I grew up in St. Louis and remember well when the Schlafly Taproom opened its doors in the early 1990s. My first visit to the brewpub, in what was then a sketchy part of downtown, was my first brewpub experience. It was an exciting breath of fresh air in a town dominated by Anheuser-Busch. I still have family in St. Louis, so I return a couple of times a year. And while a number of other very good brewpubs have opened in the city since I moved away, it is the Taproom to which I always return.
The two adjacent buildings in which the Taproom is situated are themselves a nice piece of early St. Louis architecture. They were built in 1902 and 1904 to house the Swift Printing Company, which occupied the building until 1969. After Swift left, the building sat vacant for 22 years. It was almost destroyed in a gigantic firestorm that swept the area in 1976. I can remember standing in my suburban back yard watching the smoke in the distance. Its derelict face was used as a location in the movie Escape From New York, helping to create the aura of a post-apocalyptic Manhattan.
The renovated décor of the Taproom is spare. The atmosphere is casual. The beautiful bar and backbar were hand-carved from lumber left in the building by the previous owners. They feature live music on Fridays and Saturdays. It’s a comfortable space for hanging out with friends over a pint and a bite.
I have always found the food at the Taproom to be mediocre. I’m told that you have to order the right things. I don’t seem to know what those things are. There are a few menu items worth checking out. The burgers are good, but they don’t come with a side. You have to order fries à la carte if you want them. The chicken white chili is a must order. And they are famous for the Sticky Toffee Pudding. When I was there a few days ago they had a venison special that was to die for. The meat came out very rare – the way I like it – and had the consistency of tuna sashimi. It was one of the tenderest pieces of meat that I have ever had. It was well complemented by the slightly sour and richly malty Oud Bruin with which I accompanied it.
It is the beer that keeps bringing me back. The taproom keeps a number of rotating taps going with a wide range of Schlafly beers. On this trip the beer menu featured everything from Kölsch and Pilsner to Robust Porter and Imperial Stout, with something for everyone in-between. In addition to the Oud Bruin I had a Winter ESB – “winter” because of its slightly elevated alcohol content – that was rich and malty with bright, citrucy hops and moderate but crisp bitterness. The real beer highlight of this trip was the Pumpkin Ale. When I first tried Schlafly’s Pumpkin Ale a few years ago it immediately became my ideal of what pumpkin ale should be. It’s a full-bodied beer at 8% ABV with deep Munich malt and caramel character, light cinnamon and nutmeg spice, and smooth pumpkin flavor from the pumpkin and butternut squash used in the brew.
In addition to draft beer, the Taproom also has sixpacks and growlers to go, as well as 750 ml bottles of Schlafly’s bottle conditioned and barrel-aged beers. The Taproom is located at 2100 Locust Street, just west of downtown. They are open Mon-Tues: 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Wed.-Thurs: 11 a.m.-1 a.m., Fri & Sat: 11 a.m.-1 a.m., and Sun: Noon-10 p.m.