Over President’s Day Weekend I gave up going to Cincinnati Winter Beerfest and made my way west to St. Louis. That Saturday, my friends Christine and Samantha and I decided to venture to Schlafly Bottleworks.
I had been to their taproom the last time I was in town, but this was something entirely different. We got there about an hour before the next tour was scheduled to start, so we just sat people watching. We didn’t get anything to drink because we didn’t want to ruin our palate for the tasting. There was a great duo playing in the bar, one on a washboard, the other on spoons.
The tour started with an overview of beer history in St. Louis. I mean it is home to Anheuser-Busch. Prior to Prohibition there were 125 breweries in the city of St. Louis. The bigger outfits were able to keep their doors open by shipping internationally, but many of the smaller breweries closed. As of 1977, Falstaff and Anheuser-Busch were the only two breweries in town, and after a while Anheuser-Busch was the only one left. Then, in 1991, The St. Louis Brewery, the first new brewery since Prohibition, opened. It was also the first brewpub in the state.
Started by Tom Schlafly, an attorney, Schlafly is the 39th largest craft brewery in the USA. To qualify as a craft brewery, it has to be locally owned, has to sell less than 6 million barrels per year, and the flagship beer, in this case a pale ale, has to be brewed using only hops, water, yeast, and barley. What makes Schlafly special is the water they use. Their location gives them access to both the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. It may sound disgusting, but because the rivers are so muddy, less bacteria grows, and it takes less chlorine to treat at the water treatment plant. Therefore, the water they use is some of the purest around.
We then had to put on these ridiculous goggles to enter the brewing area. Our awesome tour guide Robert showed us the little lab where they keep the different strains of yeast, and then he let us in on a little brewing secret: every beer brewed is triple hopped. So those Miller Lite commercials that make it seem like they’re all that because their beer is triple hopped, well they’re nothing special. But I think we all knew that already. After that we moved over to the cooling tanks and the bottling area. The machinery they use is old, but the end product is brilliant, and they use brown bottles from Indiana to keep the sunlight out.
From there we moved to the tasting room. We talked about the 3 things you look for in a beer, color, carbonation and turbidity, and then proceeded to taste. The first was their pale ale. It was amber in color, made with caramel malts, and filtered. It had a nice half-inch head and left lacing on the small tasting glass. This beer makes up 25% of their sales, and I could see why. It’s a very approachable beer with a middle of the road mouthfeel. It would be hard not to like it. The second was their hefeweizen. It was sweeter and lighter than their pale ale, and it was unfiltered. It was made of 60% malted barley and 40% wheat. After that things get a little fuzzy and my phone died and I lost my notes, but I want to say we tried their Oatmeal Stout. Sam loves stouts, and I know there was one she just wanted more of, so I think that’s it.
Following the tour, we went to the bar to try some more. We got a sampler for the 3 of us to share. It included the 3 beers we tasted, as well as 3 more: Dry Hopped APA Ale, Kolsch Style Ale, and Winter ESB Ale. We also got a couple pints: Milk Chocolate Stout and Scotch Style Ale. The Milk Chocolate Stout was far and away the best tasting chocolate stout I’ve ever had in my life. It smelled chocolaty, and tasted even chocolatier. Is that even a word? It was like drinking chocolate milk or a chocolate milkshake. Dessert in a glass I say. The Scotch Style Ale was good too, but not quite as scotchy as say Oskar Blues.
I had obviously decided I was going to do a brewery showcase on Schlafly, but by this point I couldn’t even remember our tour guide’s name. To avoid being totally awkward, I prefaced asking him with “I’m doing an article for a beer blog.” Turns out it was a good move. I ended up getting a free 6 pack of the sampler we did, Schlafly bottle opener key chains, and stickers galore! And to top it off they even recommended other breweries in town to go to.
So to the guys at Schlafly, thank you, you’re some seriously cool dudes. Also, my apologies for taking so long to get this up. Between two surgeries and all my other articles for the site I just haven’t had time. I hope I did you justice! And if I got anything wrong, please correct me!
To everyone else reading this, if you ever find yourself in St. Louis, go to Schlafly Bottleworks. I promise you won’t regret it!