The Schlafly Beer Employee Blog

August 1, 2017

Top Fermentation - August 2017


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

Fifteen hundred years ago, more or less, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table traveled all over Britain searching for the Holy Grail. Forty years ago, exactly,  Bill Walker and I traveled to the British Isles and embarked on a search of our own.

We had graduated from law school in late May and had taken our respective bar exams (New York and Missouri) at the end of July.  Knowing we wouldn’t get the results until September, meaning we couldn’t start to practice law before then, we set off for England, Scotland and Ireland.  The ostensible purpose of the trip was to search for a case of Canadian Club that had been hidden near Loch Ness.  Seriously.  Well, kind of seriously.

Alert readers (ARs) of a certain age may recall an advertising campaign on behalf of Canadian Club that involved hiding cases of whisky in exotic locations such as the North Pole, Death Valley, Mount Kilimanjaro and (you guessed it) Loch Ness, among others. After a lot of serious discussion, Bill and I concluded that a quest for the hidden whisky would be  good preparation for practicing law for the next four decades or longer.  We actually made it to Loch Ness.  Both of us ventured into the water and somehow avoided being attacked by the monster.  We then put the search for the Canadian Club on hold and repaired to a pub in Inverness to celebrate surviving this close encounter with danger.

Having majored in English in college, I was well aware of the proud literary heritage of Scotland, including the Waverley novels by Sir Walter Scott.  As most ARs undoubtedly know, we honor a giant of Scottish poetry with our annual Robert Burns Night celebration at The Tap Room in late January.  While Bill and I were exploring Loch Ness, the world-renowned Edinburgh International Festival and Edinburgh Fringe were in full swing 150 miles to our south.

I mention this because in the pubs of Inverness I never once heard any reference to Sir Walter Scott, Robert Burns or any of the cultural offerings in Edinburgh. Rather, by far the dominant voice of Scottish lyricism was that of Rod Stewart. I still recall the enthusiasm of  Scottish lassies (who would have been too young to drink legally in the United States and perhaps in Scotland as well) upon hearing the romantic ballad “Hot Legs” and the tender couplet:

I’m gonna need a shot of Vitamin E
By the time you’re finished with me.

My guess is their parents would even have preferred some of the racier poetry of Robert Burns to the unsubtle appeal of Rod Stewart:

You got legs right up to your neck.
You’re making me a physical wreck.

lochnessGuarding the Whisky?


On our way back to Edinburgh Bill and I spent the night of August 16, 1977 in a quaint B & B in an idyllic setting in the Scottish countryside.  While we were having breakfast on the morning of August 17th, the landlady entered the dining room and announced to the room, “Elvis Presley died.”  That was it.  Everyone in the room finished breakfast in silence.  Somehow this news and the way it was delivered seemed incongruous in this particular setting. The pastoral scene outside with sheep on a hillside belonged more to the world of Burns and Scott than to that of the now deceased King of Graceland.

For the rest of our time in Britain the news of Elvis’s death dominated every media outlet. As a topic of conversation in the pubs Bill and I visited during this time the passing of The King easily overshadowed Rod Stewart and even indigenous royals like Prince Charles. Incidentally, in frequenting British pubs in 1977  I further cultivated my appreciation of what the English called “real ale”.  Now, I know some ARs will recall my saying that I got the idea to start a brewery in St. Louis after tasting real ales in Oxford in 1983.  That’s absolutely true.  It was my reacquaintance with real ales in 1983 that set in motion the series of events that led to founding Schlafly Beer.  But, I had in fact tasted real ales during prior visits to the UK, including the 1977 search for the case of Canadian Club.

After flying home from London, I drove to Jefferson City, where I was officially sworn in as a member of the Missouri Bar.  I settled into the practice of law in downtown St. Louis, where I met Prince Charles on October 21, 1977.  I am not making this up.  I was standing with two other lawyers by the Old Courthouse when  Charles approached us and said, “You gentlemen must be lawyers.”  We commended him on being so perceptive, but pointed out that the building had not been used as a courthouse for nearly 50 years.  If there had been time I would have told him about my recent quest in his mother’s kingdom.  I hadn’t found The Grail, but I had found The Ale.


Tom Schlafly