Our update this week comes from the heart and from a "now smaller" family business that is also now larger. I have heard and felt your support in so many ways. We thank all of you that have been able to purchase beer from our online store https://civil-life-online.square.site/ or have purchased from any of our retailers in St. Louis and Illinois. We have a good deal of beer to sell to keep our little ship afloat. I also appreciate all the text messages and public posts that let us know that you are thinking about the Civil Life.
Colleen, Sabine (our first daughter) and I welcomed our newest family member on April 15th, when future do-gooder Greta Marian Hafner joined the ranks of kids on earth. One day she will look in the history books and realize that she was born during the pandemic. It is no doubt a source of joy and also a great diversion from what has been an increasing time of uncertainty for the Civil Life. The first picture on the left up top was Greta's face when I told her the pub was closed. I share her pain. Not a day goes by that I don't think of all of you who supported us over the years. I quickly told her not to worry, that I have a great group of employees and all of us are going to figure a way through this (2nd picture). She settled down in the last picture but as with all of us navigating this new world, she no doubt still has a bit of concern. Choosing how to proceed through this no doubt will be one of my life's greatest challenges and likely is going to present additional moral/business dilemmas down the road.
This pandemic has already put me in a position of delivering messages that no business owner ever imagined. Laying off staff always seemed to be something that I wouldn't have to worry about. I have been a small business owner for over 19 years. I often tell my staff or volunteers after our anniversary party that all of these pipe dreams of an owner and founders (Mike and Dylan) can't be done without the help of so many people that believe in what we are doing. No one person is responsible for the success of Civil Life. It takes all of you to make the Civil Life what it has become. Our staff, our regulars and all of our customers no matter how many times you come and where you buy our beer.
I took a bit of time after closing the pub to inventory our little business and thoroughly delve into the many decisions put before the Civil Life. The PPP (payroll protection program) looks like it works well for some but it just wasn't the right path for the Civil Life and I feel really missed the mark for so many of our small family owned businesses. We did get an emergency grant from the government of $10,000 . This was a huge help as it help put a large dent in the severance I paid to each of our furloughed staff. During this process, I also realized I have been lucky over the years and one of my business philosophy's finally seemed to have served me well. It's an old saying from a good friend of mine, thanks Tuan, that I have always took to heart and it's simply, "Be allergic to overhead." Last week, after considerable time looking at our monthly expenses and knowing I didn't have time to physically put in the many many hours needed to work through this mess we furloughed our remaining employees (Dylan, Mike and Dustin). The overall intention was to give our city time to get past the curve and also for us to recharge and re-group. All of us have kids so it gave us and our families a little bit of a breather as well. There are few other sayings I live by but I will save them for another time.
We are selling online and orders can be picked up from 2 to 6 pm Saturdays and Sundays.
Dylan called me last Tuesday and remarked how odd it was not to have something actively fermenting. We talked yesterday and during that conversation I realized it's been over 10 years since I haven't seen him and Mike at least 5 times a week. What odd times we live in. Chris, Patrick, Joe, Mike and Dylan had all worked with me at the Civil Life for over 8 years at this point. No doubt Lyzz, Kari, Martha, Emily, Dave, Dustin and Augie all want things to get back to normal at the ole Civil Life as well. I do too and it's so odd to think that the less we do, the less contact all of us have is the only way to shorten the time before we can pack the Civil Life again. I have realistic hope for better treatments and a vaccine. Please note emphasis on realistic. We'll get there. I suspect it won't be easy and I suspect it will take more time than what we inside hope it will take.
Our goal right now is to re-group and re-energize for what I feel is going to be a long slog coming up. Dylan, Mike and Dustin and I are currently set to come back to work full-time in June. This will give us time to work through a better plan for our success over the coming year. It also will give us time to sell all the beer we have in the cooler so we can make room to store more cans. We have plastic growlers coming May 10th!!! In the meantime, if you don't see our beer out in the market please utilize our online store to stock up. We currently have American Brown, Cream Ale, Rye Pale, Sara-Lou Brew (German Wheat). I'll be adding merchandise next week to the store as well.
It's odd writing an email like this where I now am officially the only one left at the Civil Life. It sure isn't the future I had imagined. I did already make some changes to the employee manual concerning how much beer one can drink while working. I am going to need a good deal of the sweet taste of Civil Life to make the right decisions for our smaller company. Just know that any purchase of the Civil Life goes to support a small business in St. Louis. My wife, kids and I live in Tower Grove South. My daughter and I still pick up trash on Holt Street and Beck just not as often (thanks to my friend Margaret who has been picking it up when I haven't been able to). There are so many small business owners in this great city that make our neighborhoods better places to live. Please continue to support locally owned. Most of our staff (whom we hope to welcome back as soon as we can) lives in the city as well. We have no big investors to worry about but we do have a sizable bank loan so every purchase of our beer really does keep the dream alive.
