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Brew Cos.: Six Row vs. Urban Chestnut

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Locals evaluated on food, atmosphere and drink selection

Minghao Gao / Staff Photographer

St. Louis has always been associated with beer. The name Anheuser-Busch is all over the city, whether its the factory, Busch Stadium, Mardi Gras or even the Busch Student Center here on campus.

With the beer culture being so strong here, it should come as no surprise that new breweries are opening up all over the city. In fact, two new breweries have opened up just two blocks from campus in the past two years. Urban Chestnut Brewing Company and Six Row Brewing Company have both made a big splash in the craft beer market, and are looking to establish their own legacy in the town that beer built.

Urban Chestnut Brewing Company opened in January 2011. Just north of Olive-Compton Garage, this brewery became an immediate player. Brewmaster Florian Kuplent brings some considerable clout, as he has been in the game for a long time.

After studying in the holy land of beer, Germany, he went on to work for various breweries around the world until he landed at Anheuser-Busch and created Shocktop. He decided to open his own brewery in St. Louis, so that he could share his passion through the fine selection of beers that Urban Chestnut offers. With a bottling line in the works, I’d say he’s off to a good start.

Just one year earlier, Six Row Brewing Company was already getting things going with their own new brewpub just south of campus on Forest Park Parkway. Named for its six founding members, all except one of whom began this brewery as a complement to their already successful careers, the brewery has had wide success and is on tap in over 50 establishments.

The passion for handcrafted beer is palpable in the brewpub. The beers range from traditional to downright whacky, but the guys at Six Row make it work, as shown by the great taste and continued success of their brewery.

Beer Selection

At Six Row, eight taps are available, along with guest taps there to promote the craft beer scene in St. Louis. They have brewed nearly 20 different styles: some are completely unique, others are familiar favorites, and some have just a slight twist that makes the beer unique to Six Row.

Their most popular and flagship beer, the “Whale,” is an example of their creativity. After throwing some ingredients together to see what happened, they turned out an incredibly successful beer. While this can be a great new experience, it’s also hard to know what to expect from each beer. Six Row has established a bold style of brewing.

Moving north to Urban Chestnut, they have a simple philosophy: “Beer Divergency.” It is a two-branch tree that is comprised of reverence and revolution. The reverence series is a group of beers that pays homage to the classic styles of Europe and the rich tradition of brewing.

The reverence series goes the opposite direction, and celebrates the creativeness of American breweries in the 21st century. There are a total of six beers in each series and many of the taps rotate seasonally, as they have brewed a total of close to 30 beers. The two most popular beers represent this philosophy. The “Zwickel” is a lager that is fairly familiar and easy to drink while the “Winged Nut” is a beer brewed with roasted chestnuts to give it a truly unique flavor.

Winner: Urban Chestnut. The beers are clearly classified, and the selection and consistency give them the edge.

Food

Six Row is a trademark brewpub. It’s more than just a place to make and enjoy beer; it’s a place to come and enjoy food. The full menu includes bar food like pretzels, chips and pizza, but there is also a nice variety of sandwiches. The roast beef and cheddar panini is especially good. I would suggest this as a unique place to take your parents when they come to visit. Many people forget Six Row when they complain about a lack of eats near campus.

Urban Chestnut has a great philosophy when it comes to food and beer. They are in the market to make beer and list their place as a “tasting room,” as opposed to a brewpub. The menu consists of various meat and cheese platters, hot pretzels with butter and mustard and sausage. What more can you ask for than a beer and a brat? That being said, this is not a place to fill your stomach. The food is more in the morsel category, but have no fear, you may bring your own food if you wish. Pappy’s is down the street — just  a thought.

Winner: Six Row. Nothing beats a good meal to go with that beer.

Atmosphere

Six Row has the benefit of being in a historic building that has been a part of brewing for nearly a century. The inside has an old-fashioned feeling, and there are several TVs to watch. It almost feels like a tavern. Board games are available for those who are looking to stay awhile. A window opens to the brewery so that you can see some of the magic happening right in front of you as the brewers do their thing.

Its a very relaxing atmosphere to sit and enjoy some good craft beer. The hours are limited, and the bar isn’t open terribly late because they want to promote a relaxed experience to enjoy beer. People looking to be over-served should probably consider going elsewhere. The space can probably hold no more than 75 or 100 people.

Urban Chestnut is also in an old building with some history. Located in the Locust business district, it lies in a former printing building. The tables arethe originalprinting tables, and the building is bare bones with brick and piping exposed. The bar wraps around and leads to a long hallway where there are darts and a foosball table.

They will have live bands most weekends, and there is a small sitting area outside in front. The building has one TV, and the message is pretty clear:

This is a building to sit and drink beer, and that’s it. During the day, the bar can be pretty slow, but at night the place comes alive with people leaving the Fox, Powell or Chaifetz to come have a good time. Coming soon to Urban Chestnut will be a 400-seat beer garden to expand the drinking experience

Winner: Urban Chestnut. This is a fun place to drink beer and the future only looks brighter.

Urban Chestnut has emerged victorious in this battle, but it is important to remember that these establishments are not the same. Six Row is a brewpub, and is focused on the dining experience as well as brewing their beer.

Urban Chestnut is a brewery that happens to have a tasting room with some food. Both breweries brew exceptional beer, and should be considered next time you are ready to try something new near campus.

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