Fear and Loathing at Schlafly Bottleworks

Several years ago, around 2005ish, Brewticular and The Brew Sherpa were contracted by a law firm to drive up to St. Louis, MO to pick up a pair of scooters that were involved in an accident and transport them back to the Florida panhandle.  Our secondary objective was to ‘wine and dine’ The Engineer (names changed to protect the innocent) that we were receiving them up from.  And the cherry on top – ALL EXPENSES PAID!

Before we logged the first mile towards St. Louis, a quick search of the interwebs pointed us in the direction of the Schlafly Bottleworks.  A quick cut and paste of the address lead us to the hotel closest to the brewery and we booked our room without delay.  Ford F-150 gassed up, we hit the road on our 14+ hour trip, eventually arriving in St. Louis very late at night.  There was no beer drinking that night, just straight to bed, exhausted from the long, boring drive North.

Like kids on Christmas morning, we were up early, eager to get to the brewery the minute the doors were opened.  Always the responsible drinkers, we opted to walk to the brewery rather than drive, understanding that driving back to the hotel would NOT be an option.   A brisk half-mile walk to the brewery had us walking into the brewery parking lot just before 10:00 AM, a bit over an hour before the doors were opened.  The first thing we noticed were a couple of pickup trucks lined up as a worker wearing a Schlafly Brewery shirt shoved some unknown material into the bed of a truck backed up the loading dock.  Pouring sweat and looking somewhat overwhelmed, Brewticular and I offered our help.  With a look of utter confusion on his face, the worker nodded “ok” and pointed to a couple of shovels just inside the loading bay door.

About 30 minutes later, with all three of us pouring sweat, relief showed up to help the worker.  At this point, Brewticular and I were “all in” and felt happy to help (a great way to pass the time till the brewery opened).  By this point, the three of us were having a pretty good time shoveling the spent grains into these farmer’s trucks, somehow turning the entire affair into a measure of man-hood, as most activities that involve beer and three men often do.  Grain pile depleted, we were allowed inside a few minutes early to “wash up.”  This phase of the fun was over, time to prepare for the next phase.

Even empty, the place was fantastic, with a very open and inviting vibe, and Brewticular and I quickly bellied-up to the bar, content to wait until opening time.  The bartender, preparing the bar to open, quickly recognized us as the “guys helping out” on the dock, and poured us two beers without even asking.  Less than 24 hours before, I did not even know who Schlafly Brewery was and now they were my favorite brewery of ALL TIME!!!  Free beer, especially in those days, was the Holy Grail.  But more than the free beer was the attitude with which we were treated.  As the doors opened, the Manager (names omitted to protect the innocent) stopped by to thank us and noticing that our beers were empty, slid behind the bar to pour us fresh ones.  I felt less like a customer and more like a long lost friend returning for a visit.  We felt like were in someone’s home, not in a place of business!

As we made our way through the expansive beer menu, we ordered food, asking the bartender to pick something good for us.  A short time later, some sort of flat bread pulled pork sandwich with an orgasmic barbeque sauce showed up and was quickly devoured.  All the while, Schlafly brews were flowing, making both Sherpas happy that they didn’t drive to the Bottleworks.  It was just around 3:00 PM and we weren’t scheduled to have dinner with The Engineer until 6:00 PM.  On the upside, we were already at the place we were meeting him (Schlafly Bottleworks), but on the downside, we were somewhat inebriated and it was only 3:00 PM.  It is time to work a few glasses of waters in between the beers.

As shift changes occurred, those just coming on were introduced to the “two guys at the end of the bar that pitched in earlier.”  Never have I felt so appreciated as I did sitting at the end of that fantastic bar.  Around 6:00 PM, when The Engineer showed up for dinner, he was instantly struck by the friendly manner in which the employees of Schlafly Bottleworks treated us.

“You guys from here?  I thought you were from down South?” he said.

“Ya, we are from the Florida panhandle.  This is our first time here.  LOVE this place!” exclaimed Brewticular.

“How does everyone around here know who you are?  How are you guys the local celebrities?” said The Engineer.

“Let’s just say ol’ Brewticular here is handy with a shovel,” as I slap him on the back.

With a completely bewildered look on his face, The Engineer turned around and took a huge pull off his freshly poured IPA.  His face told us that not only had he been here before, but that he thought fondly of it.  In that split second, I was no longer concerned about being slightly intoxicated, but understood that a mutual admiration for Schlafly made us instant friends.  Brewticular glanced over at me and we knew tonight was going to be great.

After dinner, a local (I assume) banjo musician took the stage and rocked us until closing time.  Like everything else at Schlafly, the music was absolutely incredible.  The setting was quaint, the crowd was absolutely in to it and the beer made it over the top great.  My ONLY regret of the evening is that I cannot remember the name of the musician.  As we bade The Engineer goodbye, we asked for our check, dreading the monstrous amount of money the full day of beer drinking and food was going to cost us.  A short moment later, the bartender returned with a tab just under $30.  Stunned, we called the bartender back over and professed that clearly a mistake had been made.  He reassured us that no mistake had been made and that Schlafly was all too happy to help us in return for our shoveling efforts.  We dropped down a massive tip and asked the bartender to call us a cab, which he did.

The rest is foggy, but suffice it to say, we picked up the scooters (our primary mission) and forged a lasting working relationship with The Engineer (our secondary mission).  I could bore you with the details of the drive back, and the reports we filled out for the law firm, but it would only cheapen the experience. Instead, I will leave you with the only conversation with our contractor that matters.

“I thought I asked you guys to take The Engineer out for some drinks?” asked The Lawyer (names omitted to protect the innocent), our contractor.

“Oh, you did.  And we did.  Trust me when I say that he vastly appreciates this firm.” I exclaimed.

“But the tab was only $30?” retorted The Lawyer.

“It’s not the size of the tab that matters, it’s the quality of the beers on the tab.” I stated matter-of-factly.“


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