"The community felt betrayed," Kopman says. "You think about the Cardinals and Anheuser-Busch and those were two of the institutions that helped define this town and keep St. Louis a city of the world instead of just another city in the United States, so it was such a blow when Anheuser-Busch was sold."
That's how a little gimmicky beer poll and bracket on a business Web site becomes a big deal. That's how a 50,000-barrel brewer not only competes with the biggest brewery craft beer has to offer, but does so with respect and cordiality. That's why Schlafly's Brodsky contacted his counterpart Nick Gosselin at Boston Beer during the matchup and why Gosselin asked Brodsky for "some of that championship beer" when it was clear Schlafly was about to win.
Whether in sizing up brewing competition or putting out fires in the comment fields, humanizing the people they communicate with has worked wonders for both Schlafly and Brodsky. When it comes to dealing with consumers, competitors or critics, Brodsky says a bit of openness, flexibility and familiarity with the subject go a much longer way than money spent on outside consultants.
"Anyone who claims to be a 'social media expert' is kind of blowing smoke, because we're all learning and it's constantly evolving," Brodsky says. "What you want is someone who is bright, who knows the product and who you trust to be able to talk to your consumers without monitoring everything they're doing."
As for Schlafly and the St. Louis beer community, Kopman figures the best still lies ahead. The goal still has to be 40 breweries, because that was the number before prohibition, and Kopman feels the city is in the right part of the country and has the right resources to realize that potential again. Looking back on the Beer Dance win, Kopman thinks the polls indicate one thing more than any other: That there are fewer distractions in St. Louis when it comes to brewing culture.
"We don't have the mountains and we don't have the oceans, but for a couple hundred years we've been the leading brewing city in the United States," Kopman says. "Some may feel that position has diminished a bit, but I assure people around the country that the passion is still there."
-- Written by Jason Notte in Boston.
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