I'll be posting more frequently as our plan emerges and also to stay in touch. My time behind the bar talking with you has always been my favorite part of the Civil Life. This will have to do for now.
We have our online store linked throughout this blogpost. Orders placed online can be picked up Saturday and Sunday from 2 to 6 pm. All details are at https://civil-life-online.square.site/ I have staff there this weekend but will be back next. Since we were all in the hospital for Greta's delivery, I am on a 14 day hiatus from humans outside of my wife and kids.
Be well my Civil friends, Stay tuned and be well. We'll get through this together.
The Civil Life has no doubt become a different company over the last week as we sadly laid off a significant number of our staff. You might not be aware that a small portion of every pint, every 6 pack and every sandwich you purchased over the years helped us save up for a rainy day fund. Not necessarily, a zombie chain saw carrying apocalypse fund but it allowed us to provide another month of health insurance to our staff and some extra funds to them on their departure to help them as they also try to navigate these un-chartered waters. They have also set up a go fund me site which I will share in my next post.
If you are so inclined to desire what I like to think of as a necessity, some Civil Life beer, in this moment of shared struggle, there is now an option to pick-up at the brewery on Saturdays from 12 to 5 and Sundays from 12 to 5. You may order through the below square site. All orders are paid on line and all you will have to do is pull your car up and let me know you have arrived. I'll grab your beer and set on a table for you to retrieve and we'll do the social distancing dance exchanging trademarked Civil Life thanks from a distance. I'll put a hug in my hug bank for you too.
Thank you for your continued support. The Civil Life is a now a much smaller brewery but we are strong and will survive. I'd say we are still strong like ox but just a smaller marathon running ox.
You also will see our beer in grocery stores now if that is easier for you. Of course, you won't be able to see me when you pick up but just know I am thankful wherever you purchase. We so appreciate all the retailers in our city that are helping make our beer more accessible.
I'll update soon with another blog post and some more details on how we will do our best to get through this. But mostly, I'm just hoping St. Louis takes social distancing seriously over the coming weeks. Doing our part now will help take some pressure off of our health care system when they need it the most. Social distancing is Civil.
Just know, this too will pass. Please the better all of us can social distancing means the quicker the Civil Life can get back to doing what it loves.
Be well my friends,
Fair warning, every year at our anniversary party I give 25 minutes of prepared remarks that last for 45. You won’t need popcorn to read to the end but perhaps a beer says the publican in me?
We don’t have the power to write our own stories or dictate how the future unfolds in front of us. We certainly are not issued any sort of roadmap or guidance for Black Swan instances that unveil and quickly consume our path ahead. All we can do, is maneuver through life and be our best possible selves. I’ve owned a business since 2001. I opened and guided 33 Wine Shop & Tasting Bar successfully through the economic crash of 9/11 and all but one month of the great recession before I sold it. I was lucky to post successive growth months through both of those tough situations. 9/11 being the hardest emotionally as I worked at Windows on the World in the first tower from 1996-1998. One of the first true restaurant professionals I met at Windows, Jupiter Yambem passed away that day. I put his name here so he can be remembered. But even this is so much different than 9/11 and I mention it not to compare but to show that we, as a people, emerge stronger from difficult situations. There are many small business owners across the nation and in our city sharing this struggle with me today. We are a tough bunch and we support each other.
St. Louis pubs and restaurants are deeply woven into the fabric of our lives. Great pubs and restaurants are where this city goes when we’re celebrating, when we are sad and all those places in between. There are so many wonderful places in our city staffed by so many talented and hard-working professionals. I firmly believe these great pubs and restaurants and that many of the people that choose to be a bartender, server, cook, manager, or owner play a substantial role in what binds this city together and all of us are struggling right now to make sense of how to appropriately proceed. To which there is no roadmap, no detailed instruction manual and certainly no yellow brick road to follow.
