosen) carrying the German Flag, an English flag and a prestigious American flag from our great country. Our crowd carried signs, “My Mom made me do this.” “Make Beer, Not War” “Loco for Local” “No Beer, No Work” “Be Civil” “Will work for Pretzel and Beer.” “Save water, Drink Beer.” Most importantly we had a pirate as every parade needs a pirate. In fact we had two pirates as my nephew Joey (our youngest regular ) dressed up as a pirate as well.
Mike (our assistant brewer, chief kitchen manager, founder) carried the St. Louis Flag which we borrowed from Steve Smith at the Royale because ours hadn’t arrived yet.
My friend, the great painter Carl, counted 200 by the time we turned the corner onto Tholozan and headed up to the top of Holt. As we turned the corner Dylan, myself and Mike and the crowd were greeted by Laurie from the Saint Louis Caledonian Pipe Band who began playing the bagpipes in the most beautiful way. As we walked up the hill she turned the corner and joined the rest of the band to march us down Holt Street. Keep in mind that no one in the parade knew we were being greeted by this great band. By no one, I mean Dylan and Mike didn’t even know. Well, one person did know and that was my sister monica as I had received Laurie’s name from her. My sister took video of the event and we will post them soon.
As the band marched us down Holt street many of the neighbors and many people (probably something like one or two million) lined the streets to welcome us. Sister Bertha, our first customer was there as well. Rob, my good friend and champion of our part of Tower Grove had set up a table and area for the neighbors to wait for us.
At the bottom of Holt, I paused the crowd and waited as our Pirate, my brother Mike, ran by all of us with the pirate flag high in the air as the crowd cheered. He passed all of us and climbed up to the top of the roof and planted the flag on it’s peak signifying our official opening. The band then played as everyone entered the brewery.
It was truly one of the most special days of my life and I am so thankful for the many people that have helped make this place happen. I can never thank you enough and sincerely hope being part of our brewery raising has been something you are proud about because you and the many people who will come to patronize us make it all possible.
We will have video soon and many pictures from the event. The transcript from the speech is below. I believe my sister has a video of it as well and my voice during it has been described as Scottish, English and Irish. I guess I was channeling a lot of great cultures.
Grand Opening Speech given at the corner of Oak Hill and Arsenal on the twenty-fourth of September in the two thousand and eleven.
“Friends, St. Louisans, and Countrymen. Lend me your beers. We are today about to embark in the noblest of fashion on a journey together. A journey which will take us through the streets of this great Neighborhood to open the first ever Tower Grove Brewery. And I ask of you, ask not what your brewery can do for you, ask what you can do for your brewery.
So I say to you.
Four score and seven thousand beers ago the Civil Life founders (Mike, myself and this guy right here who I think’s name is Dylan) brought forth on this continent, to create an inspired brewery and resurrect session beers, conceived in barley, and dedicated to the proposition that not all breweries and not all beers are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great Civil Life, testing whether Civil Life beer, or any beer so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure a few years after its grand opening. We are met on a great battlefield of taste and we have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those beers whose sales are rapidly decreasing and who soon will give their lives so that this beer company might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should drink this beer and make friends while we drink this beer and continue to tickle our livers while we drink this beer. But more and more we must come to realize that in a nation as great as ours, in a nation that has been blessed. We together must reach out with our voices and bless the beermakers, and not just every beermaker but craft beer makers in general. And not just any craft beer maker, but bless this beer-maker.
But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate--we cannot consecrate--we cannot rest on this ground. The brave men and women, the drinkers that have gone before us, who struggled here to make craft beer an integral part of your life, have consecrated it, far beyond our meager power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what we did here and it can never, never forget what we drank here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who drank here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored drinkers. We take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these empty beers shall not have been consumed in vane--that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of craft beer--and that this brewery of people, built by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth and in particular from 3714 Holt in Tower Grove South.
