Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Pink Boots at Schlafly

“Life is a pure flame, and we live by an invisible sun within us.” ~Thomas Browne

September 25: I disconnected my van, left my trailer in the Secure Lot at Anheuser-Busch and drove to Schlafly's in the Maplewood neighborhood of St. Louis.

Schlafly’s Maplewood brewery is a distributing craft brewery as well as a large brewpub. I met with Head of Brewing Operations, Otto Ottolini. Otto is acting Brewmaster at the Maplewood location, and Stephen is acting Brewmaster at Schlafly’s downtown Tap Room location. They don’t seem to use the title Brewmaster anywhere.

Otto hooked me up with brewer Matt Peterson, and I worked with Matt on the brew while Otto worked on other things.

Otto is famous for being an engineer-McGyver type. He’s the kind of guy who makes changes to a brand-new Krones bottling system, and then when he tells Krones what he did to their bottler, they don’t void the warranty, instead they send him a check and incorporate Otto’s changes into future systems! (Stephen Hale told me this story. Otto is too modest.)

I especially appreciated Otto’s elegantly designed chain-disk grain and grist conveying systems that he custom-designed for each of Schlafly’s two breweries. They are like cablevey systems, except chain-disks don’t break because of their metal chain links.

Otto and I enjoyed lunch at the bar. Then we grabbed all the brewers and some of the other production people and took the photo at the top of this page in Schlafly’s Conference/Tour room. Left to Right: Neal Curtis, Jason O'Neal, Jacob Simmons, Matt McFarland, Teri, Joe Davis, Eric Roy, Otto Ottolini, Brian McBride, and Matt Peterson.

I’d met brewer Joe Davis back in 1998 when Steelhead bought a Rock Bottom in Fresno, California. Joe Davis had been Rock Bottom’s assistant brewer, and he continued with Steelhead as assistant brewer. Now nine years later, Joe is happily employed at Schlafly’s in St. Louis.

After we took the photo, Otto gave me a full tour of Schlafly’s Maplewood brewery. Surpisingly, Otto and I are both interested in astrology and the development of wisdom, so we briefly showed each other a few interesting astrology websites and talked about the life experiences that bring wisdom.

Otto left in the afternoon to have an early dinner with his small daughters and get some sleep. He was due back at the brewery at 11:00 pm to begin the graveyard shift. I plugged in my Ethernet cable and blogged for a few hours. No blogging time in the evening in St. Louis! There’s no wireless Internet at A-B.

Stephen returned wearing his casual-style Utili-Kilt and we enjoyed dinner in Schlafly’s Maplewood brewpub. Stephen and his Utili-Kilts were featured in the local newspaper’s fashion section along with a few other Kilt-wearing men.
Owner/Partners Dan Kopman and Tom Schlafly joined us at various points during our dinner, along with Chef Scott Smelser.

Photo above right, L to R: Teri, Scott and Dan. Photo below left, L to R: Brewer Bill Joslyn, Teri and Tom Schlafly.

After dinner we drove to Schlafly's downtown Tap Room so Stephen could continue the cellar tour – with refreshments. The basement/cellar there is extensive. Schlafly expanded from the original building to a second building in 1999, and the cellar runs underneath both buildings. Stephen said you could see the sky from the cellar before the restoration began.

We went down in the huge modern utility elevator. Stephen gave me a taste of his wood-aged barleywine. He also had some bourbon-barrel aged Imperial Stout, and he gifted me a 750 ml bottle of it.

Then we took small samples of a 12-year old Geuze that John Isenhauer had brewed back at a now defunct brewery that was in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. Schlafly’s had bought some equipment and kegs when the brewery closed, and one of the kegs was partially full of Geuze. Stephen decided to keep what was left. I’m glad he did, because I got to taste it and I thought it was great.

Since Stephen only has a tiny amount of John’s Gueze left, I recommended he try to culture it, or at least mix some with flour and see if he can make a sourdough starter with it. Sourdough “yeast” actually has lots of bugs in it, including Lactobacillus, and I suspect that wheat flour and malted barley attract the same kind of microflora. In fact, a lot of Belgian beers use raw wheat, so why not make a sourdough starter with Gueze culture?

Stephen and I took our Gueze samples and headed up to the third floor of the building where Sara was teaching a life drawing class. Stephen gave me a tour of the third floor offices, and when Sara could take a break, we asked one of her art students to take a photo of the three of us in front of Sara’s large painting of a beer glass.
Then Stephen gifted me a generous mixed 2.5 cases of Schlafly beers, and helped me complete some important errands, like filling the tank with gas and finding out where I can dump my very full RV wastewater tanks.

We pulled into what I called, “Hip Hop Happy Gas,” where all the folks filling their tanks left their car doors open and their stereos cranked up. Normally I don’t drive at night, and I never would have picked this gas station on my own, but the gas price was the cheapest of my trip at $2.59 a gallon.

Then Stephen took me to a downtown RV park to see if I could use their dump. I was surprised to find it was a very nice RV park filled with large expensive RVs, all on their way to somewhere else. We met the owner and a manager, Jim and John. It turns out that the St. Louis RV Park was modeled on the RV Park that used to be in San Francisco, where the new baseball park is now. As far as they knew, this was the last RV park located downtown in a major US city. Jim and John said to come on by Thursday morning, the dump is only $4.00, and they’d be happy to give me directions to Hwy 70 headed toward Kansas City Airport, which would be my next stop.

After these errands, Stephen brought me to his and Sara’s house, gave me a tiny glass of delicious homemade Limoncello straight from the freezer. I’ve put the recipe on my website for you here. Then he gave me a tour of their antique home that Sara has put her artistic touches on. I especially liked the Mediterranean colors, different swaths of color in each room. Sara used bright acrylic paint over a flat ivory base. The effect is a textured juicy warm tropical fruit medley, each room reminiscent of the exterior walls of Italian palazzos. Yummy!

Finally, with directions in front of me, I drove straight back to A-B’s security gate. 11:30 pm again! Once back in my trailer, I called my husband for our nightly one-hour chat, and got to bed late again.

1 comment:

Paul said...

Love the Blog and website! Is the Siebel Institute a good option to become a brewer?