A pub should never close has always been my battle cry. I’m a tried and true battle tested publican of 18 plus years. I love pulling pints for you our faithful customers way more than I love doing the books, paying bills and tracking our finances. Few know this but for 18 plus years, every day the first sale of the day occurred, I say “On the board” in my mind, a sports analogy for the first score of the day. I love the banter and conversation and the constant flow of our regulars and so many customers that move through our pub sharing their stories over pints. A handshake, a hug, a smile, a kind hello and a thank you are truly things that I love to do, every time. I have lived my publican life determined to serve, to listen and to preserve the fact that one of America’s greatest rituals: The act of joining a friend in a pub for a pint can get us through any damn thing this world throws at us. Until now.
I have oscillated on the moral dilemma presented before me even before yesterday’s CDC press conference and had planned to not re-open today regardless. I watched this build and unfold in Italy closely and I can’t quite get passed the healthcare professionals diligently serving their Hippocratic Oath out of my mind. The story of doctors choosing which patient would receive the open ventilator pulls every heart string I have. The data and exponential growth curve I have come to understand is putting us on a dangerous path towards overwhelming our hospitals and the people that work there. Some of those professionals are customers of ours. A few of our customers may at some point in the coming months need treatment at a local hospital. Maybe for this or maybe for something else. This also really hits home for me too as my wife and I are expecting our 2nd child to arrive in the middle of April. It’s not just us, thousands of St. Louisans will need care in our hospitals over the coming months all while our hospital system is handling this rapidly moving easily transmittable virus to which we have no defenses. Yes, you are correct a lot of people will only experience mild symptoms. Please understand mild to some doesn’t mean mild to all.
It is for them, for our city’s elderly, for our immune compromised and for my pub staff to which I can no longer guarantee a safe work-place that I made the hard decision to close our pub until this has passed. I feel and understand both sides of this difficult decision for our city’s pubs and restaurant owners.
I’m no moral lighthouse on any business matter and please do not take this as such, but this is the only path that works for the Civil Life. Everyone has different challenges ahead. If I close now and stop, I can save the Civil Life to be re-opened. I’m just a small business owner trying to do my best to navigate through these unchartered waters and understand as best as I can the situation that could overcome our city if we don’t act now. If closing this pub prevents transmission of just one case that then doesn’t cascade into many more, it is entirely worth it. Exponential growth is scary. New York declared its first case on March 1st. Yesterday 223 were added to bring the number of their cases to a total of 969. Today 405 were added by noon. That number will continue to grow and it very likely will soon crash their health care system. If we prevent that from happening in St. Louis, more resources can be sent to help our fellow Americans in other cities in this big country of ours.
We will be continuing our beer production on a limited basis as long as I am comfortable that our staff is working safely. We are doing our best to stagger shifts and have implemented strict distancing rules between employees. I am going to be working on a plan for beer to go. If I feel we can successfully do the work while keeping our staff safe, I will do it. If I can’t guarantee a safe workspace, I will not hesitate to stop operations until I can or until I am comfortable with the guidance issued.
The last two days have been the most surreal days of my life as I chart a new course to preserve what I can and protect the core of this little company. It comes in waves as I work through plans in my mind and fought to determine a way to keep everything open. Sadly the little kitchen that could is only 60 square feet and it now just can’t. So many of us are struggling right now to process a rapidly changing world. Don’t worry, I assure you. This too will pass. And when it passes, we will know exactly who we have become. I know that if I make this hard decision now, I will be able to re-open again down the road in some capacity.
I already look forward to that day when I can open our pub doors again and welcome you back with hugs, handshakes and heartfelt thanks. The Civil Life pursuit to pour the perfect pint will continue down the road.
Until then let’s put our efforts together to flatten the curve. If my memory serves me correctly, there are 777 ICU beds in our local hospitals. I am no health care or authority on this but from what I read that likely leaves about 220 to 250 available at this time, perhaps a few less and perhaps a few more. If you know a health care provider, put a hug in a hug bank for them and the work they are about to do to help care for our city’s sick.
Send a text or an email but be quick and don’t expect a response. They are embarking on their own journey and we need them now more than ever. Reach out to your favorite bartender or server and let them know you are thinking about them. I can tell you I appreciate tremendously all the kind words and actions directed to me. The collective power of kindness and civility carries us through these times.
Please consider donating to a local food bank. There are many poor and underserved in our community that will need us more than ever. We are all in this together. As soon as I have had time to discuss further with each of my staff, I will update everyone on this page on what the immediate future will look like for our company and for them.
Until then, Be Calm and Be Civil.
