The Schlafly Beer Employee Blog

September 2, 2014

Top Fermentation - September 2014


The Monthly Editorial Blog By Schlafly Beer Co-Founder Tom Schlafly

In May of 1804 the Corps of Discovery Expedition commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson, aka Lewis and Clark Expedition, headed upstream on the Missouri River to explore the territory acquired in the Louisiana Purchase. Two months later, on Wednesday, July 11th, the expedition camped near what is now the border between Nebraska and Missouri. This was the day on which Jefferson’s vice president, Aaron Burr, shot Alexander Hamilton in Weehawken, New Jersey, over 1,000 miles away.

Burr had challenged Hamilton to a duel because Hamilton had allegedly dissed him and then refused to apologize. Hamilton, the first secretary of the treasury and the author of the majority of The Federalist Papers, couldn’t allow a guy like Burr to dis him back and felt compelled to accept the challenge.

In addition to their celebrated political differences, there was something else that divided Burr and Hamilton. The College of New Jersey, which later became Princeton University, had rejected Hamilton’s application for admission. Burr, on the other hand, was the son of the second president of the college and grandson of the third president. Not surprisingly, he was admitted with advanced standing as a sophomore.

While Burr and Hamilton were feuding in America, their contemporary William Blake was becoming known as a poet and illustrator back in England. Unlike the two Americans, Blake did not go to college, but learned first as an apprentice to an engraver and later studied at the Royal Academy. Despite his lack of formal education, Blake has since been acclaimed as one of the greatest artists ever produced in Britain and his poetry is now taught in colleges and universities around the world.

Although I had been exposed to some of Blake’s poems in high school, I didn’t study his work in any kind of depth until I majored in English in college. To my surprise, more than two centuries after his birth, William Blake seemed astonishingly relevant in the late 1960s. Much of what he wrote was critical of authority, anti-war, purportedly anarchist, and supportive of free love. One poem, “The Little Vagabond,” opens with a couplet that may have given me the subconscious inspiration to get into the beer business:

Dear mother, dear Mother, the Church is cold,

But the Ale-house is healthy & pleasant & warm.

Blake’s illustrations for his poems also seemed ahead of their time and would not have looked out of place as psychedelic posters on dormitory walls or on the covers of acid rock albums. The most famous of his poems by far is “The Tyger,” which has appeared in countless anthologies and opens with the memorable lines:

Tyger, Tyger, burning bright

In the forests of the night:

What immortal hand or eye,

Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

Five stanzas later it concludes with the almost identical:

Tyger, Tyger, burning bright,

In the forests of the night:

What immortal hand or eye,

Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

thetygerbmb1794Thirsting for Schlafly Beer

Alert readers (ARs) who read the poem in high school might have noted this symmetrical structure, underscored by the use of the word “symmetry” in the first and last stanzas. ARs who majored in English in college might even have written entire term papers on this literary technique. I would simply note that the ability to write term papers like this doesn’t necessarily translate into the ability to write anything publishers want to pay for. In my case owning a publication (this one) proved to be a huge advantage for a would-be writer trying to get his work published.

On many college campuses tigers have significance extending far beyond the classroom, especially onto the football field. The Mizzou Tigers compete in an athletic conference in which two other schools (Auburn and LSU) also have tigers as their mascots. The same conference includes two schools with bulldogs as mascots (Georgia and Mississippi State) and one with an inanimate color (Alabama Crimson Tide).

Princeton University, like Mizzou, has a tiger as a mascot and competes in a conference against bulldogs (Yale) and crimson (Harvard). It’s also the alma mater of two ARs named Ted Frangos and Paul Martin who share an appreciation for Schlafly Beer. With their class reunion approaching in May of 2015, both Ted and Paul have made it a priority to introduce other members of the class of 1980 to beer from the largest American-owned brewery in St. Louis, which is also the largest local brewery not doing business in Putin’s Russia. To that end, I have been invited to conduct a tasting for the reunion committee at an aptly named watering hole: The Tiger Inn. It’s reassuring to know that Princeton alumni now treat non-alumni better than they did in July of 1804.