St. Louis, Missouri
Founded by Tom Schlafly and Dan Kopman, a St. Louis native with extensive beer industry experience, The Saint Louis Brewery opened its doors in 1991. Schlafly, a lawyer by trade, had fallen in love with the wide range of beer styles he found in the U.K. while studying at Oxford University. "The St. Louis beer scene back then was dominated by a large, well-known brewer," Hale says. "While they offered a lot of brands, the range of styles was simply lacking."
As the first brewery to open in St. Louis since Prohibition, Hale says, "We faced lots of challenges in the early days and Tom's legal expertise was imperative." They managed to brew 1,000 barrels their first full year of operation. "There were about 400 breweries in the country," he adds. "Now, we brew over 50,000 barrels, with more than 5,500 breweries nationwide. While there were only two other breweries in the state of Missouri when we opened, there are now about 60 within a one-hour's drive."
Competition has only served to fuel The Saint Louis Brewery team's passion for their craft. Hale says they produce about 70 different varieties of Schlafly-brand beers each year, with customers, their own changing tastes, and changing trends continually inspiring them to create new recipes.
"Our new year-round While Lager is doing very well," he continues. "It's a German-style style Zwickelbier/Kellerbier that offers an unfiltered twist on traditional lagers. The style dates back to the Middle Ages with a noticeably hazy, golden hue, hint of orange zest, and silky finish. We've also had a lot of success with our new curated samplers."
They produce several of these samplers throughout the year including a Stout Bout sampler in winter and Frugi-Four, featuring fruit beers, in the spring and summer. "Both packs offer beers available only in the samplers," Hale adds. Other popular samplers are the spring Patio Pack -- featuring Hoppy Wheat Ale, Grapefruit IPA, Summer Lager, and Raspberry Hefeweizen -- and the Hop Trial pack, which includes four SMasH beers made with different hops. "It allows guests to do vertical tastings to experience the various flavor profiles," Hale says.
The Saint Louis Brewery produced about 52,000 barrels of Schlafly brand beer in 2016 and Hale says they are on track for a similar number this year. Consumers can find their beers at the Schlafly Taproom in St. Louis and Schlafly Bottleworks in suburban Maplewood, as well as in 12 states and as the District of Columbia.
Favorite beers: Hale's favorite beers include well-made, classic-style pilsners, kölsches, IPAs, and pale ales. "But it always depends on the circumstances," he says. "There are myriad flavors and styles, and since mood and setting change so much, it's truly hard to pin this down to one particular beer."
He looks back more than a quarter-century for a contender: "I get pretty wistful for the raspberry mead I made back in '91. I just had a bottle of it the other week and it was still drinkable and sublime. We don't get that chance that often."
Challenges: Because of the brewery's large catalog of styles, "It can get a little hectic at times," Hale says. "It requires careful organization of our raw ingredients. But at the end of the day, we say that we are in the business of brewing great beer. That sounds simple, but it keeps us all pushing to do our best every day."
Opportunities: Hale believes expanding the palates of less experienced beer drinkers and converting wine and liquor consumers are two of the Saint Louis Brewery's biggest opportunities. "We are looking to reach all people, even those who may not know much about the craft beer industry or those who maybe are afraid to try new beer styles. We brew a beer for everyone," he says.
Needs: Over the last few years, the brewery has been making major investments in packaging capabilities. "This includes initiatives such as a new labeler, palletizer, variable speed engines, electronic controls, and more at our Bottleworks location -- all meant to optimize the footprint of the line and reduce the number of steps for our team," Hale explains.