The Schlafly Beer Employee Blog

February 28, 2011

Top Fermentation - March 2011

tombiowebThe Monthly Editorial Blog By Schlafly Beer President Tom Schlafly

Alert Readers (ARs) who are devotees of astrology may be interested to know that the zodiac signs that are popular today are not the same as they were when the system was developed by ancient Babylonians, at least according to the Minnesota Planetarium Society. As a result, I cannot rightfully claim Prince Charles of Britain as a fellow Scorpio from 1948. When I was born (October 28) the sun was in fact in the house of the constellation Virgo; and when Charles was born (November 14) it was in the constellation Libra.  Another constellation, Ophiuchus, which formerly came between Scorpio and Sagittarius, has been eliminated from the lineup altogether.

Prince Charles visited St. Louis on Friday, October 21, 1977, shortly before he and I celebrated our 29th birthdays. The crowd that awaited him as he walked from the Gateway Arch to the Old Courthouse included a dozen or so protesters from an Irish bar (I think it was Brendan’s in Lafayette Square) demanding British withdrawal from Northern Ireland; hundreds of single women aspiring to become queen of England (though the receptionist in my office said that if she married Charles he’d have to move to Belleville because she didn’t want to live in London); and three lawyers from the firm where I was then practicing law: Hugh Law, Charles Lowenhaupt (both of whom now qualify as ARs) and me.

As he approached the Old Courthouse, Charles ignored the protesters and potential queens and spoke to Hugh, Charles and me: “You gentlemen must be lawyers.” We acknowledged that we were. He then asked if we had business at the courthouse. We explained that the building he was about to visit hadn’t been used as a courthouse since the 1920s. When he asked how business was, I told him we were very busy but had managed to find time to chat with a future king of Great Britain.

If and when Charles ever does accede to the throne, his kingdom will be significantly smaller than the British Empire was when cases were still being tried in the Old Courthouse. Some of the biggest divestitures occurred around the time he and I were born and weren’t handled particularly adroitly. For example, both Arabs and Jews claimed they had been promised the land that formerly constituted British Palestine. And the partition of India occurred in such a way as to leave both Muslims and Hindus disgruntled.

is979-002Caste-Conditioned Ale
Indian society was and still is divided even further into thousands of Hindu castes, with brewers of beer relegated to the very lowest levels. In that respect my Indian colleagues are in pretty good company. Midwives are also near the bottom, meaning that brewing beer and bringing life into the world are reviled more or less equally. One exception to this policy of rigid segregation is the annual Holi festival, which in 2011 will be held on Sunday, March 20. Distinctions of caste, creed, color and sex will be suspended, as revelers of all castes will be found drinking together (Brahmins along with brewers and midwives) sometimes to great excess.

Speaking of drinking, one of the most famous beers associated with India is not an indigenous style. Unlike Irish stout, which originated in Ireland; Belgian Saison, which came from Belgium; or Pilsners, which were developed in the town of Pilsen, India Pale Ale (IPA) was first brewed, not in India, but rather in England. More precisely, it hails from Burton on the Trent River, a town immortalized in the poetry of A. E. Housman: 

Say, for what were hop-yards meant,
Or why was Burton built on Trent?
Oh many a peer of England brews
Livelier liquor than the Muse,
And malt does more than Milton can
To justify God’s ways to man.

The brewers of Burton developed the style (relatively high in alcohol and heavily hopped) to survive the voyage from England to India in the 19th century. Although Britannia no longer rules India, Charles can take solace in knowing that if and when he ever becomes king, his mini-empire will still include the breweries in which IPA was invented and where it’s still brewed. We also brew a fine IPA and American IPA in St. Louis. I’d be happy to treat Charles to one the next time he’s in town, even if we’re not really fellow Scorpios.