Yours in beer,
Last Thursday, May 30th, we had our first canning run on our brand new Wild Goose canning line and overall it went pretty smooth but we did end up with 60 cases of beer that we weren’t able to sell as our dissolved oxygen numbers were too high for our standards. Our first beer canned was our cream label throwback “CRAFT BEER” which contains one of our original recipes the British Bitter/ English Pale Ale. Luckily our staff was able to put a large dent in that and still show up on time on Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. No doubt they are true professionals. If you didn’t already know one of our company tag lines has been, “Beer not consumed by the staff, is put up for sale to the public.”
Our high standards come from our head brewer, Dylan, who sometimes sits up late at night with a pint of genuine Civil Life beer and thinks about a lot of same things beer drinking aliens think about. Things such as,” Why am I trying to drink beer through my finger?” or, “Do you remember that time NASA sent a spacecraft to Mars but the scientists failed to convert English to metric measurements?” Or more importantly, “How do we get more inter-galactic beer customers?” With craft beer growth on Earth slowing down there is no doubt it’s time for the Civil Life needs to go where no other beer has gone before but for now we will go to Illinois. Got to start somewhere.
This kind of commitment is what makes the Civil Life beers great. Dylan, Mike and Seymour make up our brewing team and they are always searching for ways to improve and always paying attention to the small details. It will be forever true that the substance of any company is in the small details.
On Friday May 31st, our small Civil Life brewery crossed another milestone and added another flag in our cap when we loaded up a truck from our Illinois distributor Robert “Chick” Fritz with cans of our flagship American Brown and CRAFT BEER. (For now, we are holding off on a bigger piece of our distribution puzzle, our great home state of Missouri). Since this was only our second day using the canning line, (it’s able to pump out 2 cases of beer every minute) we knew it would be hard to predict exactly what time we would be ready for the pickup. When their driver, Eric showed up we still had to can about 85 more cases to get him a full 3rd pallet of American Brown. He jumped right in and started helping us fill pallets and load his truck. “Your Friendly Beer Distributor” is printed on the door of every beer truck Chick Fritz owns. I’d probably add hardworking to that as well.
I seem to only remember a few dates these days, my wife’s birthday, my child’s birthday, the day I tried to sit still for 24 hours straight and the day Chick Fritz began distributing us in Illinois in 2015. I’ll tell you more about this when I serve you a pint in our pub. Our Civil Life American Brown is on tap at many great Illinois establishments and it’s entirely because Chick Fritz has believed in the Civil Life and took a chance on us. Some of our many great Missouri customers would be shocked to learn how many times patrons cross the mighty Mississippi to come to the Civil Life. I am looking at you Rob, Bill, Bonnie, Erin, Zach (Go to Taqueria Z in Edwardsville and say hi to Zach and the gang), Matt, Charlie just to name a few. I was sure for many months all of you lived in Tower Grove South. If you live in Missouri and haven’t been to Illinois lately for a few pints you are missing out. There are many great establishments on the other side of the river and we shouldn’t let any river, even if it is a mile wide uh now, 2 miles wide divide us. We are one economic region.
There are many reasons why we chose to distribute first in Illinois and hold off on Missouri for a bit. If you have been paying attention to the odd slow way the Civil Life has grown in reverse the last couple of years, you probably realized that we have been very methodical and patient even when numbers haven’t gone our way. Perhaps to a fault as many other breweries have passed our volume numbers as they went into cans first or have been able to afford a sales staff. It’s okay, I’d say to myself as getting involved in a production race is a bit too much for me since I haven’t been on a track team since 1988. The Civil Life will set no land speed record this year either but Chick Fritz has grown our draft every year we have been with them and they have invested heavily in the Civil Life. Fun Civil Life factoid: Illinois has more Civil Life neons than even St. Louis. We have done several events in Illinois over the years and every time a group from Chick-Fritz is there to enjoy the event. Each year, one of my favorite beer dinners is at Trenton House in Trenton, Illinois (I’ll mark you down for next year) and each year, Chick-Fritz shows up with at least 10 people. Of course, Erin, Bill, Rob and Bonnie were there too this year. The Trenton House annual Civil Life Beer dinner is also the only place in the world that cans have been sold outside of the Civil Life for the past two years.
You might be wondering still why we didn’t try to also release in St. Louis at the same time. Well, honestly when I sent the entire list of our summer production to Chick-Fritz they said they could take it all but also understood that we have other commitments and would be happy with whatever we could send. I thought to myself for over 5 minutes but I thought so hard that it felt like 6 minutes. Once again, I agreed with myself and me that this was the right thing for our small company and that Illinois was the place to launch our cans. Most importantly, this will give us some time to learn how to use this new expensive machine at a pace that works with our current schedule and what we realize now are fairly significant space issues. A huge thank you to our friends across the street from the brewery at EZ Storage that are storing all of our extra kegs.
