I'm in the process of putting on a new dealer in Columbia, MO, a great Midwestern college towns. In fact, Columbia has been one of my favorite destinations since I began to travel in the mid-80's. I had a meeting with my new dealer recently and I thought we were going out to dinner. But his partner was out on an install and he had a meeting with a doctor later in the evening, so he begged off until next time. That afforded me the chance to go back to one of the better brew pubs in the Midwest, Flat Branch Pub and Brewing Company.
Located on the west end of the downtown area and near the University of Missouri campus (see map), Flat Branch Pub and Brewing Company opened in 1994 and is housed in a building that was built in the late 1920's. It was the first brewery in Columbia since 1841. The business is named after Flat Branch creek that flows not far from the building. Years ago, the building was the home to the local Hudson automobile dealership. The building features a unique curved barrel roof and they've kept the original brick walls and hardwood floors intact. The brewery is on the premises and it's headed by Larry Goodwin, who has been at Flat Branch for about 10 years. Plus, there's a great outdoor beer garden on the south side of the restaurant. It's a very popular place for people in and around the Columbia.
I got into Flat Branch Pub and Brewing Company around 7 p.m. and was met with a large crowd milling about in the lobby area. The hostess told me that it would be approximately 30 to 45 minutes to get a table. I noticed there were a couple places to sit at the bar and I asked if I could eat at the bar. She said, "We have full menu service at the bar, yes." The bar, itself, is sort of unique in that it has a couple of short 90 degree angles and I sat in a spot where I could easily lean up on the bar to my right. It was sort of cumbersome for the bartenders to work around, but they managed.
My bartender gave me a menu and I ordered up one of their pale ales - the Katy Trail Pale Ale. It's an American-style pale ale made with Cascade hops. It's not as forward of a pale ale like I normally like, but it was OK for that evening. Flat Branch may have the largest beer list of any brew pub I've ever encountered. They have a minimum of 10 different types of beer to choose from at any point in time. However, Goodwin and his brewery crew have an arsenal of over 90 different types of beers they can brew. They use hops and grain from all over the world including Germany, Belgium and New Zealand to make their special beers.
In addition to their beers, Flat Branch Pub features one of the largest and most impressive Scotch selections in the Midwest. And not only do they have a ton of great Scotches to choose from, they also have a fine selection of Bourbons, as well. My colleagues Todd and Chris are big Scotch and Bourbon aficionados, respectively, and I thought about them as I looked over the whiskey menu. I could see spending an afternoon in Flat Branch just trying the different Scotches they have to offer.
The food at Flat Branch Pub is a nice mix of appetizers, salads, sandwiches, burgers and what I would characterize as upscale bar food. They feature a rib eye steak, a pasta dish (Bayou chicken and sausage pasta - I've had it and it's great), ribs, chicken dishes and even brick oven pizza. One thing that caught my eye was the Buffalo Stout meatloaf - they mix ground beef and lean buffalo meat and mix in some of their stout beer. They top a couple slices with a barbecue bourbon glaze and you get your choice of one side. I signed up for that and I got their dirty rice for my side.
I had finished my Katy Trail Pale Ale and I was looking to try something else. Most of the beers Flat Branch serves are unfiltered beers. One that caught my eye was their Green Chili beer - a mild beer that is hopped up with Serrano and Anaheim peppers. I asked my bartender for a sample of that. She brought me a small 6 oz glass that was about half full. It has a peppery smell to the beer and mildly spicy aftertaste. But I decided to try their American Pale Ale - an American style pale ale that was actually a little more forward in the taste of the hops and bitters. I liked it better than the Katy Trail Pale Ale.
A waitress brought out my dinner and sat it in front of me at the bar. The slabs of buffalo/beef meatloaf were about 3/4 inch thick and very lean. They were sort of dry - I think they may have thrown them on the grill for a bit before they were served to me. But the meatloaf was still good and I did like the sweet Bourbon barbecue sauce they had with the meatloaf. The dirty rice was also very good with a nice spicy aftertaste to it. Overall, the meal wasn't overwhelming, but it was good.
The Flat Branch Pub and Brewing Company is one of the finest brew pubs I've encountered in my travels. It has a great atmosphere, a number of above average beers, and the food isn't bad. The beer garden is a great place to have a cool beer on a warm Missouri Summer afternoon. While it may not be quite the place to go to impress a client, the food is still serviceable for a brew pub. It's a great place to go for a quick bite with friends or by yourself.