Reduce. Reuse. Recycle… and Make Great Beer!

View The Healthy Planet’s Summer Craft & Specialty Beer Guide


By Maureen Zegel

A familiar mantra for environmentalists, concerned citizens and a few industries – Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. has become a way of life for the region’s burgeoning craft breweries. St. Louis’ two largest craft brewers, St. Louis Brewery, makers of Schlafly beers and Urban Chestnut Brewing Company not only consider the environmental three Rs responsible behavior, it’s also good business.

The two craft breweries were founded by savvy businessmen.

Tom Schlafly, a successful attorney and son of a prominent St. Louis family and Dan Kopman, a young economist from St. Louis who happened to be working at a brewery in London co-founded the St. Louis Brewery in 1991. Over at Urban Chestnut, former Anheuser- Busch executives, David Wolfe, from A-B’s marketing staff and Florian Kuplent an award-winning German brewer, opened their brewery in 2011.

Kopman, Schlafly’s CEO, says turning two abandoned buildings into thriving businesses remains one of their greatest achievements when it comes to reuse.

“We also have a full-time gardener on staff, one of our longtime employees” said Kopman. “He tends to many of the items found on the menus at both restaurants. We turned part of our parking lot into a big garden at the Bottleworks. What we don’t grow, we buy local.”

The brewery installed a solar array on the Bottleworks roof and they buy renewable energy certificates offsetting 100 percent of their electricity usage. They use single stream recycling and divert 70 tons of organic waste from landfills annually.

Urban Chestnut was barely established at their Midtown Brewery and Biergarten at 3229 Washington Ave. when they started running out of space. They opened a second site in February. The 75,000 square foot facility is located in “The Grove” neighborhood of St. Louis at 4465 Manchester. Wolfe and Kuplent worked with the real estate firm, recognized for the sustainable redevelopment of underutilized St. Louis-area commercial properties in LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified buildings.

Last year Urban Chestnut installed a solar power array to offset their electricity needs. They strive to become a zero-waste brewery by reducing and reusing water during the brewing process. UCBC also sends spent grain, the largest quantity of their solid waste, to local farms to be fed to livestock reducing the amount of energy and arable land being used to produce feed.

A bit of Beer History
For more than 150 years, St. Louis has been known as a beer town. With river access, rail lines and limestone caves for cool storage, coupled with a steady stream of German and Irish immigrants, the industry thrived in the mid19th century. By the 1880s the U.S. boasted more than 2,000 breweries and nearly 40 breweries called St. Louis home.

Prohibition, passed in 1922, hit the beer industry hard and only the beer giants made it out. Over the next 50 years those giants ate up the smaller breweries. By 1980 only 89 breweries existed in the U.S. A year ago that number had swelled to 2,538 thanks to the immense popularity and growth of the craft beer industry with 20 of them located in the St. Louis region.

Schlafly Beer/The St. Louis Brewery
As the granddaddy of craft brewers in St. Louis, the Schlafly beer story is a familiar one, but Kopman still enjoys telling it.

“Our first building had been vacant for more than 20 years when we looked at it in 1989,” said Kopman. “There was fire damage, the south side of the building had no roof. There was a tree growing in it.”

“I was working at a brewery in England and Tom (Schlafly) and my father, Charles, worked together at the same law firm here in St. Louis,” said Kopman. “They wanted to open a brewery. I call them the last men standing who believed in the city of St. Louis at the time. They were committed, I was fearless.”

The two attorneys and the younger Kopman agreed that if he got the brewery built, he would return to London.

The attorneys worked at getting laws changed that limited production and sale of beer. At the time, those laws favored Anheuser-Busch, which was closing in on becoming the world’s largest brewery.

“We gathered a small team of believers and approached one of the city’s biggest banks,” Kopman said. “I was a bad economist who didn’t know how to make beer. And the bankers couldn’t believe we wanted to make beer in St. Louis. They said we’d never make it and gave us a week. They were non-believers.”

Eventually, they found a bank that would lend them the money and they sank it into rebuilding the north side of the building, the side with a roof. They opened The Tap Room at 2100 Locust Street in December of 1991 making and selling classic pale ale and a wheat beer over the bar with great food. Microbreweries and brewpubs were catching on.