Simply put, our plan for our first summer of cans is to learn how to walk first. We’ll get all the protocols in place and get our staff trained properly over the next couple of months. We already have made some adjustments from the way we stack our full pallets (thanks Carl!), the pallets new brite (that isn't mispelled but I did misspell misspelled) cans will come in on, our can supplier, our tray supplier and an adjustment on the canning line by adding a non-violent air knife to get more water off the cans before our labels go on. Wasting a roll of labels makes one think that there must be a better way. The first adjustments are the easiest but we’ll also be relentless in our pursuit for dissolved oxygen numbers so low that people think Dylan is some type of beer Sorcerer. Perhaps we’ll even staff up a bit more in case Eric can’t stop by to help us. We’ll take our time learning to walk as we have always believed that it’s harder to do things right if all we are concerned about is going fast. Mach II with our hair on fire just isn’t much of what we do at the Civil Life. We do not at this time have a time line for when we will get to St. Louis in cans outside of our brewery. So perhaps we should call this a long walk or a walkabout. Of which I actually quite like, you might not know but once I walked 500 miles to Cape Finesterre, Spain (translates as End of the Earth) on the Camino de Santiago and I’d walk 500 more. SPOILER ALERT: There is a bar at the end of the Earth just as there should be.
We hope over the next few months we get learned and educatameted on the canning line and are able to take on a bigger task of supplying our thirsty St. Louis patrons in pubs, restaurants and grocery stores. I can assure you nothing would make me prouder in St. Louis than to walk into a convenience store and be able to walk out with a 6 pack of American Brown and some Cheetos. Not to mention the many great bars, restaurants and retail stores that are chomping at the bit to get our cans. That old adage “Patience is a virtue” might seem like a bunch of crap right now but please pop on into the pub some day and we can talk more over a pint. I don’t like to let anyone down but I do wholeheartedly believe this is the correct path for our little brewery.
If I was to look at my magical cracked crystal ball, I’d say my bet (keep in mind I have never won a bet in 46 years but am feeling pretty good about this one) is we will have the canning line running smoothly sometime in the future and be ready to support the St. Louis market sometime after that future day. I don’t want to pin down a date at this point as many of you may recall we announced an expansion in 2016 at our State of the Beer Union address, well, there still is no building on the lot but there is a pretty interesting formation of weeds taking over. Until then please, please seek out our beers on tap around town. If you are a bar or restaurant, the good people at Major Brands can let you know what is available in draft. If you are a true Civil Lifer yourself, the biggest thing you can do for us is ask for the Civil Life on draft when you are at your local pub or restaurant. As I have always said, “Drinking a beer on tap at any establishment is as good as drinking it at the Civil Life.” Best yet, supporting the many pubs and restaurants that carry our beer is what makes our business work in forward motion and not so much in the moonwalk motion of the last 3 years. We can’t do this without them.
We thank you from the bottom of our livers. We thank you for your continued support of our little brewery and for believing in the Civil Life.
There is another old adage that says good things come to those who wait. We say good things come to those who drink Civil Life. Hopefully this stage won’t take long, but I thought it would be best if you heard it from me. If you are looking for some of that CRAFT BEER for sale. You might want to head across the river and say hello.
As for us, our small brewery just got a little less small. We’ll keep reaching inside and moving onward at a Civil pace. We’re not sure where we are going or when we will get there or even how to get there. But when we do get to where we didn’t expect to be we will let you know we have arrived at someplace in the future. Until then, I will keep asking myself and me if I am really the correct person to run this brewery. Survey says, "Perhaps" as the crowd says, “Build that Bar.” Decoder rings are available for this blog post by sitting at the bar and talking with me. No extra charges apply.
Captain of the “sometimes wayward” Barley Ship
Recent changes in our beer list highlight our movement further into lager season. Civil Lager and Vienna Lager are selling briskly. Regular-favorite Dortmunder is back. Today our hugely popular Czech Pilsner goes on. And stay tuned for the return of Carlbock (the beer that miraculously restored health to one of our regulars after a serious motorcycle accident).
Our Civil Lager is crisp, clean, and simple. This golden lager beer will appeal to craft and non-craft beer drinkers alike. It is a refreshingly crisp beer than still has some bready malt and subtle hop spice. Needless to say, this pairs well with much summer food, especially tacos on Sunday.
