7260 Southwest Avenue, Maplewood, MO, 63143
It was the first day of November which also happens to be the first day the seasonal Schlafly Coffee Stout is available. I realized this while in transit to the Schlafly Bottleworks. It was going to be a good day.
I was worried the Bottleworks might be crowded. Thankfully I was wrong. Due to the cold weather and the fact that most people were still recuperating from their previous night’s Halloween celebrating, there was no wait to be seated in the restaurant area. Upon sitting I looked over the beer list out of habit, even though I already knew what I’d be ordering.
A few short minutes later a cold glass filled with draft Schlafly Coffee Stout was placed before me. I took my first sip and entered a state of semi-bliss. It took an enormous effort to not immediately chug down the beer. I instead took my time savoring this delicious beer.
Since this is a beer blog I won’t bore you with too much talk about the restaurant portion of the Bottleworks. I do have to mention a few things, though. The wait staff was very friendly and provided impeccable service. The Pretzel Sticks with Hefeweizen cheese sauce was one of the best appetizers I’ve ever had, and the cheeseburger along with the aforementioned coffee stout was just what I needed to alleviate my mild hangover. Can’t blame a guy for having fun on Halloween.
After dining came the tour. They limit the number of people on the tours to 20, for safety reasons and to provide the best tours possible. The tour is a “first come, first serve” affair with the absolute best pricing, free! Tours are available Saturdays & Sundays from noon to 5pm, every hour on the hour. There are a few exceptions to this so make sure to check out the Schlafly Bottleworks website before making plans.
Ethan was our tour guide and did an outstanding job. After handing out safety glasses to everyone he went over a brief history of Schlafly, including some interesting notes about the history of breweries in the St. Louis area. Back in the pre-prohibition days, St. Louis was home to 120 different breweries. By 1977 the only remaining brewery was Budweiser. Schlafly started with the opening of their Tap Room on December 26, 1991, which I’ll be reviewing later this week.
Schlafly broke onto the scene with their flagship beer, the Schlafly Pale Ale, which even today accounts for 26% of their total sales. They grew to the point that in 2003 they opened their Bottleworks location, where currently all of their 12 ounce bottled beers are brewed and bottled.
In 2014, between the Tap Room and Bottleworks, Schlafly brewed 65,000 barrels of beer. They are 80% independently owned and take pride in being a Craft Beer Brewery. I was also very impressed to learn 20% of Schlafly is employee owned. Always nice to know that the people brewing and bottling your beer have an ownership stake in their company.
One last tidbit that Ethan mentioned before we moved into the brewhouse was that the Mississippi river water is almost perfect for brewing beer after the mud is filtered out. This is a huge advantage for Schlafly as they have a ready supply of water for brewing, and minimal effort is needed to get the water ready for the brewing process.
We now entered the brewhouse. Our first stop was walking past the quality control lab. This is where beers are put through harsh conditions, such as super cold and super hot temperatures that might occur as the beer makes it’s journey from Schlafly to your mouth. They want to see what happens to their beers, if say one is left in the trunk of a car for a week in late August when it’s 100 degrees. Will the beer still be drinkable? At first I thought it would be a cool job to sit around and taste beer all day, but now I’m not so sure.
Ethan lead us to the wort station, where he mentioned that all of their spent grain is picked up by local farmers to feed cattle. I apologize that during the remainder of the tour I took sparse notes as the coffee stout was wearing off and I was getting sleepy. I may have partied a little harder than I realized on All Hallows’ Eve.
In this picture you can see a Krones bottling machine, and in the back right of the picture you can see some fermenters. I made sure to type this info down because I found it really interesting. Schlafly uses double plated fermenters so they can cold ferment, hot ferment or ferment at whatever temperature they like. I’m sure you homebrewers out there can explain how cool this is much better than I.
The final stop on the tour was the guided tasting, in other words Free Beer! We were lead out of the brewhouse and into the tasting room, at which point we got to remove our safety glasses. We were then able to sample 3 different Schlalfy beers, with Ethan helping us pick up on different notes and nuances to each beer. First up was the Schlafly Pale Ale, a solid beer that is good for any occasion. I understand why it’s their flagship brew. Next was the Hefeweizen Unfiltered Wheat[^1], the very same that is used to make the Hefeweizen cheese sauce that goes with the Pretzel sticks I raved about earlier. It was a really nice beer. The final sampling beer was the Dry Hopped APA. This one had some really nice hop notes, it was a bit too bitter for some of the novice beer drinkers on the tour.
The tasting wrapped up, the doors were opened, and we exited the tasting room directly into the gift shop. This is where I spotted 750ml bottles of Schlafly Raspberry Coffee Stout. I had never seen it before and had to purchase one. I should have bought 3.
Next time you find yourself in the St. Louis area make it over to the Schlafly Bottleworks for a great meal, a fabulous tour, and of course excellent beer. It’s even worth making a day trip from out of town, just to visit the Bottleworks.