Tom Schlafly who always said he opened the brewery “to make great beer and have big parties,” kept busy with the law and his new business, which remains committed to St. Louis.

Kopman returned to the states in 1998. The owners completed the Tap Room and then bought another abandoned building in 2001, this time in Maplewood. The brewing facilities moved to Maplewood and the first bottle of Schlafly beer came off the line at the Bottleworks in June of 2003. They continued to grow, moving outside of the St. Louis market in 2005. By 2007, the once little brewery that could was producing 17,000 barrels of beer, a very respectable output.

The $52 billion takeover of Anheuser-Busch by the giant Belgian brewer InBev SA in the summer of 2008 changed the beer landscape in St. Louis forever.

“We were inundated with calls,” Kopman said. “They wanted to know if we could make Schlafly light in 30-packs. Ad agencies approached us about TV commercials. We told the callers we didn’t do that and we told our employees that our mission would not change. We were still going to be a great local brewer who makes great beer. The party was just going to get bigger.”

Today, Schlafly’s markets have spread to New York and the Washington, D.C metro areas. Kopman said they are looking for a third site. They’ve hired two new employees with marketing experience and the services of a large marketing firm. They are poised for the next step.

Urban Chestnut Brewing Company
Urban Chestnut co-owners David Wolfe, and Florian Kuplent are moving to the top of the St. Louis craft brewers list with this year’s opening of their $10 million beer hall. Formerly the Renard Paper Co. building it has the largest footprint of any St. Louis craft brewery.

According to Wolfe, the two men put a great deal of planning into their shared passion for beer.

“We wanted a distinctive identity and we could do that starting with Florian’s pedigree,” Wolfe said.

That pedigree includes growing up in Bavaria, a free state in southeastern Germany, known for it’s beer-loving population. Kuplent worked as a brewer’s apprentice in Munich, attended the Bavarian College of Food and Beverage Science, and later earned a master’s degree in malting and brewing science at the University of Munich-Weihenstephan. He worked in several large European breweries and took advantage of an opportunity to work at Anheuser-Busch.

“At A-B Florian worked on new products, wrote recipes for non-traditional beers,” said Wolfe. “He had all of this experience with old world styles of beer. Working with A-B allowed him to be more forward thinking. It’s how our ‘Beer Divergency’ was born.”

It’s a new world meets old world brewing approach. UCBC contributes to the “revolution” of craft beer with artisanal creations of modern American beers, and pays “reverence” to the heritage of beer with timeless European beer styles.

Is it too soon to ask what’s next? Not at all said the forward-thinking Wolfe.
The new site has given them the capacity to brew close to 20,000 barrels where they were limited to 6,500 at their Midtown site.

“We’re also looking to expand outside of St. Louis in Missouri – places like Columbia and Kansas City,” he said. “We built our new site with the future in mind.”

The St. Louis Brewers Guild
Both Schlafly and UCBC are members of the St. Louis Brewers Guild, a nonprofit aimed at promoting beer tourism in the St. Louis region. As a craft beer veteran, Schlafly’s CEO welcomes the growing craft beer excitement in St. Louis. He believes they have a responsibility to the new members of the St. Louis Brewers Guild.

“We have to be a leader here,” Kopman said. “If they need help, we help them. It’s good for all of us. Can you imagine if St. Louis once again had 40 breweries?”

Wolfe enjoys the collaborative spirit of the St. Louis Brewers Guild.

“We are all small businesses, and we’re doing similar things,” he said. “When we can all tell our stories together, we can be so much more effective.”

Members of the St. Louis Brewers Guild:
2nd Shift Brewing
4 Hands Brewing
Alpha Brewing Co.
Augusta Brewing Co.
Buffalo Brewing Co.
Cathedral Square
Charleville Brewery
Civil Life Brewing
Crown Valley
Excel Bottling Co.
Exit 6 Brewery
Ferguson Brewing
Griesedieck Brothers Brewing
Heavy Riff Brewing
Kirkwood Station Brewing
Morgan Street Brewery
O’Fallon Brewery
Perennial Artisan Ales
Schlafly Beer
Six Row Brewing
Square One Brewery
Trailhead Brewing
Urban Chestnut Brewing

For more information please visit www.stlbg.com.