Vienna Lager is a lighter, drier cousin of Oktoberfest. It is an accessible copper-colored lager with a distinctive toasted malt character and a dry finish. German noble hops impart a pleasant spiciness. Don’t let Charlie and Alex drink it all … again. Stop in and get it while we have it.
Related to Pilsner and Helles, Dortmunder is a refreshing golden lager with good malt body and pleasant hop character. Fuller bodied and maltier than Pilsner, this lager features subtle floral and spice hop notes. Malt rich but refreshing, this classic German style is always a huge hit.
Czech Pilsner, a crisp and tasty golden beer, is our take on the world’s first pilsner. Ingredients sourced from the Czech Republic give this refreshing lager round malt character and subtle floral and spice hop notes. This great style is anxiously awaited each year and, now, it is back on tap, so stop in for a pint or two.
Ah, the #Carlbock. This golden colored bock beer is named for our good friend Carl. It is a helles bock, or strong golden lager. This complex yet drinkable beer is full bodied with delicate fruity notes and subtle hop spice and a dry finish. It was this hashtagged brew that introduced so many people to that thing called Twitter. A sip of this magical lager will return you to the days when Twitter was used to spread information about beer, not political propaganda.
The beer list is filling in nicely, but in a state of flux, as always. Don’t miss these stellar beers. Come down and visit us at the pub and try them all. Or just return to your favorite. See you soon @TheCivilLife.
A Long-Awaited Spring Brings Spring Beers
As our lengthy winter shows signs of departing for good, we look forward to what some regard as the finest season of all: lager season. Our lager yeast strain is in house and many favorite beers are poised to return to slake the thirstiest of Civil drinkers.
Over the coming weeks, you can expect the return of some old favorites. Now is a good time to revisit our versions of these traditional German styles. As the temperature rises, your options for refreshment will be increasing day by day.
Civil Lager was our newest style using the lager yeast strain last year. This pale golden beer is crisp, dry, and oh so refreshing. Approved for lawn mowing as well as more pleasant outdoor pursuits, Civil Lager will keep you hydrated and happy. Even your friends and family who haven’t made the jump to craft beer will enjoy this classic brew.
Long-time favorite Vienna Lager returns soon as well. This toasty amber lager is a dry cousin of Oktoberfest with subtle noble-hop spice. Food friendly, Vienna Lager belongs in the drinking hand of every backyard griller in Saint Louis.
Our great Dortmunder is another classic German style. Similar to a Pilsner but richer and more complex, Dortmunder marries exceptional malt body with floral and spice notes. If you think pilsners are boring, try this sophisticated alternative.
Speaking of sophistication, the great Carl who gave his name to our Helles Bock is the embodiment of Civility and savoir faire. Carlbock has been called by some the greatest bock beer on earth and these fanatics will be downing this strong golden lager with abandon when it comes available. Its hints of fruit and spice make it an unforgettable spring beer that tastes great in any weather.
Other lagers will follow, so stay tuned. In the meantime, plan your outdoor activities with the Civil Life in mind. We have a good stock of Angel and the Sword and American Brown Ale in cans. Stock up!
Our own canning line will be up and running soon. Also look for beer garden improvements, starting with elaborate German umbrellas featuring light and heat. Keep tuned in for more news. As always, Be Civil.
We are in a state of flux again with new beers poised to alter the Civil Brews list in time for summer drinking. The bad news is, we ran out of Scottish Ale yesterday. After meticulously cleaning the lines, we put Civil Lager back on. It joins old favorite Cream Ale, which went back on tap at the beginning of the week.
Let’s revisit these great options for total refreshment. Both are popular with all Civil drinkers.
Our Civil Lager is a deceptively simple summer quaffer. It is clean, crisp, and dry, with pleasant hop spice and grainy malt goodness. Built from traditional German ingredients, this super refreshing beer is accessible and a perfect accompaniment to all warm weather activities. This brand-new batch is brilliantly clear and pale. As pleasant to gaze at as to guzzle, Civil Lager is the perfect choice. Available now!
Cream Ale, too, is crisp and refreshing. It is a light style of North American beer dating back to the mid nineteenth century. These beers are brewed for refreshment, with relatively mild malt and hop characteristics. Cream Ales were brewed as competitors to common light lager beers and have similar characteristics.
The style was generally brewed with some adjuncts to the barley malt, typically corn or rice. Such beers were often light, though with a bit more body than many lagers. Before prohibition, the style did quite well in Canada and the eastern United States.
