Six Row Brewing Company pays homage to the city's storied brewing history. They brew the sudsy stuff and serve it up cold in the historic Falstaff building on Forest Park Parkway, a place that still has the original Falstaff stained glass above the entry. Heck, the small microbrewery is even co-owned by a descendent of Adolphus Busch -- and the bar was taken in part from the old Cheshire Inn.
River City's newest independent brewery opened in December 2009, and is quickly finding its way into the hearts and stomachs of St. Louis beer aficionados. The brewery takes its name from their signature six-row barley malt and the company's six owners, for whom beer is a passion and a hobby. All the owners come from a variety of processional backgrounds -- including engineering, marketing, real estate development and banking -- and now they're living every guy's fantasy.
"Two of our partners are home brewers with a lot of experience, so we knew we could make really good beer," said owner Mike Rami. "That was one thing we knew we could do. Our focus has always been to be a brewery first and foremost, to make really good beer. We're not a restaurant that does beer as a novelty."
Six Row offers seven hand-crafted beers: Kolsch, ESB, Wee Heavy, Strong Porter, Extra Pale Ale, their unique Whale and Honey Weizen.
I'll admit, I'm a total novice when it comes to beer, so I was quick to take bartender Ryan Rakel's suggestion that we try the Whale. It's a brewing experiment gone right: The smooth, delightful brew is a ten-malt blend that's a pale ale fused with a wheat. It's so good in fact, on our visit, a customer was extolling its virtues: "It's probably the best beer I've ever had, hands down. Hands down, I haven't tasted another beer I like better."
The Honey Weizen is brewed with twelve pounds of Missouri honey, and is one of their most popular brews, according to Rakel. In fact, it was completely sold out. "That has been a huge hit, that's a big deal for us. It's been a fantastic seller," Rami said. The Kolsch is crisp and refreshing with a mild hoppy bite; the Strong Porter is rich and chocolaty, and will please even the most devoted Guinness fan; and the Extra Pale Ale is practically perfect. All the beers have just the right hit of carbonation.
The tap room itself is spic and span, with a glowing copper topped bar, tiny oil lamps flicking throughout and the shiny brewing equipment featured prominently behind glass adjacent to the bar. On Thursdays and Saturdays they have low-key live music by St. Louis notables such as Tom Hall and Brian Curran. "We're not trying to be all things to all people. We try to portray a vibe around here, the image is comfortable with candles lit in the evening, we're just a cozy place that serves good beer," Rami said. "There's no secret or magic to it."
The focus will always be on the beer, as Rami noted, but they do offer a few snacks to soak up all those suds, including fresh popcorn on the bar. (Aside: Why doesn't every bar do this? Popcorn boosts serotonin. What better way to insure your customers leave happy than doping them with popcorn and delicious beer?) Companion pretzels, Billy Goat chips and DiGregorio's pizza round out the snacks. The tap room is perfect for those who like to linger over their well-crafted beer.
Rami said distribution is growing rapidly for Six Row, you can find them in all the Pi restaurants as well as Iron Barley, The Stable and a handful of other places, and they just signed with a major distributor in Illinois.
Most of the guys at Six Row admitted they aren't Six Row purists; the bar manager described himself as a "beer slut" and said he's forever devoted to Guinness. And Rami said they all drink local craft beers in addition to their own brews. "I think it's safe to say that everybody here just likes good beer," he says. "We support other local craft breweries, we support been in general . Our brewers are the beer geeks, I'm just a guy that likes good beer."