If you’ve been paying attention to the world of craft beer throughout the 2010s, the growth, sale, decline and secondary sale of The Saint Louis Brewery—better known simply as Schlafly Beer—sums up many aspects of the overall experience. Within the space of a decade, Schlafly has gone from an up-and-coming St. Louis favorite, to a major regional brewery, to a shrinking “legacy brewer,” and now back to its roots once again.
Today, the company announced that real estate developer David Schlafly, the cousin of co-founder Tom Schlafly, along with “a group of local investors,” have acquired the controlling interest in the brewery from previous owners Sage Capital, a St. Louis-based private equity firm. Sage Capital had acquired majority ownership of the brewery from the Schlafly family back in 2012, only months after AB InBev’s acquisition of Goose Island kicked off a wave of brewery acquisitions. Now, seven years later, the company can again say it’s Schlafly-owned, although Sage Capital remains as a minority stakeholder with representation on its board of directors.
“I am delighted to have David join the Schlafly team,” said Tom Schlafly, who still serves as Chairman of the Board. “Throughout his career, he has been an advocate for the betterment of our community – both on a civic and cultural level. He has a track record for success in business, and his work has led to the redevelopment of Maplewood, a commitment that has served our Schlafly Bottleworks location well.”
David Schlafly, meanwhile, said the following: “The Saint Louis Brewery is part of our family’s legacy. I’ll be working with the Schlafly team to continue to advance its leadership in the craft beer industry and support neighborhood renewal. We are proud to be a St. Louis family-owned brewery.”
This ownership transition comes after a handful of rough years for Schlafly on the beer sales side of the equation. Like many similar regional, older breweries, Schlafly was hit hard by the slow-down of the industry, which has seen growth concentrated almost entirely in smaller, more nimble brands, as brewery openings continue unabated. Overall Schlafly beer sales were down sharply in 2016, 2017 and 2018, while the company simultaneously found itself caught up in a strange squabble with local competitor 4-Hands, which appeared to be caused by now-resigned Schlafly CEO James Pendegraft. And with beer sales down, the company understandably has been seeking new avenues of revenue, with the launch of its St. Louis Crafted Cocktails arm.
Clearly, this is a difficult time for The Saint Louis Brewery, but as one of the Midwest’s better producers of classic, solid beer styles, we do want to see them succeed. Hopefully, being back in the Schlafly family fold proves to be a key to success.