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Charleville Vineyard Winery & Brewery - Brewery Review and Beer Tasting Notes

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Charleville Vineyard Winery & Brewery - Brewery Review and Beer Tasting Notes

© Bryce Eddings

US based brewers aren’t often remarkable for the area they inhabit. Typically they can be found in urban areas with more industry than beauty surrounding them. Granted there are plenty of small brewpubs located in quaint city districts but never surrounded by what could be called a breathtaking landscape.
But the Charleville Vineyard Winery & Microbrewery is different. The drive there set me up for its bucolic setting when I visited in early autumn 2007. Highways turn to patched concrete roads which eventually give way to gravel county roads. After passing the winery’s vineyards I was struck by the sight of an impressive a two story log cabin. I later learned that this cabin was built in the 1860s and was moved here where it now serves as a bed & breakfast.

© Bryce Eddings

Nestled in the Missouri hills west of the Mississippi River about 75 miles south of St. Louis, Charleville was and is first a winery. Missouri wine has been slowly climbing out a prohibition-induced funk for decades and has finally begun to regain its footing in the last few years. Wine trails are becoming established and the state, which produces some lesser known but excellent grape varieties, is attracting more and more wine tourists and day-trippers every year.

Jack and Joal Russell, the owners of Charleville, decided to add beer to the fine list of wines that they sell, parlaying Jack’s love of beer with the recognition that there might be more that one reluctant spouse coming through their doors. Over time their beer has become almost as popular as their wine among local beer lovers and is finding its way onto store shelves in nearby towns and cities.

The tasting room, which was to soon be replaced with a larger facility when I visited, was small but inviting. Jack and Joal are typically there to warmly greet their guests and love to talk about their wine and beer. The tasting room opens onto an open porch where visitors are invited to sit and enjoy the impressive view of the vineyards, rolling hills, woods and fields.

Charleville has a pretty standard selection of beers available with one or two seasonal brews available. You can check out their wines on their website. They also serve some food – sausage and cheese trays and the like.

The Beers

Pilsner – Their pilsner is certainly more substantial than the thin, watery beers that flow from big brewers. With notes of honey and no hops in the nose, the clear, light-straw colored brew is sweet with very little detectable balancing hops.

Half-Wit – This unusual Belgian wheat beer was certainly the most surprising of the bunch. I was also told that it’s one of the most popular. The subtle nose carried hints of banana and generous doses of orange. The flavor of this cloudy, yellow beer is also subtle but packed with the taste of oranges. This comes from, I was told by Jack, the halved oranges that they dump directly in the brew-pot!

© Bryce Eddings

Tornado Alley – Charleville’s amber was my favorite of the lot. The pronounced nose is full of nutty, malty promise and the clear copper colored brew doesn’t disappoint. The full-bodied taste starts sweet then gives way to balancing but not overwhelming hops - an excellent session beer.

IPA – This is a pretty standard American India Pale Ale. The nose is citrusy and the flavor low on malt and heavy on hops; though not overwhelmingly so.

Pumpkin – This was the seasonal available when I visited in the autumn of 2007. The beer is packed with spice; notes of cinnamon, cloves, and some hops were apparent in the nose. The beer tastes heavily of pumpkin pie spices like nutmeg, ginger and allspice with cinnamon dominating. The brew finishes with more typical beery sweetness and hops mingling and lingering on the tongue.

Other beers that become available at various times through the year include an oatmeal stout (which I tried later and thoroughly enjoyed), a barleywine, and a popular Christmas brew – Rodulph the Red-nosed Reinbeer, an amber ale spiced with peppermint.

Jack told me that they are planning to expand their selection in the future. More Belgian-style brews appear to be on Charleville’s horizon.

All in all I recommend taking the trip to Charleville. A solid selection of enjoyable beers, a beautiful setting and very friendly staff makes this an excellent place to while away an afternoon.
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