So I leave you with one final thought, There is a great revolution about to occur in this great world of ours. We as a nation must move beyond democrat and republican, beyond black and white, and beyond mass market beer.
We must come to realize in the words of Albert Einstein. The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking at the same level of drinking with which we created them.
There is both a thought and drink revolution that will take us beyond these problems. That will unite our world.
And in a thousand years when they look back at this time in history, let them say,
It began in your great Country,
It began in your great city of St. Louis,
It began in your Neighborhood,
And it began at your Brewery.”
The Grandest of Openings!
Preparations are under way for our Grand Opening Ceremony on Sept 24, 2011!!!
Notice: Heads of State, Dignitaries, Cosmonauts, French Super-Models, time travelers and residents of St. Louis city and those that wish they lived in the city, dogs, cats, spider monkeys and giraffes, bikes and hover-craft owners, children of all ages, all former members of the band Quiet Riot and Insane Clowne Posse. if you have a heart beat and like craft beer you are invited. If you don’t like craft beer don’t feel left out, you are still invited so we can get you to like craft beer. By force if we have to. Please read below.
We are about to embark together on a grand journey of immense proportions and this notice is being sent so one day you don’t have to use those sad god forsaken words, “I wish I had been there.”
On September 24 in the year 2011, a grand event is happening which begins in Tower Grove Park at the corner of Arsenal and Oak Hill. At 12 noon (No later) many wise people from near (city residents) and far away lands (places like St. Charles and O’Fallon) will gather with a common purpose. They will be engaged in the most rightful and prestigious ceremony involving one said Brewery. This said brewery known to all as The Civil LIfe Brewing Company will officially become available on earth on this said day by said people saying things. Things like, “I said person state I am Civil, my liver is Civil and I am freaking glad I made it to this Ceremony.”
I have been telling people we built the brewery the way they used to build breweries and that we will open the brewery the way they used to open breweries in Tower Grove. When in fact, I have no idea how anyone used to open a brewery and I also found we are the first ever Tower Grove brewery but soon all breweries will open this way. Unless it rains, then they will probably just turn on the lights and open the doors.
So at 12 noon on the 24th of September you may be someplace in this wide world but there is only one place you want to be. Locked arm in arm in a massive display of local unity in which crowds of well over 30 people are expected to take to the street that gave this Southern part of Tower grove it’s name. We will walk together, footstep by footstep, with dogs and children of all ages from the park through the neighborhood down Oak Hill to Tholozan. At Tholozan we will do the noblest of things and turn right to head up a short hill for the final walk down Holt Street. Thousands will gather (at least 38 people at this point ) to watch this grand parade turn the final corner and march down a street that until that day hardly anyone except its great residents knew existed. But from now on will be known as the street on which the Civil Life’s grand opening took place.
We will turn Left at 3714 Holt and officially deem the bar open to the public even though we have been open for just over a week already.
Members participating in this grand event will then partake in an old fashioned shindig. Expect to see cats and dogs dancing with each other, 90 year olds break dancing without breaking anything and 22 year olds acting civilized at a Brewery. You will shocked to see that in the right setting at the right brewery everyone can get along. People will do the most civilized of actions by buying beers for people they don’t even know.
And when the dust settles, the crowds have gone home and the last mug has been washed. I’ll grab the broom, sweep the floors, mop behind the bar and get ready to welcome you back as you make the Civil Life an essential part of your life. Or I will just wallow in the pity of paying for the party no one showed up to. Either way, I will have some really tasty American Brown beer and life won’t be so bad.
Cheers to you!
EMAIL ME IF YOU CAN ATTEND SO WE CAN PLAN FOR YOU! IF YOU FORGET JUST COME ON BY!
Hello earthlings. I have been sent here to open a brewery. I hope you have time over the next year to check in from time to time and see our progress (or lack there of at times).
Morning beer delivery at Tynan’s Bridge House Bar in Kilkenny, Ireland.