We all know the story of David and Goliath. The boyish underdog David takes down Goliath, the giant warrior, with a single stone from his slingshot – and then David cuts off Goliath’s head and carries it around for a while. (Oh,did you not know that last part?) But though the story works well as a parable, in the real world, such David and Goliath situations are not always so cut and dry.
The Saint Louis Brewery, makers of the Schlafly brand of beer, know what it’s like to be a metaphorical David taking on the brewing industry’s version of Goliath. Up until Schlafly began pouring in 1991, no one had made beer in St. Louis since 1977—no one besides Anheuser-Busch, America’s largest brewer. When Saint Louis Brewery co-founder Tom Schlafly published a book about his experience in 2006, he called it A New Religion in Mecca – a title the speaks to how he felt about the magnitude of this undertaking (as well as a title that got me a lot of strange looks as I read it on an airplane).
25 years later, The Saint Louis Brewery is still going strong as I saw first-hand alongside Tom at the brewery’s annual Hop in the City Beer Festival. Despite having six different tents (and over 45 beers on tap), the lines were so long in the massive parking lot that housed the event, everyone simply blended into a sea of patient beer drinkers. The irony is that ever since international brewing giant InBev purchased Anheuser-Busch in 2008, the Schlafly team has been the largest American-owned brewery in St. Louis. “It dawned on me then that the brewery was going to outlive me,” Schlafly told me as we discussed his company’s history – a realization that would shape his plans for the brand moving forward.