Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Draft Schlafly ales coming soon to Rich O's Public House.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of chatting by phone with Mitch Turner, brand manager for Schlafly Beer in St. Louis.
Schlafly is the second largest brewery in the city – you get three guesses as to the identity of number one, and the first two guesses don’t count.
It has two distinct locations (three counting an airport outlet) and a solid, well-crafted core lineup of familiar microbrewed styles along with plenty of rotating seasonals to make things interesting for the regulars … and for the occasional out of town visitor.
In 2004, while in St. Louis for two inter-league games between the Oakland Athletics and the St. Louis Cardinals (both crushing defeats for my A's), the Baylors and the Tylers sought out Schlafly’s then spanking new Bottleworks in the city’s Maplewood neighborhood, which isn’t far away from the Hill’s famous Italian eateries.
Mitch gave us a great tour of the brewhouse, which was followed by a quality lunch and several rounds of rigorous, scientific sampling materials. I seem to recall Jay and I buying a case or two for home use. If so, my share didn;t last long.
I first met Mitch when he worked for Paul Hummer at Louisville’s defunct Pipkin Brewing Company (now the home of BBC Beer Company), circa 1998, perhaps a bit later. Somewhere in the archives there’s a candid pre-digital photo of Mitch on his hands and knees, hand-filling bottles of Pipkin Pale Ale, and no doubt plotting an early escape to greener pastures.
Based on our three-day visit, he certainly found them, both in his place of employment and his city of residence.
St. Louis is a vibrant big-league kind of place brimming over with art, entertainment, parks, architecture, and a microbrewery that has eluded the suffocating presence of the world’s largest manufacturer of carbonated urine to carve a considerable niche for itself.
In the summer of ’04, with Busch Stadium nearing the end of the line and a new park already under construction, the prevailing joke at Schlafly had to do with its tongue-in-cheek offer to purchase naming rights for the new park (alas, it too will be called Busch Stadium, A-B’s pockets being somewhat deeper than Schlafly’s).
The Schlafly Bottleworks was carefully planned to provide both a production facility and a complement to the brewery’s existing brewpub. An up-and-coming neighborhood was deemed appropriate, and a vacant supermarket property desired owing to the presence of loading docks and a spacious, adaptable floor plan.
The end result is a modern brewing, kegging and bottling operation, attached to a souvenir shop as big as the front room at Rich O’s, and restaurant/pub/banquet facilities with a food menu completely different from its sister brewpub.
Did I mention an outdoor seating area?
While the emphasis remains on the home market, Schlafly has started shipping small quantities of its beer to World Class Beverages in Indianapolis, and this was the topic my conversation with Mitch yesterday.
On the next Indiana-bound truck, there will be two kegs each of American Pale Ale/Expedition Reserve (Schlafly’s commemorative Lewis & Clark beer, now added to the list of regular brewery offerings) and Coffee Stout.
They’ll be on tap at Rich O’s as soon as they’re processed and delivered, and I’m imagining that Jay might want to come and have a taste of ale brewed in the epicenter of Cardinal Nation.
Surely I'll join him.