An Excerpt from the Book:
“We never set out to save the world:
but a couple of zip codes are better because we have been here”
Tom received both his undergraduate and law degrees from Georgetown University. He is a partner at the St. Louis law firm Thompson Coburn, LLP, and serves on multiple corporate and civic boards. He grew up in St. Louis and continues to look for ways to make his hometown a better place. His book, A New Religion in Mecca, tells the story of the first 15 years of Schlafly Beer.
When I started The Saint Louis Brewery in 1989, the commercial craft beer market in Missouri was in its infancy. This was also true nationally where Anheuser Busch, Miller, and Coors dictated the available products (and still do to this day): the majority of what was offered were light lagers, which are easy to drink and popular. Most people are surprised to learn that there are more varieties of beer than there are of wine. I became interested in those other varieties that were not widely commercially available.
The original idea for the brewery was sparked by a trip to Oxford England in 1983: I took a continuing legal education course comparing English Law and American Law. What I tell people is that I learned more about English beer than I did about English law.
I thought it was a shame no one was brewing the traditional European lagers and ales in St. Louis. Dan Kopman, the son of my former law partner, worked for Young’s Brewery in London. He opened my eyes to the microbrew industry and convinced me that it was worth trying in St. Louis.
Many told me I would surely fail in the long shadow cast by “The Brewery” on Pestalozzi, but I figured that in the next ten years, someone was going to be doing something like this – and I would be kicking myself if I did not at least try. In 1989, Dan and I became partners and incorporated The Saint Louis Brewery; for a while, it was just a piece of paper in a file drawer in my office. In one sense, how things unfolded seemed totally improbable, and in another sense, it was somewhat inevitable.
We could have simply distributed beer to the local supermarkets and taverns – which is what Boulevard Brewing ended up doing out of Kansas City. But we thought it was important to have our own brewpub so we could try new varieties and see what was popular. This was also a way to get people familiar with the product – then they would be more likely to select one of ours when they reached into the cooler.
It was illegal in Missouri to have a brewery with a retail liquor license on premise. This was an arcane bit of legislation dating back to the repeal of Prohibition, when most states adopted a 3-tier system of brewers, wholesalers, and retailers: Missouri did not want the breweries controlling the taverns. There was specific language in the statutes that allowed a brewery to have an interest in an “entertainment facility,” but I was told that the way the law was written, Busch Stadium and Soccer Park in Fenton were the only permissible venues.
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