The Monthly Editorial Blog By Schlafly Beer Co-Founder Tom Schlafly
The story of an iconic St. Louis brewery began with the arrival of a German-speaking immigrant in New Orleans in the 1850s. Having survived an arduous transatlantic voyage in a sailing ship, he encountered xenophobic bigotry in America. He made his way up the Mississippi, finally settling in St. Louis. He became a successful entrepreneur in the beverage business and was a pioneer in shipping his products nationwide by rail. Today his name is on a brand of beer that has achieved national acclaim.
I’m referring, of course, to my great grandfather August Schlafly, who was born in 1850 in the tiny Swiss village of Steinhof in the German-speaking canton of Solothurn. In 1854 nine members of the Schlafly family sailed from the French port of Le Havre on The Roger Stewart, which brought them to New Orleans. They were among the 585 immigrants crammed into steerage, eight of whom failed to survive the voyage, six children and two adults. One of those who died in transit was August’s six-month old brother Adolf. The family traveled by riverboat up the Mississippi and settled in New Helvetia (now Highland), Illinois, where August’s father Johann died from cholera he had contracted in New Orleans. His widow Helena, who spoke no English, had five young children to raise on her own and was pregnant with a sixth. The family soon moved to the nearby town of Carlyle, where the Know Nothings (nativist bigots who were formally known as the American Party) prevented August from attending the local public school because he was a foreign-born Catholic. Several decades later the Ku Klux Klan burned a cross on his lawn for the same reason.
August went to work at an early age to pursue his American dream. In 1902, as a minority investor in Mountain Valley Spring Water Company in Hot Springs, Arkansas, he bought out the other shareholders and became the sole owner. In the early 1920s Mountain Valley was being served in the United States Senate and in 1928 distribution was expanded to California, making it the first bottled water to be available from coast to coast. Although I never met August, who died 14 years before I was born, I like to think that I was following in his entrepreneurial footsteps when we started Schlafly Beer in 1991.
At this point I need to emphasize that all of the foregoing consists of what are sometimes called “true facts” (a redundant phrase that falls into the same category as “free gifts”). This column has never indulged in alternative facts, post-truth facts, fake facts or anything else that comes under the umbrella of fake news. In that same vein, Schlafly Beer will never produce fake brews, which are equally deceptive. I’m referring, of course, to the pseudo craft beers that masquerade as craft-produced when in fact they’re owned by multi-national conglomerates. There are some fake brews that actually were legitimate craft beers prior to selling out. There are other fake brews that never were true craft beers and are nothing more than brands concocted by conglomerates whose ownership is not disclosed on their labels. In every instance the main purpose of fake brews is to mislead consumers into thinking they’re buying a real craft beer when they’re not.
Assuming that the alert readers (ARs) of this column are equally averse to fake news as well as fake brews, I would like to acknowledge a publication that prides itself on having published true facts continuously since 1851. I’m referring, of course, to The New York Times, informally known as “The Gray Lady”, which has won 117 Pulitzer Prizes, more than any other news organization.
In 1904 Adolph Ochs, the publisher of The Times, moved the newspaper’s headquarters to 42nd Street at Longacre Square in Manhattan. He then persuaded New York Mayor George McClellan to put a subway station in the area, which was renamed Times Square. Soon thereafter, in April of 1904, the first electrified advertisement appeared on the side of a bank at the corner of 46th and Broadway. Over the course of the next century Times Square became renowned for its brilliant and elaborate electric signage. I’m proud to report that Schlafly is now part of this 113-year tradition. I am not making this up. That’s a true fact.
The sign in question is at the corner of 42nd Street and 7th Avenue, more specifically on the north side of 42nd slightly west of 7th. It’s sponsored by Beer Authority, a fine establishment located nearby at 300 West 40th Street. Unfortunately, ARs may have to take my word for this true fact. (You can also refer to the photograph accompanying this column.) The reason Schlafly is currently featured is that Beer Authority chose us as the brewery of the month for February, meaning another brewery will have replaced us in March, by the time this column is published. Nevertheless, if any ARs happen to find yourselves in the Big Apple thirsting for a Schlafly, I would encourage you to stop by Beer Authority and say how fantastic you thought the sign was. (Even if you didn’t actually see the sign itself, you can truthfully express an opinion based on my description and this photograph.)
In addition to Schlafly, Beer Authority offers an extensive lineup of authentic craft beers that aren’t fake brews. We’re pleased to be among them. When I think about everything August Schlafly endured traveling to the United States and becoming an American, I do not want the brewery that shares his name to give up its American citizenship by selling out to a foreign conglomerate.