Monday, November 23, 2015

Main & Mill Brewing Company

240 E. Main
Festus, Mo.
On the Web
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We've been waiting, for over a year.
This place sounded ambitious. Take an old main street storefront and convert it to a brewery/brew house. . . in Festus.
The Place:
They stripped the interior of building and built it up again. Early on there was a significant delay when someone thought they were at a drive-thru and crashed into
Photo courtesy of
denny@mainandmillbrewco.com
the side of the building, knocking down a few yards of brick. This prompted the owners to go to the city fathers (and mothers) to install large, concrete planters between the building and the street. This has caused some 'discussion' around town, but in my opinion it doesn't appear to be all that inconvenient, excessive or tacky.
They finally opened up a few weeks ago, we thought we'd wait a little bit to work out the kinks.
The job they did was simply amazing. On the inside, mostly brick and heavy wood. The highly lacquered bar and wood tables were made from some of the 100 year old building's original lumber.
The exposed rafters were very much the work of buildings of that time, oversize by today's flimsier standards. The trim was mostly black, window frames, chairs, etc. The brewing equipment was bright stainless steel sitting in the center of the first floor. We went in and escorted upstairs to a large area with a bar and several rows of high bistro tables and chairs. The place was abuzz, about half full at five in the afternoon. The stairs appeared to be original, heavy, old and steep.
We were seated against the wall behind a long, high table and nice chairs. You end up sitting next to strangers along the table, but just because you sit by them doesn't mean you have to socialize with them. . .or even acknowledge they exist. I was fine with that.
A young lady stopped by and handed out menus and asked about drinks. I broke from the traditional, after all it is a brewery, and ordered a 'Session IPA'. It seemed to fit the taste niche I had set my mind on. I don't drink much beer, but when I do, I want it to have a bold flavor. By bold, I mean something with  more actual taste than popular domestic beers. I really, really don't like weak beer.
I once worked at a very large beer company in St. Louis. . . you know the one. . .  so I know a thing or two about. . . business software.  Seriously, in those three years I learned little more than I already knew, which wasn't much,  about beer. I handled the accounting and financial data, not the recipes. I have tried several beers though, I know what I like and don't like. Angel and Adam settled for soda pop. Losers.
The Food:
I'd looked online ahead of time. . . I knew what I wanted. There's not a huge pile of food offerings, but they span a wide enough variety. Sandwiches, burgers, salads, steaks, salmon, etc.
The appetizers looked appealing. . . different. . . oh, no fried ravioli, how odd. But they did have another temptation, Beer Cheese Pretzels.  That's what we ordered. We also called in our entrees, Angel and I asked for the fish and chips, Adam, a House Pub Burger. Fries for Adam and me, Angel wanted the house made chips. No salads please.
I sipped my first beer in a year or so and was greatly pleased. I'd had a few other IPA's (India Pale Ale) in my lifetime, this was a very good one. Hoppy, tasty, not at all dull or bitter. If I had to drink beer more often, this is probably what I'd ask for. As far as the 'brewery' bit goes, it was a home run for the first brewery to open in Jefferson county in 120 years.
Then came the pretzels, long thick sticks alongside a beer cheese bisque dipping sauce. I love a good
soft pretzel and these were certainly good. As good as they were though, the real star of this appetizer plate was the beer cheese bisque. Angel agreed, this was not your standard nacho cheese machine sauce. It had a depth of tastes I can barely describe. Cheese, beer, and something else, I cannot figure out exactly what, veggies, I think, maybe celery and a dot of onion, but I'm pretty sure there was even more to it than that. At the end of the meal, the only thing we boxed up was the remaining half pretzel and the last of the bisque.
We could have stopped right there. It was that good. Pretty soon though, the entrees arrived.
I've been looking for a decent plate of fish and chips. It has been mostly a futile task. The 'chips' are easy, a basic French fry does nicely. It's the fish
that everyone fusses with and fails. Fish and chips are a take away food, like a sandwich or a deep fried Twinkie. They were invented for people on the go. In other words, eaten by hand. That means the fish has to be breaded and crispy. This is apparently, incredibly difficult to do right. Fish, unlike chicken fried steak and Twinkies, is high in moisture. Fish is also crumbly. To make it street-ready, the breading has to hold up to and hold together through all that internal steam.
Main and Mill's fish was absolutely delicious. They served the two large fillets with the obligatory tartar sauce as well as a bottle of malt vinegar. I like both.
However.
At first bite, the breading started slipping off the rest of the fish. As large and as heavy as the cut was, it could not support its own weight. Only a couple of crunchy corners stayed intact. This rendered the notion of dipping the fish into the tartar virtually moot. I tried, part of the fish stayed in the ramekin. This was sad since the taste and texture of the fish itself
was extremely good. I tried cutting it, tearing it, nothing worked, there were fish flakes everywhere, I had to re-wrap the flaccid breading onto the chunks to get a taste of both.
I try to be constructive, so I'd recommend this: Use a slightly thicker batter and definitely use smaller cuts of fish. The average fish and chip aficionado wants to break off a piece, dunk it in tartar without the rest of it falling apart.  It simply must support its own weight.
This is not to say we didn't enjoy the meal, far from it! Adam wolfed down his "good" burger in near record time, no problem there. Angel and I loved the taste and done-ness of the fish, but we were both just a little put off by the sheer clumsiness of it.
Summary:
Except for the fish batter issues, everything was absolutely great. The IPA and the pretzel were to die for. The decor, the ambiance, were awesome. The wait staff, in our case a capable and friendly young lady name Lexie (Short for Alexandra, or Alexandria, we learned) was exceptional. Why she wants to shorten her solid and proper name like that I'm not sure. I simply won't allow people to call me anything other than my full first name, even though I don't particularly like my full first name. It's almost criminal to chop up a classic name like Alexandria, or Alexandra, whichever it is. However, she did a first rate job waiting on us, chatting when we wanted to chat, she even capably answered a few questions about the bisque and other things, including what her name was derived from.  She definitely deserves a substantial raise.
We will go again, maybe not for the fish and chips, we'll probably try something else. They seem to really care about quality, it shows in their beer especially.  They've done an outstanding job of fixing the place up , no cutting corners, well, short of having an SUV plow into the place. It is classy, tidy and very well thought out.
The bill came in less than I expected, an appetizer, a fine IPA and three entrees for fifty two bucks and change. That's less than we pay at Ruby Tuesday's or other sports casual places.
Definitely going back, definitely recommended!

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As noted above, the photo of the SUV inside the building was taken by Denny, one of the owners. I've been following this place on FB since I first heard about it. They updated the progress frequently, including after the accident.  I asked him via FB Messenger if I could use this photo in a future blog post. . . well Denny, here you go. 
Hold it. . . 'Denny'. . . isn't that a shortened version of 'Dennis'?  Grrr....




Main & Mill Brewing Company Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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