Back in the days when the St. Louis Browns shared Sportsman’s Park with the Cardinals and the city enjoyed a thriving footwear manufacturing scene, it was commonly said that St. Louis was “First in booze, first in shoes and last in the American League.”
Well, the shoes have run off to China and the Browns have decamped for Baltimore, but there's still booze aplenty, thanks to a growing legion of microbreweries, wineries and small-batch distilleries, not to mention the elephant in the room, Anheuser-Busch, which conducts some of the city’s most popular tours of its sprawling campus south of downtown. So, bend an elbow; we’ve got something for every taste.
Anheuser-Busch Brewery & Biergarten
Tours of the world-famous brewery run the gamut from free to $25—including the Beer School, Day Fresh Tour, Beermaster Tour and History Tour. Guests 21 or older may try samples of A-B products. The Biergarten offers more than 15 beers on tap, beer flights, brewmaster tastings—be sure to try the new Underground Collection—food and occasional live music.
4 Hands Brewing Company
Not far from A-B at the southern edge of downtown, 4 Hands continues to delight and surprise beer lovers with brews like Cast Iron Oatmeal Brown, War Hammer Imperial IPA, Passion Fruit Prussia and my favorite, Divided Sky Rye IPA.
Missouri Wine Country
Missouri is loaded with wineries producing outstanding wines from mostly French hybrid grapes like seyval, vignoles and chambourcin and the native American varietal, norton.
The names may be unfamiliar, but you’ll find wines that compare favorably to chardonnays, sauvignon blancs, pinot noirs and cabernet sauvignons. Nine Missouri wineries—including Chandler Hill Vineyards, Sugar Creek Winery, Montelle Winery, Mount Pleasant Estates, Augusta Winery, Louis P. Balducci Vineyards, Yellow Farmhouse Winery, Noboleis Vineyards & Winery, and Blumenhof Vineyards and Winery—are located just 45 minutes from downtown St. Louis along Highway 94 from Defiance to Dutzow. Plenty of signs make the wineries easy to find.
That “630” refers to the height—in feet—of the Gateway Arch, the national monument not far from this small-batch distillery on the southern edge of downtown. You can tour the facility, get a peek inside the distillation process and enjoy free tastings of its award-winning line of whiskeys and rums. The shop carries great souvenirs like the Barrel Master Home Whiskey Aging Kit. Tours ($5) Sa-Su noon-3 pm.
Square One Brewery & Distillery
A renovated historic building in the storied Lafayette Square neighborhood is home to both housemade microbrews like Bavarian Weizen, Maple Porter and Spicy Blonde, and a long line of spirits—try the JJ Neukomm Whiskey—plus fare from Mahi Mahi tacos and hot wings to a salmon BLT and stout-braised pot roast.
Urban Chestnut Grove Brewery & Bierhall
This craft brewery, which combines Old World beer styles with revolutionary American beers in an approach it calls “Beer Divergency,” offers its unique line of brews, from smoked brown ales to Bavarian IPAs along with salads, sandwiches, oysters and other munchies in The Grove neighborhood. A second location features lighter fare in Grand Center.
Brewhouse Historical Sports Bar
This beer lover’s spot doesn’t produce beer, but serves up a large selection of local brews along with a chef-driven, scratch-made menu of upscale bar food. Currently, the Summer Sausage Series menu features three specialty sausage selections including an Urban Chestnut Zwickel bratwurst cooked in the local Urban Chestnut Zwickel beer.
As St. Louis’ first new production brewery to open since the end of Prohibition, Schlafly offers tours, a restaurant, a brewery and live music along with a stellar lineup of craft brews. Entrees focus on local foods and include pork schnitzel, smoked pork steak, grilled rainbow trout, and honey-brined chicken.
Gamlin Whiskey House
Nationally recognized as a top whiskey bar, this modern take on the American steakhouse offers a long list of American, Canadian, Scottish and Irish whiskeys, some offered exclusively here. The menu features pork steak—an only-in-St. Louis treat—seafood, beef stew pot pie, chicken and Hereford hand-cut steaks. The Gamlin brothers also operate the uber-popular Sub Zero Vodka Bar just a block west in the Central West End, where sushi, burgers and salads share the spotlight with vodkas from 19 countries.