Early Cream Ales had very little bitterness (usually 15–20 IBUs). After prohibition, variations on the style brewed in the American Midwest were fuller bodied and noticeably hoppier (still in the low 30s IBU-wise).
Our Cream Ale is true to the tradition, especially the more flavorful post-prohibition style. We use Golden Promise as the base malt. This Scottish spring barley is sweet and clean with mellow malt flavors. We forgo corn or rice in favor of a little white wheat and oats. The oats impart a creamy mouth feel and body.
At 4.3% alcohol and 32 IBUs, Civil Life Cream Ale is an all-day quencher for warm summer days. It’s crisp and refreshing, with good body, a little bready malt, and just enough hops for balance.
Stop in now to try these two great beers. And know that the lager train is on track with Czech Pilsner, Vienna Lager, Dortmunder, and Carlbock all poised to return. Prost to summer in Saint Louis. Heat and humidity will only make these beers taste better.
An Old Beer Is Joined by a New One for March Drinking …
Many of you have been enjoying our incomparable extra stout and thinking, no doubt, that it will be the ideal to toast Saint Patrick’s Day. This is true, but now you have another option. Civil Life Irish Red is on tap now (with a limited supply being served on cask)!
A curious fact that will not be evident to the casual observer is that each of these distinct beers uses the same base malt: an Irish malt made for stout. Contrary to what you might be thinking, this malt is actually quite light in color.
In the case of both the Extra Stout and the Irish Red, just relatively small amounts of specialty malts are responsible for their respective dramatic final colors. The Extra Stout is dark black thanks to highly roasted malts. True to its name, the Irish Red has a brilliant garnet hue due to small amounts of roasted barley and dark crystal malt.
Later this month, some drinkers will be quaffing cheap domestic beer enhanced by the addition of artificial green coloring. While admittedly not civil, this practice may in fact improve the taste of these beers. Regardless, green beer is not for everyone. We suggest you skip the green and stop in for a pint of the red or the black.
Enjoy the delightful Irish Red (like a bitter with some roast and slightly less hops) or the Extra Stout (a full-bodied, layered complex beer with cocoa notes and intriguing herbaceous hints). Either beer is suitable for toasting any occasion and relies on the natural properties of roasted malts to achieve its distinct color.
And please note, we have used our new filtration apparatus on the Irish Red Ale and its brilliant clarity only heightens the beauty of the predominantly red cast of this lovely beer. (We used it on our recent batch of STL Best as well … order a pint to see how brilliant it looks, not to mention drinks).
See you soon at the Civil Life. And whatever color is in your pint, be sure to drink civil and be civil. Cheers.
We are currently in one of those periods when our draft lineup offers more than one hop-forward beer. Obviously, we are known for producing traditional malt-driven ales, but being traditional, we know that hops have been used to balance malt sweetness and impart subtle notes that can be floral, spicy, fruity, woodsy, piney, etc.
Our UK IPA is back and better than ever. This classic IPA uses a blend of malts from England and Ireland as well as dark cane sugar, approximating the brewer’s caramel used to increase richness and alcohol, without imparting too much body.
UK IPA is hopped during the boil with four different types of English hops. What really comes through on the nose and palate, though, are the varieties with which this ale is dry-hopped: Challenger, Progress, and East Kent Goldings.
In the end, our UK IPA showcases a range of English hop characteristics without being over the top. While clocking in at a robust (for us) 70 IBUs, this balanced beer does not come off as overly bitter. Enjoy spicy, floral, grassy, earthy, and herbaceous hop notes in this traditional IPA.
American craft drinkers are more accustomed to the American take on IPA or on APA, both styles foregrounding decidedly different hop notes. These styles have their own history. West Coast breweries like Anchor, Sierra Nevada, and Bert Grant’s were critical in establishing American craft beer.
The original workhorse hop at American craft breweries was Cascade, and that is the hop we use for each addition in this delightfully refreshing ale that celebrates hops without bruising the taste buds.
Our APA is just 35 IBUs but has noticeable hop character. Cascade’s dominant characteristics are pine and citrus, with yellow grapefruit notes predominating. Cleaner, lighter, and less malty than English IPAs, APAs are truly refreshing.
Join us as we enter spring with this great style as well as our UK IPA. As always, these beers are balanced and drinkable and are known to promote civility. See you soon at the pub!
American Brown, Angel & the Sword, Northern English Brown and ESB now available in cans ONLY at the brewery!
$32 a case (Mix & Match)
SAME NEW IMPROVED LOGO ON OUR AMERICAN BROWN CAN!
