The Schlafly Beer Employee Blog

February 1, 2012

Top Fermentation - February 2012

tombiowebThe Monthly Editorial Blog By Schlafly Beer President Tom Schlafly

Deidre Pujols (DP) and I have something in common. Both of us have access to important media outlets over which we’re able to exercise some degree of control. In my case, my position with the brewery allows me to express my opinions every month in this column. Because DP’s husband Albert (AP) provided major funding for the radio station now known as Joy FM, she’s able to share her wisdom and insights on the air.

Alert readers (ARs) may recall a radio station known as Classic 99 that used to play music by composers such as Beethoven, Mozart and Scarlatti, and periodically did live broadcasts from The Tap Room. AP and DP were supporters of the group that bought this station, eliminated classical music and replaced it with the formula: music + faith = Joy. Noting that Beethoven’s Ode to Joy (which incorporates the poetry of Friedrich Schiller) has been praised as one of the greatest combinations of music and faith ever written, one wonders whether it survived the purge of classical music at AP and DP’s station.

istock000010725569xsmall-9sjOde to Joy FM?

Back in December, when AP announced his decision to forsake the St. Louis Cardinals for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, DP took to the airwaves of Joy FM because, as she put it, “The devil has overplayed his hand.” Given that all other media outlets had gotten the facts wrong, DP needed to “share the truth.” Having initially said she was “mad at God,” DP softened up a bit and said, “It’s just like God to put us on a team called the Angels.” I’m sure ARs and others will be relieved to know that it was divine intervention and not Mammon that led AP and DP to the Promised Land in the City of Angels.

Anyone who finds DP’s theology less than profound may want to look for meaning in the world of poetry, specifically in Ernest Lawrence Thayer’s 1888 epic about a fictional slugger named Casey. In order to make this classic more relevant to the contemporary world of baseball, one may also want to imagine a revised final stanza:

Oh, somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
And in Mudville there is Joy-FM‚—Albert Pujols has sold out.

Speaking of selling out, ARs who get their news from other media in addition to The Growler are probably aware by now that we have signed a purchase agreement to transfer approximately 60% of the brewery to a group of investors based in St. Louis. This represents the near culmination of a process that began in June of 2010, when I had discussions with senior staff about a succession plan for the business. From the very beginning I wanted to be responsive to the needs and concerns of three very important constituencies.

The first is our employees. I’ve often said that I sign paychecks for 170 employees and don’t know how to do any of their jobs. Now, with direct deposit, I don’t even sign any paychecks. The role of the employees in the success of Schlafly Beer cannot be overstated.

The second is our customers. Twenty years ago the conventional wisdom in St. Louis was that there was no place for another local brewery. Our loyal customers have proved how wrong the conventional wisdom was and have enabled us to grow beyond our wildest imaginations.

The third is the communities that have embraced us. In 1991 the western edge of Downtown St. Louis was pretty desolate. Ten years later the eastern edge of Maplewood also left a lot to be desired. Not only were the properties we bought in these overlooked neighborhoods affordable; the surrounding neighbors welcomed us with an enthusiasm that has allowed both locations to thrive.

We decided at the outset that we would only entertain offers from local investors committed to keeping the business in St. Louis. Dan Kopman and I intend to maintain significant ownership in the business going forward; and a significant portion will be reserved for ownership by employees who want to invest in the company. Dan and I were fully cognizant we were probably leaving money on the table by eliminating out of town investors from consideration and by imposing such conditions on any sale. We didn’t care.

St. Louis has been very good to Schlafly Beer and we don’t want to turn our back on our home town. My hope is that the brewery will continue to be an integral part of the community long after Dan and I have gone to the great beer hall in the sky. We both believe the Beatles were correct in saying, “Money can’t buy me love,” even though it could buy Joy for DP and AP.