Tired of Guiness? Try A Hardway
Martin City Brewery Carries Takes It to the Next Generation
Photos and story by Rod McBride
What says St. Patrick’s Day like a parade and a few fine brews? And if you’re tired of the sterotypical Guiness, Bailey’s and Jameson Irish Car Bomb cocktail, there’s plenty on offer at Martin City Brewery. I recently had a chance to sample some of their impressive lineup.
Being a longtime homebrewer and beer judge, I’ll cop to having a fairly jaded palate, but Matt Moore (grandson of RC VanNoy, the one-man chamber of commerce who started the St. Patrick’s Day Parade 30 years ago), has got a lot of interesting things on tap and in liquor stores. Literally more of them than you could sample in the course of a single St. Patrick’s day.
They’ve got the fashionable citrusy IPA Stone Tangerine Express and the maltier Hardway IPA (which is now available at all the Missouri side QuikTrips as well as many liquor stores if the Martin City Pizza & Taproom isn’t convenient for you). But the Taproom also offers a Koyt, a subtle, crisp and refreshing beer brewed primarily from oats. Oats lend an almost oily mouthfeel to a beer, and there’s just enough bittering hops to balance it. It’s a nice option for people who don’t crave the loud flavors and aromas of something like the Humbucker Double Rye IPA, but don’t want to settle for an insipid mass market lager.
And for the adventurous, try House of Usher, a sour red ale that spent two years in wine casks developing a crisp acidity and complex aroma. Ten years ago, such beers were strictly a handful of Belgian imports, but the craft brewing scene caught on to them, and the lactic acid and brettanomyces character makes for a really quenching beer that is a perfect palate cleanser with pizza or fried foods.
Moore tells me there are lots of sour ales coming to the taps soon, aged in their foudre (an enormous wooden barrel with a sampling tap they use for brettanomyces ferments) or in second hand wine barrels (which they have stacked to the ceiling in their expanding brewhouse).
As far as bigger beers, there’s no shortage of them. The Abbey Ale and Belgian Blond both have the signature funky phenolic tones you’d associate with Chimay (an abbey ale in the strictly literal sense, brewed by Belgian monks) or Duval. Nothing against those imports, I love them, but I love it even better when I can get such and keep it local. There’s lots of brewing techniques used to age and transform beers, but stuffing them into a sea crate for weeks doesn’t improve any beer.
There are so many excellent beers coming out of Martin City Brewery I can’t really
do justice to them all here. My favorite, if I had to pick just once, is the Big Boy Imperial Stout. Oak aged, imperial stouts can get boring, honestly, but the balance of clean warmth, subtle oak tannin, roasted malt, aromas of fig, apricot, vanilla and chocolate in Big Boy is exceptional. Complex with no one flavor or aroma dominating, a hard trick to pull off. Very drinkable, too, so be careful it’s a strong one at 9.8% ABV, count a round as if it were two and don’t be shy about calling an Uber. Same goes for the Highwayman Bourbon Barrel Aged Smoked Porter, which weighs in at a whopping 11.2% ABV.
And of course, you don’t have to drink it all at the taproom or brewery. Martin City’s growlers are 32 ounce cans, which offer advantages over traditional bottle growlers in terms of the shelf life of the beer. It’s claimed that can growlers, while not re-sealable, stay good for two weeks in the fridge, though I’m not sure what beer-hating maniac performed the testing to find that out. And as far as re-sealability, in my experience it’s not necessary: once opened, this stuff seems to just disappear.
[Rod McBride is a National rank BJCP beer judge with over twenty years of brewing experience.]