Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Get Local with Schlafly

While browsing through various brewery websites recently, I stumbled upon a documentary on the Schlafly Beer home page. The cool thing about the doc (which is embedded below) is that in it's brief eight minutes it talks about a lot of things, but not the beer. I liked the twist of finding out about the other side of the brewery, so to speak. Most would assume that although this was a graduate student project, it would still be an eight minute fluff piece used to market their beer. That simply isn't the case here, and after watching it you'll realize that's just not what the folks at Schlafly are about. Yes, as a business they are looking to brew (and sell) the best beer possible, but beyond the beer the essence of the business is in it's history, it's pride in being local, the fact that they are green, etc. and that is something that to me is quite admirable.

That said, something did catch my attention while viewing the doc, and it ties back into my note about their pride in being a local brewery. Said local roots and ties were noted a few times and brewery Vice President Dan Kopman even commented that "this should be a local brand and a local brewery, without aspirations for anything more." I found this to be a bit perplexing as we've been able to purchase a couple of Schlafly offerings (the Barrel Aged Imperial Stout and the Oak Aged Barleywine) here in New Jersey since late last year. So, was he blowing smoke or was there actual substance to Kopman's words? I emailed the brewery direct for some clarification and received a quick but detailed response back from Schlafly Design and Multimedia guru Troika Brodsky.

He reiterated that Schlafly is still very much a local brewery with distribution mostly in Missouri (90% of their ≈30,000 barrel capacity is promised to the roughly 300 mile radius outisde of Saint Louis, and most of that beer stays within 50 or so miles of Saint Louis), but limited distribution in other Midwest states. Plus, it was also emphasized that keeping it local means keeping it fresh. It's the approach they have decided to take and one in which they are not looking to stray from. I certainly can't argue with that.

So what about Schlafly showing up here in New Jersey, which is well beyond a 300 mile radius of Saint Louis?

"We are sending 56 cases of each of the two reserve beers each year to: MA, NY, NJ, MD/DC, VA, OR and WA to "friends." We have no intention to expand this program," Brodsky said.

Very cool, and I have to say that I was impressed with the response from the brewery, as when I visited Saint Louis about a year ago and had the chance to sample four or five different Schlafly offerings, not only did I enjoy the beer and note how fresh it seemed, but I got the impression from the locals that the brewery was indeed very much a part of the community and had strong ties to it. I'm glad to see that nothing has changed since then and doesn't seem like it will change anytime soon. Their outreach of supplying some of their special beers to friends in further reaching states ties right into that community-based direction, because while New England, the Pacific Northwest, etc. aren't exactly local to Saint Louis in the geographic sense, the sharing of small batches of beer within the craft world makes it very much local in the community sense.

I'm sad that I won't be able to pick up any Dry Hopped APA at my local store anytime soon, but am very happy with the reasons behind it.

Schlafly Beer - Documentary from Adrian B on Vimeo.