Full disclosure, one of my best friends that I grew up with here in St. Louis manages New Belgium Brewing Co.’s social media platforms and directs a good deal of their online strategy. He’s the dapper fellow with the ridiculous awesome mustache on the New Belgium homepage and you will often find him proudly rocking a St. Louis Cardinals hat in video appearances. He’s good people, and from good people often come good ideas, and he had a great one. New Belgium reached out to seven other craft breweries who make a Pumpkin beer and invited us to participate in a “pumpkin carving contest” that would be voted on by our fans. The kicker is that the winning brewery would receive $5,000 from New Belgium to donate to charity. How about that for a great idea?
At Schlafly, we love getting to have fun with our friends at other craft breweries, whether they are down the street or across the country. We currently even have a bet going with Angel City Brewery in L.A. on the NLCS Playoff Series between our beloved Cardinals and the Dodgers, just because it’s fun…and we will probably both end up sending beer to each other regardless of the outcome. When New Belgium approached us about the “Craft Carve Off”, as they were calling it, we immediately curious about the rules. Turns out…there weren’t many. All we needed to do was 1) Acquire a pumpkin. 2) Carve said pumpkin. 3) Take a photo of said pumpkin with our Pumpkin Beer. That was it. Sounds easy right? You’d be surprised how difficult carving a pumpkin can be when there is nowhere within 500 miles that has pumpkins available for sale. You see, the timeline on this contest required us to have our “Pumpkin Photos” to New Belgium by earlier last month and at that point, there were still watermelons on the stands. They simply hadn’t been harvested yet, locally. I honestly thought I might have to carve a watermelon and paint it orange (not that there’s anything wrong with that). To get around this new and unique twist on the craft beer seasonal creep debate…New Belgium totally shipped us a pumpkin.
The inherent comedy that was “shipping a pumpkin” was not lost on my co-workers or me. We also learned that you have to ship pumpkins via Ground Shipping. If you try to ship pumpkins by Air, they freeze underneath the belly of the airplane and arrive all mushy. This was news to us, but luckily New Belgium was schooled on the rules of “pumpkin shipping” and disaster (i.e.; carving a painted watermelon) was averted. By the time the pumpkin arrived, I only had one weekend to get the thing carved and photographed and while this seems like a lot of time to take care of business, keep in mind that I had the ONLY pumpkin within 500 miles, and that there was literally $5,000 of charity money on the line, so I was feeling some serious pressure not to screw it up coupled with a powerful lack of confidence in my carving abilities. I needed help.
I remembered that couple years back, we had gotten a local company called M & H Waterjet Solutions to use high pressure water shooting robots (at least that is how it works in my mind) to carve some of our logos into some pumpkins, so I reached out to them and they were able to help me on short notice. And yes…the water shooting robot carving process is as awesome as it sounds, and amazingly, the waterjet doesn’t shoot through the back of the pumpkin. We live in the future! For the photography, I asked a great local photographer and good friend from jpollackphoto.com if he could help me do a quick shoot at the Tap Room the morning the photos were due and despite a healthy cold, he was there bright and early, enthusiastic to help us possibly bring home a big check for a local charity. After the shoot, I had no idea what to do with the pumpkin so I casually dropped it off at the Bottleworks host desk and acted like I was bringing them something really cool…and then bolted. I believe the pumpkin was on display inside for one day, then it was transferred for “outside display” as it was starting to get funky, and I think it was probably in the Gardenworks compost pile by day three…but this brave, travelling pumpkin had served its purpose.
So, off went the photo to New Belgium and on October 3rd, the contest went live on Eater.Com. It was us, Cigar City, Dogfish Head, New Belgium, Jolly Pumpkin, Cambridge Brewing, Saint Arnold Brewing, and Brooklyn Brewery going head-to-head in a winner-take-all social media pumpkin-off! Did I mention that there weren’t a lot of rules to this competition? There were no rules about what could be carved or how, so it was fun to see what everyone else came up with. I didn’t have much time, so my priority was about taking advantage of the fact that a lot of beer drinkers in the US aren’t yet familiar with Schlafly, so I wanted to get our logo and packaging front and center, and have it look nice. My friend at New Belgium went the route of weird/fun and came up with what I thought was most definitely a penguin, but what he swears is a raven (“because ravens are spooky”). There was also a great shark, a pumpkin with a beer tapper, and even the State of Texas. All the breweries brought their A-Game. At the end of the day, however, I knew this contest wasn’t going to be decided by the subjective “best pumpkin carving” or “the best pumpkin beer”, it was going to be decided by which brewery got enough of their fans to click a link.
I’m proud to announce that Schlafly Beer pulled ahead in the final days of the competition and ended with the most total votes, thus bringing home a $5,000 check… and we have our Schlafly Beer online fans and the St. Louis online community to thank for this. The Riverfront Times came through big to help in our final push. KSDK Newschannel 5 asked what they could do to help. Mayor Slay Tweeted to his Followers to get out the vote. How about Mayor Slay! Did I spam our Facebook and Twitter accounts for a solid week imploring people to vote in a pumpkin carving contest? Yes I did and I apologize for that…and I would absolutely do it again. Just by posting a few Facebook Posts and good deal of Tweets, we, as a community brought home $5,000 that is going to make a real difference for an organization and the folks they help, right in our back yard. And we did this through nothing more than sharing a call to action on social media and clicking a button in a silly awesome online brewery contest. I could not be more proud of our fans or our hometown community right now and I’m humbled and honored to get to chat with you folks about great local beer everyday.
We are happy to announce that the $5,000 check from New Belgium will be going to Mosaic Services. Mosaic is a not-for-profit working in support of at-risk youth and their families in the Maplewood Richmond Heights School District. As many of you know, Maplewood is home to our Schlafly Bottleworks brewery, and over the years Bottleworks has hosted a number of benefit brunches for Mosaic. Our incredible Gardenworks gardener, Jack Petrovic has also done a fair share of fundraisers for Mosaic, so this seemed very appropriate to us and we feel really good that this money will be put to great use in our community. So again, thank you Schlafly Beer fans and thank you St. Louis, MO…your efforts to support us in this contest are absolutely the reason we brought home this money and we can’t thank you enough. A huge amount of thanks also goes out to New Belgium Brewing Company for organizing this contest and putting the prize money on the line. They are an incredibly class-act company with some of the best employees you could ask for. They make pretty darn tasty beer too.