The Monthly Editorial Blog By Schlafly Beer Co-Founder Tom Schlafly
On these cold winter days one of the hottest topics is immigration, particularly with respect to Muslims and Hispanics. As many alert readers (ARs) know, this column does not generally take editorial positions on issues not related to beer. Nevertheless, I’d like to report a discussion that recently took place at the south bar of The Schlafly Tap Room that might have benefited from input by Muslims and Hispanics..
It started when I recalled an irreverent graffito that I had read in a restroom stall when I was in law school: “If Jesus was Jewish, how come he had a Puerto Rican name?” Prescinding from the appalling political incorrectness of the content, the graffito raises an interesting question: Why is the name Jesus relatively common in Spanish-speaking societies and nowhere else? I’m pleased to say that the collective wisdom of the ARs hanging around the south bar that night may have come up with the answer.
Muslim armies invaded the Iberian peninsula in 711 and weren’t driven out until 1492. During this 781-year occupation lots of Arabic and Muslim influences found their way into Spanish language and culture. In this context, it’s worth noting that the first name Muhammad is very common in Islamic societies. It seems quite possible that over the course of nearly eight centuries of Muslim occupation Spanish Christians began to imitate the practice of their Muslim occupiers. If Muslims could name baby boys after the founder of Islam (Muhammad), why couldn’t they name baby boys after the founder of Christianity? Admittedly, this thesis was developed without any input from Muslims or Hispanics. So what? It still strikes me as entirely plausible. In any case, that’s our story and we’re sticking to it.
Speaking of immigration, President Trump and I are both married to women who immigrated to the United States from Europe. Actually, he’s been married to twice as many European immigrants as I have and three times as many women overall. Leaving aside the question of whether three marriages bring treble the satisfaction of one, I’m positive that my marriage to a woman from Germany brought a benefit that President Trump did not get from either of his marriages to Eastern European women or from his sole marriage to an American: yeast from Cologne. That’s right. In addition to the innumerable joys of wedded bliss, in marrying Ulrike I also got access to exquisite brewer’s yeast from her home town.
After being married in St. Louis in September of 1995, Ulrike and I renewed our vows in Cologne in June of 1996. This was when I first met Heinrich Becker, the CEO of the Gaffel Brauerei. This meeting led to Schlafly’s acquiring the distinctive and authentic yeast that makes our Kolsch unique among its American counterparts. It also led to two decades of collaboration during which Heinrich graciously welcomed Schlafly brewers at Gaffel.
In February of 1997 Heinrich arranged for me to walk with other brewery owners from Cologne in the Rosenmontag parade, a massive civic celebration on the Monday before Fat Tuesday and the culmination of the Cologne Karneval season. Three years later Ulrike and I hosted Heinrich and his wife Angela in St. Louis and arranged for his collection of beer posters to be displayed at The St. Louis Public Library and The Mercantile Library. The exhibition was titled “The Art of Beer.” The last time I saw Heinrich was in June of 2014, when we conducted a taste test on WDR (German Television) comparing Gaffel Kolsch and Schlafly Kolsch. He died much too young on January 19th of this year. As we mourn the loss of a good friend both of the Schlafly Brewery and of Ulrike and me personally, I think the best way to honor his memory is with a glass of Kolsch on February 27th, the day of this year’s Rosenmontag parade. We should include the toast that will be resounding through the streets of Cologne: “Kolle alaaf!” (“Cologne above all.”)
Returning to the immensely controversial topic of federal regulations that may or may not survive the first 100 days of the Trump administration, I’m now going risk the ire of many ARs by going on record against a proposal that was floated during the lame duck period of the Obama administration. This proposal has nothing to do with beer, but I’m still going to take a stand. I’m referring to an announcement by the Department of Transportation that the use of cellphones might be allowed on commercial airline flights. The Federal Communications Commission is reportedly also considering lifting its opposition. My position on this issue is simple and moderate. President Trump should tell the heads of these agencies that if they proceed with allowing the use of cellphones on commercial flights he will personally lock ‘em up.
My vehemence on this subject stems in part from an experience I had a on a regional jet scheduled to fly from Boston to St. Louis. Prior to takeoff a woman in the row in front of me repeatedly defied requests from the flight attendant and later the captain to end her conversation and turn off her cellphone. The situation escalated until the plane reached the edge of the runway. The exasperated captain announced that if the cellphone talker didn’t turn off her phone immediately he would take the aircraft back to the gate, where she would be escorted off the plane. The woman angrily replied in a loud voice, “You have no idea what’s going on in my life right now.”
Actually, everyone on the plane knew a lot about what was going on in her life, none of which was worth ruining the travel plans of everyone else on board. Having flown millions of miles in the past 60 years I have never encountered a fellow passenger whose behavior was more disruptive. It’s worth noting that she was neither Muslim nor Hispanic.