Charleville: Beer is Like a Box of Chocolates

Posted: February 25, 2011 in Beer School

By Eric and Mimi Griffith

Thanks to Charleville Brewing Company you can enjoy a serving of your favorite Valentine’s treat in a glass at the bar.  Who says romance is dead?  More details on the beer later, but first let me get you up to speed on what you missed.

Cicero’s Beer School is growing by pints and pitchers.  An average of 20 new students per week are taking the opportunity to expand their beer knowledge and taste the latest offerings from breweries around the globe.  But don’t let these numbers scare you away, there is plenty of beer to go around.  Don’t forget, you can always watch the podcasts at if you are intimidated by large crowds.

The Brewery

This week’s presenter was Tait Russell from Charleville Vineyard and Microbrewery in St. Genevieve, Missouri.  Tait’s family founded Charleville 16 years ago as a vineyard, but quickly added wine production and in 2004 they added our favorite beverage, beer.  Turns out that so many of us beer people were tagging along on visits to the winery and bringing our own beer that Charleville decided to make some adult beverages for us too.  Since Tait’s middle name literally is Charleville they put him in charge of a 10 gallon homebrew system and he went to work producing several outstanding beers.

While Tait loves a good road trip, the family decided to give him a break from hauling his kegs back and forth to St. Louis and teamed up with Summit Distributing in 2009. The homebrew system has now grown into a 7 barrel brew house which produces draft and bottled beer.  You can find Charleville’s beers all over the St. Louis area, or you can visit the brewery and stay in their historic bed and breakfast.

Charleville currently produces about a dozen different beers with plans to introduce more throughout the year.  Tait brought four distinct brews for the class to sample.

The Beer

Half-Wit Wheat

He says- This 4.5% ABV American-Belgian cross is hazy yellow to pale gold in color and is currently the best selling bottled beer for Charleville.  The nose is light, but releases lemon, orange and honey upon further sniffs.  I am refreshed by this beer with the taste of lemon zest, spice and citrus juice.  The body holds up and is not too thin.  I could drink the large bottle by myself, especially when searching for a quenching beer.  The rumor is that this beer will be sold in 12 ounce bottles this summer and I will definitely be on the look-out.

She says- Light golden in color with a fresh scent.  We learned that the orange oil used in this beer was creating problems with head retention so it has been removed, but I still catch some orange notes in the flavor.  Coriander lends an interesting flavor.  It had a clean crispness to it with no strong aftertaste.  It would make a perfect beer for a hot summer day to be enjoyed poolside with summer fruits and grilled meats or fish.

Tornado Alley  (on draft at Cicero’s)

He says- The number one selling draft beer for Charleville is light brown to red in color with a nice head.  A sweet caramel nose leads the way to a malt centered beer which reminds me of a red ale.  The mouthfeel is a little gritty to sticky on the finish.  The lingering taste is chocolate and while it is very drinkable it leaves me feeling somewhat full.  With Northern Brewer hops and mostly American 2 Row Malts this beer checks in a t 5.6% ABV and 27 IBUs.

She says- Tornado Alley is the warm chestnut color of an acorn.  It’s crisp on the tongue with a slightly nutty flavor but no heavy aftertaste.  It’s a very easy drinking well balanced beer.  I really enjoyed this amber ale and will add it to my “have again” list.


He says- At 60 IBUs we have now moved into the hop chapter of the night.  I like this one…it is creamy for an IPA and not overpowering with hops.  Grapefruit and citrus with some pine create a clean finish with a slight hop burn.  Very drinkable and sessionable even at 6.5%.  The 6 different hops used in this beer create a multi-layered experience for the drinker.  I could smell this one all day long and never get tired of the Cascade, Centennial and Amarillo hops.

She says- A frequent visitor to my refrigerator, this beer is a hazy, medium golden color with a strong hoppy scent.  Hop heads will love this one!  I found it more piney than citruisy.  It’s a very sessionable IPA, crisp with a pleasing hoppy aftertaste.  Fabulous!  …and I love the artwork on the label!  In fact, their graphics are more impressive to me than many I see on the shelves.

Box of Chocolate

He says- The description from Tait was Belgian Chocolate Quad, but I would just go with “wow!”  The aroma is like a freshly opened box of chocolates.  Now that the box is open you can taste all of the different samples.  In this beer I find dark and milk chocolate, cherry, fig, cocoa powder, and even a hint of coconut.  Extremely complex and I taste something new with every sip.  The 10.5% ABV is well hidden and the only thing slowing me down is the flavor explosion that I must take time to absorb and enjoy.

She says- Right away I got the scent of malty chocolate syrup.  It was, not surprisingly, dark in color.  This beer warmed my heart as it evoked a memory I haven’t thought of in years.  My parents used to drink what they called “toddys” after dinner, which was a Coke with bourbon.  Well, one sip of this beer took me back to my living room where occasionally I would steal a taste of the residue in the glass from one of their toddys.    Thanks for the memories!

Cooking With Charleville

Mimi’s first experience with Charleville beer came in the form of cranberry sauce this past Thanksgiving.  I was looking to include beer in our traditional meal and stumbled on a cranberry wit sauce recipe.  Half-Wit Wheat came to my half-witted head and the result was a citrus tilted cranberry sauce that could become a new tradition around the Griffith house each November.


1          Orange (Valencia or Navel), zested and sliced

1          Tangerine, zested and sliced

2          Cups Charleville Half-Wit Wheat

1          TSP Coriander

½         Cup Honey

½         Cup Sugar

1          Pinch Sea Salt

12        Ounces Cranberries, fresh (1 bag)


In a large saucepan, add sliced citrus (giving a good squeeze and reserve the zest for later), Half-Wit Wheat, sugar, coriander and salt and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, about 4 minutes.  Remove the sliced citrus, add the honey, zest and cranberries; reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until the cranberries have popped and the sauce has thickened, about 15 minutes. Serve immediately or chill until ready to serve.  The sauce can be made 2 days before if time or kitchen space is not available the day of.

About the Authors – Husband and wife Eric and Mimi have been attending beer school for about a year now and love every minute of it. Mimi was born and raised in St. Louis. Besides sitting down with a fabulous pint of beer, she enjoys gardening and spending time with her horse. Eric was born and raised in Texas. He enjoys sports and searching for the next great beer. A search he says he has been on for five years and one that will certainly never end. Mimi, on the other hand, just realized beer actually has flavor about a year ago. After having moved away for a few years, in 2007, this happy couple moved back to St. Louis and is enjoying all the St. Louis beer scene has to offer, especially Cicero’s Beer School. Cicero’s is lucky to have such an enthusiastic couple writing the beer school blog!


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