Schlafly Tap Room and Bottleworks are St. Louis hot spots for food, friends and culture. And of course, beer.
For any beer lover, a stop at Schlafly’s Tap Room or Bottleworks is a must. And it’s not just because of the beer, although the brand has fans flocking to each site for signature stouts, ciders and pale ale. Since its birth 25 years ago in downtown St. Louis, Schlafly has built its reputation as a pioneering, innovative beer brand that has endured — no small feat for a brewery that lives in the same town as Anheuser-Busch. Craft beer is still growing, capturing 12 percent market share in 2015, and Schlafly is at the forefront of the beer boom. “Vibrant doesn’t even begin to describe it,” says Stephen Hale, who moved from Maine to Missouri to help start Schlafly as an assistant brewer.
When Schlafly opened the doors to its Tap Room in 1991, it was the first brewpub in the state since Prohibition. Twenty-five years later, there are more than 70 craft breweries in Missouri, according to the Brewers Association. With its craft beers, cultural offerings, such as art and live music, and food that raises the bar, the local institution has helped to not only revolutionize the beer scene but also revitalize the community.
A Rich History
The original downtown Schlafly Tap Room is housed in a former printing plant that dates to the early 1900s. After the Swift Printing Company moved out in 1969, the building was abandoned, falling into decline for 20-plus years. A fire engulfed the building in 1976. Its dilapidated appearance led to its casting in the Kurt Russell flick “Escape from New York,” which highlighted the site as a part of a post-apocalyptic Big Apple. After the founders made the building Schlafly’s home, the 2100 Locust site is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
As demand for Schlafly’s beer grew, the company opened Schlafly Bottleworks. Just like they did with the original building, it was important for Schlafly to rehab another building. This time, they took a former supermarket in Maplewood, Mo., and renovated it to suit their needs. Opening in 2003, it’s St. Louis’ first new production brewery to open since the end of Prohibition.
Cheers for Beers
Every year, Schlafly brews scores of different styles of beer, whether it’s bottled, canned or available on draft exclusively at the Tap Room or Bottleworks. The staple beers include Grapefruit IPA, Oatmeal Stout, Hefeweizen, Kolsch and Pale Ale, one of their more well-known beers. There’s also a Core Seasonal Series, six styles chosen to complement their respective season’s availability, including the Coffee Stout, Summer Lager, Raspberry Hefeweizen and Oktoberfest.
Over the years, Schlafly has been committed to brewing the core classic styles while also placing a big emphasis on “continued innovation and experimenting with new styles,” says Hale. Over the years the beer has evolved, such as its hop trial beers that experiment with different hops from around the world and newer styles like the Mango Hefeweizen.
Both sites offer tours. Bottleworks features the popular Beer School, a fun and educational experience that guides guests through the brewery’s history and the brewing process. On the weekends, brewery tours are available that end with free beer. The tour was cited as one of Men’s Journal magazine’s best brewery tours in the country.
“The Tap Room and Bottleworks have their own food personalities,” Hale says. At the Tap Room, the menu leans heavily toward European fare, with staple dishes such as fish and fries and poutine. The rarebit (goat cheese dip) and pretzels are popular picks; dishes such as mahi mahi tacos and vindaloo curry satisfy the craving for something different.
Bottleworks focuses on local food, not just from local farmers but also from its own garden, Schlafly Gardenworks, which produces thousands of pounds of produce such as tomatoes, beets, herbs, greens and peppers every year. One of the most popular dishes is the chorizo nachos, boasting house-made chorizo and all the fixings.
Schlafly has truly embraced the local food philosophy with its farmers market at Bottleworks featuring local, farm fresh eggs, pork, lamb, beef, cheeses, herbs, mushrooms, artisanal bread, flowers, pasta, chocolate and more. During the winter, the farmers market turns into the winter market, moving indoors. Even in January, thanks to farmers extending their growing season, greens, turnips, scallions and other fresh produce are available alongside meat and cheese, baked goods and locally made specialty food.
The one constant at both places is the Sticky Toffee Pudding. This decadent dessert is pudding in the Scottish sense with a moist, dense cake enveloped in warm caramel sauce and whipped cream.
Cultural Hot Spot
Aside from the beer and food, Schlafly offers a wide array of cultural events that appeal to all, not just beer drinkers. The Tap Room hosts live music every Friday and Saturday, while Bottleworks has the tunes going throughout the week. Everything from country to blues is represented.
Annual festivals make Schlafly a destination; art lovers will want to check out the Art Outside Alternative Art Fair, a three-day affair featuring works from more than 50 local artists. One of the more unique events is the Burns Night Celebration at the Tap Room. This free event features haggis, neeps and tatties, shepherd’s pie and a host of other Scottish delights with the Parade of Pipers and co-founder Tom Schlafly conjuring the spirit of poet Robert Burns. Later this year, they will have perhaps one of their biggest parties – the 25th anniversary bash to mark 25 years of good food, beer and friends.