Editor’s Note: Please welcome our newest contributor, Dawn Howard to LouisvilleBeer.com. She’ll be covering news and events for us.
Though based in Saint Louis, when discussing the Louisville beer scene, I often refer to Schlafly as “honorary local”. This is largely due to the excellent and omnipresent Scott Shreffler, who I’m sure has some sort of official title but is better known – amongst my friends at least – as “Schlafly Scott”. Between tasting classes at liquor stores and pouring at every local festival imaginable, I see as much or more of Scott around Louisville (and Lexington) than any brewery representative I could name. On Tuesday night, Louisville Craft Beer Week benefitted from this honorary local status when co-founders Dan Kopman and Tom Schlafly came to town for a beer dinner at Harvest. My (admittedly narrow) beer tastes run to IPAs, stouts, porters, and brown / red ales. So when the beer menu was announced as bière de garde, grand cru, trippel, barleywine I’ll admit it gave me a bit of pause. Ultimately, my excitement about the event itself won me over and I decided to attend, which ended up being a great decision.
Upon arrival, we got a good pour of the pale ale to enjoy while everybody was getting seated and settled, which was a particularly nice bonus for me. Then we got to hear from the guests of honor, who each spent a few minutes talking about how Schlafly came to be and their overall philosophy of beer making. Tom noted with evident pride that they are now “the largest American-owned brewery in Saint Louis” (a big applause line). Dan then shared his overall vision of making great beer while keeping it simple both in style and marketing. He shared his concern that in some corners beer is trying to be like wine, which he referred to as “a smoke and mirrors business full of vocabulary and fermented grape juice.”
After opening remarks, dinner began. Guests were treated to four courses, each paired with a sample of a different beer. While we were enjoying each course, Dan gave an educational and fairly in-depth discussion about each beer style and Aaron Dawkins (manager at Harvest) introduced each dish. Before dessert, Chef Coby Ming came out and talked to us about how the dinner came together and then did a Q&A. Her sincere affection for the beers she chose was evident and as she described to us her process of sipping a beer, closing her eyes, and imagining what flavors would complement each selection it was very clear why some people are chefs and some people (like me) are accountants. Because the pairings were fantastic. The flavors in the soup made the bière de garde (something I normally merely tolerate) very tasty, and while no meal will make me a lover of Belgians, I still really appreciated the way the flavors enhanced each other and the obvious care that was taken in the pairings. Every course was better than the last (house-made manchego! pickled peach salsa!), but my personal favorite was last: a pecan shortcake topped with fig compote, caramel, and honey crème fraiche paired with the oak-aged barleywine. I am normally of the opinion that something called “dessert” requires chocolate but every flavor in this was simply perfect and the beer – delicious on its own – was amazing in the pair.
All good thing must come to an end, as did this. While the checks were being sorted, Dan came by and visited most if not all of tables for chit chat and to answer any other questions we had. In the end, I left with a full stomach, more beer knowledge, and a gorgeous tulip glass. Many thanks to Schlafly, Harvest, and Louisville Craft Beer Week for making it all possible.