The American Brown you love is now also filtered! SAME GREAT TASTE SAME GREAT BEER. 3 out of 3 brewers agree! And 99 out of 100 people will not notice until they are almost finished with their pint! Last statement is not scientifically proven, yet.
LONG VERSION: READING TIME DEPENDS ON HOW FAST YOU READ.
On Tuesday our new American Brown can with almost SAME NEW LOGO was released into the wild! Due to two average sales days it hasn't been circulating as much as it had wanted to but you have the power within you to change that by coming down to the brewery and buying a 6-pack or case.
There is no doubt that we loved our first version of American Brown cans. Our trademarked chap with two obviously Imperial Pints takes center stage and for good reason on that version. It's not possible to see on the below picture but he is definitely on the new can as well but just a bit more subtle.
We loved the previous can but there was something we noticed in our cold room when these cans were stacked next to other cans. Can you tell? I hope so. The below picture on the left is actually not one but two different beers! So that made us start thinking because if we are ever really LUCKY ENOUGH to be case stacked by some higher than genius level retailer some day we had to find a way to fix this issue. We also know the crazy competitive market is just going to get more competitive over the next few years and we are doing everything we CAN (See what I did there?) to keep this little company of 9 full time and 3 part time employees moving forward rather than just sideways which we have been doing for 3 years now.
Enter problem. Enter solution.
We discussed with our uber talented can designer (Brian Woolbright) and he went to work. How could we improve on what we already thought was a great can? We also pulled in another regular and “big picture thinker” David Boyd to give us real direction on how to someday present ourselves to a wider audience. Now just to be clear, these aren't just two Civil Life drinking regular chaps, these chaps do this sort of thing for a living. We never could have afforded them if they didn't like our beer so much. They also have followed me from my previous ownership of 33 Wine Bar to the Civil Life. I have spent countless hours discussing a range of topics with them and they were the ones we turned to when we realized how important it was to get this right for our little company.
The question evolved, into, "How do we convey some of the really great things about Civil Life to a group of people that may not have been to the Civil Life?" Shocking right to find out that some people haven’t been to our pub. But it’s true, just like it’s true I once tried and failed due to a supply error to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in every state across America in my failed PBJ Across the USA train ride in October of 1996. Meanwhile, back to what we were talking about. “How do we get a person that doesn’t know our great staff, the great food we serve and our pub to pick up a can that says Civil Life on it?”
For those that say this new logo looks familiar, you are correct as this new logo was quietly released in the pub on our printed menus a few weeks ago. In the next several months it will arrive on merchandise, coasters and growlers as well.
The new same logo is everything we hoped it would be.
What else is new you say?
What follows is very important news concerning our American Brown! Aren’t you glad you read till the end? After deliberation and a solid tasting analysis we will be filtering our American Brown going forward. This is our flagship beer and no doubt the reason we are still in business. So rest assured, we take no chances or do no experimentation with this beer (rarely with any of our beers) and always, always keep this beer the same. Some business decisions are often made about how to squeeze extra margin into products. You remember when a bag of chips had at least 12 chips in it? In our case it's more of can we use a little less of that expensive grain? Can we pitch the yeast a few more generations? It’s easy at the Civil Life to make these decisions as the number one response I give is, “Will this in any way, even small, change the consistency of our Brown or change the taste of our brown?” Small changes do not work for us as it isn't the foundation on which this company has been built. We aren't some jello manufacturer? We make good fairly priced beer. And drinking our beer is no different then slipping into a conversation with an old friend.
It goes like that for all of our beers, but I just want to settle the nerves of those reading that are not able at this particular moment to also be drinking an American Brown. Our panel gave high marks to the filtered version and found that the differences (albeit really really, really small! Notice the exclamation point and the extra really for emphasis) are very slight appearances in taste and obviously very large in appearance. In all honesty, it really just looks like we left it in the fermenter for a few extra weeks before we canned it. That’s another way to filter.
If there is any disagreement among our customers in the market, we will be providing counseling over a pint of American Brown in our pub Tuesdays to Thursdays 4 to 11. Fridays 12:00 am to 11 pm, Saturdays from 11 am to 11 pm and Sundays from 11 to 9 pm.
So that’s it for today. Please stay tuned to this channel. We have more things coming over the next year. Keep your ear to the grindstone and your nose in your pint glass. Or whatever that is supposed to be.
Long live the American Brown,
Captain of the Sometimes Wayward Barley Ship
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.