Beer Is Not the Only Craft at the Civil Life …
In this plastic world, your traditional friends at the Civil Life like to celebrate wood. From the beginning, customers have reacted very positively to our cozy wooden respite from the trials and tribulations of the modern world. From our beautiful ash bar and back shelving to the old school wainscoting and hand-made wood tables and snugs, the warmth of wood makes every pub-goer feel instantly at home.
Some time ago, one of our regulars surprised us with a gift. Steve Reynolds has been working with wood for decades: “while I was a computer professional I have been making sawdust for 40 years.” He can’t help turning a humble block of wood into an object of beauty … and utility. The first tap handle Steve made for us was turned from a piece of beautiful cocobolo, a Central American hardwood.
That first tap handle sits on the faucet dispensing the Angel and the Sword, Steve’s favorite beer at the Civil Life. As time permitted, Steve fashioned more tap handles from a variety of woods he had around the shop. “Naturally if the woods were different I also used a variety of shapes and dyes,” Steve explains. There was never any official agreement that Steve would make all of our tap handles, but as time permitted, he would work on a couple of new handles and drop them off.
We were all excited as the set grew toward completion, with a quirky variety of shapes and finishes. They have become a real conversation starter. Once, a set of twelve uniform plastic handles peeked above the traditional ash coffin box (very much like the ones you see in Irish pubs) where we dispense twelve delicious Civil Brews. Now we have twelve unique handles, all a testament to the skill and vision of Steve Reynolds.
About seven years ago, Steve “got into woodturning in a big way.” Curmudgeon Woodwerks is the name of his shop. He grew up seeing his father working on projects around the house, so woodworking never seemed like some mystical practice, but a real craft. He eventually took to making furniture and other objects, knowing he wouldn’t get exactly what he wanted if he didn’t. That’s very much the philosophy of the Civil Life itself. Well-crafted, flavorful, traditional session beers were hard to come by, so the founders of the Civil Life decided to make these beers themselves.
Next time you stop in for a beer, check out our unique tap handles (pub only, our market tap handles are crafted by another St. Louis woodworker ~ Marvin at Burkarts.) While you enjoy your pint, you’ll probably have a conversation with one of our many regulars who, like Steve, enjoys doing things the right way instead of the easy way. That, friends, is the Civil Life.
These are exciting days at the Civil Life with lots of new beers appearing on our list of Civil Brews. Our Scottish Ale season has officially begun with our 70 Shilling Scottish Ale available on tap now. We also recently started pouring the second in our series of “Big Beers,” Big American Stout.
You couldn’t ask for two more different beers. One is light and quaffable while the other is big and robust. As always, there’s something for everyone at the Civil Life.
At just 3.5% alcohol, the 70 Shilling is a true session beer. This beautiful pale orange beer is very light bodied with a clean dry finish. Like most Scottish beers, it’s lightly hopped (just under 20 IBUs). Though light, it doesn’t lack flavor, with a slightly toasty character and some subtle earthy roast notes. It’s easy drinking and delicious.
On the other end of the spectrum is our Big American Stout, a big black beer with 6.5% alcohol and 65 IBUs. This stout is full bodied with deep dark roast character, featuring notes of dark chocolate and coffee. There are earthy undertones and a subtle dried fruit note. You’ll enjoy the complex layers of roasted malt.
These two great additions to our list are part of our commitment to offer the sophisticated beer lover plenty of options. We like to think we have something for everyone. It’s always gratifying to hear customers tell us we don’t make a bad beer. We’d like to show our thanks to all of you, so here’s a promise: we’ll keep making great beers as long as you keep drinking them. We couldn’t do it without you!
Having eaten at restaurants all of our lives, most of us have never stopped to consider the origin of this noble and necessary institution. Tony, the mastermind behind our internationally renowned Civil Eats program recently informed me about the origins of the term restaurant and the first such places, French eateries that served nourishing soups.
We’re well into Soup Sunday here at the Civil Life and it’s high time we discussed something besides delicious beer. Restaurant derives from the French verb restaurer (to restore) and was first used in Paris in 1765, according to the OED.
A little place called Bouillon is widely considered to be the first modern restaurant. The name means “broth” or “stock” and the place opened in 1765. They served just soups: simple, hearty, nourishing meals served up in a single bowl.
Tony and Dave honor this tradition every Sunday at the Civil Life, serving three different soups, all lovingly prepared and designed to restore the hungriest diners. They come with crusty, locally baked bread and pair well with our beers, as well as our wines (three of which currently come from France).
The public house has a similar tradition, though what we think of as a pub traces its origin all the way back to the first century, when travelers on the new system of roads constructed in England by the Romans could stop and take refreshment at taverns opened for that purpose. What these travelers sought was a restorative.
Restaurants began to transform themselves into more elaborate and more expensive places that scarcely resembled their humble origins. At the Civil Life, we maintain the tradition of offering a comfortable place to get good, nourishing food and drink at an affordable price in good company.
That’s why you see so many of the same friendly faces when you stop into the Civil Life. Our neighborhood and our city have many souls in need of a restorative. Travelers, too, stop into our pub for restoration.
You may have heard us use the term “restorative pint.” “Restorative” itself refers to a drink that restores strength and health. We are confident that the unwholesome effects of whatever grueling labor you might be required to perform can be quickly reversed with one of our excellent ales.* On Sunday, allow restorative soups to prepare you for a new week of work. Tuesday through Saturday, stop in for a filling, affordable sandwich and a pint.
Whenever you might be in need of a restorative, call on your friends at the Civil Life. You’ll feel like a new person after a pint and a snack. Salut!
*The Civil Life makes no health claims relating to the consumption of alcohol. But we do whole-heartedly believe a trip to the pub can be quite good for your mental health and sharing pints with friends undoubtedly is a noble endeavor. We can make claims that eating food is important as without it you could just wither away. Perhaps a pint with that morsel for refreshment.
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.