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The Beer Dance: How Schlafly Craft Beer Shook Up St. Louis

Stocks in this article: SAM BUD

When it came to the beer bracket, however, the big assist Brodsky received from his brewery's St. Louis fans and from the city in general was just as immediate. Outnumbered 150,000 to 17,000 by Samuel Adams' Facebook friends, Brodsky shifted his focus to Twitter and asked St. Louis' heavy hitters for help. More than 80% of all Schlafly beer is sold within the St. Louis metro area, so Brodsky asked Mayor Francis Slay and Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill to tweet out a cry for help to their followers.

Support for Schlafly's Dry Hopped American Pale Ale came in from fans across city and from the St. Louis diaspora across the country for weeks. The sentiment behind it started building more than three years ago in November 2008, when InBev purchased Anheuser-Busch (BUD) for nearly $52 billion, laid off U.S. employees, cut the pay of those who stayed, stopped making pension contributions to retirees and cut those same retirees' health benefits.

"In St. Louis, we have such a rich history of beer here, but the story has gone from having the biggest brewer in the world here and everyone having a neighbor who worked for them to the sale going through and the story completely changing," Brodsky says. "The people in St. Louis are just really excited to have something to rally around."

To understand St. Louis' support of Schlafly is to understand its beer heritage. In the 1800s, just before Prohibition, St. Louis was home to 40 breweries. Those breweries helped foot the bill for the 1904 World's Fair and helped St. Louis become the third-largest city in the U.S. for a time. After Prohibition, when consolidation left breweries scrambling for their lives, Anheuser-Busch soaked up more than 50% of the nation's beer production and poured it back into St. Louis through jobs and benefits.

"Anheuser-Busch is not known locally as Anheuser-Busch, it's known as The Brewery," says Dan Kopman, who co-founded the craft brewer with partner Tom Schlafly in 1991. "There are very few big public companies that people refer to them by what they make rather than the name of the company."

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