James Grieve and Khara Daniels wandered into Recess Brewing in Edwardsville on a recent afternoon, attracted by the open-air taproom and prospect of drinking some locally produced craft beer.
“Her brother brews beer, and he’s always making different kinds,” said Grieve, 38, of Meadowbrook. “So I’m trying to broaden my horizons. I’m no connoisseur. It’s got to be light and happy for me.”
Behind the bar was Recess owner and head brewer Matt Flach, who recommended beers for the couple to try. Grieve liked the Hop Square, an American brown, while Daniels went with the stout, Hussies in Space.
In walked Richard Wartick, 67, of Maryville, who pulled a brown jug out of a large koozie and sat it on the counter for his monthly beer refill. He scanned his eight choices, listed on a chalkboard.
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“I’m getting the Broken Spoke, which was the new one that they came out with last Saturday (in conjunction with a bike ride),” Wartick said. “I was out of town, so I couldn’t be here. But I already talked to someone who tasted it, and they told me how good it was.”
Flach filled the jug (called a “growler”) with the session IPA, put a clear plastic seal around the cap and heated it with a hairdryer. That way, Wartick wouldn’t get in trouble for transporting an open container of alcohol.
Wartick is a member of the Recess Community Supported Brewery program, which allows him to take home 64 ounces of beer each month for a $200 annual fee. It’s similar to community supported agriculture programs offered by local farmers.
“You can see from (the chalkboard) that this isn’t like coming in and ordering a Bud Light,” Wartick said. “They’re making things that taste different, and it’s supporting the local community.”
Flach, 32, is an Edwardsville native who recently moved back from the Chicago area. His wife, Alicia, teaches physical therapy at St. Louis University. They have a baby and a pre-schooler.
Flach opened the microbrewery Dec. 2 on Main Street, building on his longtime hobby as a home brewer. The name “Recess” has special meaning for him.
“I was a high-school science teacher for 10 years, and it’s a very positive word in American culture,” Flach said. “We all know what it means. We all like recess.”
Flach gutted the storefront, exposing brick walls, concrete floors and ductwork along high ceilings. He used reclaimed wood to build the bar.
“It’s made with wood from the oldest barn in Madison County,” Flach said, noting he contacted the owner after seeing it collapsed in a field east of town. “So are the tables and the mantle above the fireplace and the tap handles.”
Recess windows fold sideways along the front, opening up the taproom in nice weather. In back, customers can view activity in the brew house, where Flach makes 165 gallons of beer per batch. Most sell for $5 to $6 a pint.
“We have 10 taps, but we’ll probably want to keep two open for special varieties,” he said. “Maybe we can take five gallons of a stout and add coffee beans to it. And what we’ve also done is make test batches, five gallons or so, just to see if people like it.”
The most popular variety so far is Lincoln’s Lament, which is Flach’s attempt to brew a Civil War-era style beer commemorating the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s death.
“It’s just a lager, which I think this area is kind of used to,” he said. “We’re in Budweiser country. This allows people to drink something familiar while starting down the craft-beer path.”
Flach tries to maintain a family friendly atmosphere at Recess, serving free soda, water and coffee for kids and teetotalers. Non-beer drinkers can get a glass of wine for $5.
“You can bring your own food or order in,” said Flach, who is partnering with local restaurants that rotate free delivery. “We don’t have a kitchen. We do sell pretzels and Billy Goat chips.”
At a glance
What: Recess Brewing
Where: 307 N. Main St. in Edwardsville
Hours: 4 to 10 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, noon to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays
Capacity: 100 people (seating for 50)
Information: Visit www.recessbrewing.com or call 618-692-5101
Sampling of beers on tap
Lincoln’s Lament — (American lager, 6.1 percent alcohol, 27 IBU) Our rendition of a Civil War-era style beer. It’s being made to coincide with the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s death.
Broken Spoke — (Session IPA, 4.8 percent alcohol, 37 IBU) We got our hands on some Jarrylo hops and decided to use them for bittering and then combined them with Centennial for some aroma. Using a simple, organic-only grain bill really allows these hops to shine through (released May 16 for Broken Spoke Bike Ride).
Hussies in Space — (American stout, 6.3 percent, 33 IBU) An American stout that is a hybrid of a sweet stout and a milk stout. The lingering sweetness comes from a lactose addition that pairs perfectly with the roasted malts in the mash.
Crosspatch — (IPA, 6.9 percent alcohol, 65 IBU) With such great success from 2211, we wanted to offer another IPA with similar notes. This beer will have more bitterness on the back end and is dry-hopped with both American and English hops for a unique aroma.