18 December 2008

KOTBR #63 - Weird Party

For Knights of the Beer Roundtable #63, we met in Jason's private learjet on the Irvington airport grounds and then headed to St. Louis to pick up an assortment of beers from The St. Louis Brewery/Schlafly.

Because of the special occasion, we also brought along a spirit guide, who enabled us to channel a panel of St. Louis' best known and most beloved natives, both alive and deceased, to step into our bodies and write our reviews. We hope you'll enjoy their/our efforts.

Schlafly Pilsner - Our first review was written by none other than St. Louis Brewery owner Tom Schlafly (through Mike). You might find it unusual that we'd ask an owner to write a review of his own beer, but we're all fans of Tom's monthly top fermentation column, and felt he could put a lively spin on our review technique.

December 11th was a good day for the Knights of the Beer Roundtable for a few reasons. First, it marked just two weeks until Christmas. But more importantly, it marked the date when we would share a winter fuel - an assortment of Schlafly beers - gathered while visiting St. Louis.

Those of you familiar with the Christmas Carol "Good King Wenceslas" know that one of the King had his servants prepare flesh, wine, and pine logs for the arrival of a poor man he witnessed gathering his own winter fuel. Wenceslas I was just the first of a long line of Bohemian kings with the name Wenceslas - some 342 years later came the birth of Wenceslaus II Premyslid, who might have been a good king himself had his rule not first been held captive by Otto IV Margrave of Brandenburg and later by his mother's secret husband, Záviš of Falkenštejn.

Wenceslaus II did come to power, though it wasn't until the beheading of Záviš (for alleged treason) that he gained full independent power over the expanded empire, which eventually included Poland. Despite the beheading, Wenceslaus II wasn't all bad - after all, he did grant Plzeň its civic charter in 1295.

Here in the United States we probably know Plzeň better by its German spelling: Pilsen. We may not know that Pilsen is located in the western Bohemia regions of the Czech Republic. If you're reading this I'd say there's a pretty good chance that you've put two and two together and realized the Pilsen is not only famous for being the fourth most populous city in the Czech Republic - it's also famous for its Pilsener pale lager.

Of course the folks at Schlafly don't spell Pilsener that way - my guess is that they'd leave that spelling to the authentic stuff. That's not to say that Schlafly's Pilsner is some sort of poor knock-off - but as an Americanized version of the style, some liberties can be taken. Schlafly's Pilsner is a translucent and fizzy beer, with a sweet malty nose, a middle-weight mouthfeel, and a fruity, bitter and tight finish. This is a beer with loads of flavor, and would serve well as an introduction to craft beer for anyone used to drinking from the foreign-owned big three (AB/Inbev or SABMillerCoors).

If you're looking to be as good as King Wenceslas this Christmas, you might try giving the uninitiated the gift of Schlafly Pilsner - a beer that's palatable for all, but perhaps not a beer a certified beer geek will absolutely lose his or her head over.

Schlafly Pilsner
Mike: 3.0 Gina: 2.3 Jess: 3.2 Rodney: 2.1 Jim: 3.35 Jason: 3.0
KOTBR Average: 2.82 Mugs

Schlafly Hefeweizen and Oatmeal Stout - For our second and third reviews, Rodney asked the guide to call up the spirit of Harry Caray. Harry started his broadcasting career in St. Louis, as an announcer for the Cardinals.

Harry Caray here. Welcome beer fans! These beer geek guys asked me if I'd like to have a few beers with them so of course I said yes. That's the crazy thing about being dead, you don't have much to do once the baseball season is over! All the beers we had were from a brewery in St. Louis that wasn't Anheuser-Busch, so I was a little confused. But hey! St. Louis is where I discovered my two favorite things. Baseball and beer! So all these beers are from Schlafly. Weird name. Schlafly backwards is Ylfalhcs. Try saying that three times. Hey!

So this first beer. What's it? Hefeweizen. Unfiltered wheat? What didn't they filter out of it? Good stuff I hope. Smells kind of fruity. Kind of like apples and pears. Hey! This is beer right? You guys wouldn't mess with me. It looks like Budweiser so I'll trust you. Tastes kind of fruity though. Grapes and lemon and banana. Not bad, I could drink two or eight of these at a game. Good summer beer. Just not really what I was expecting. I'll take another. What! Oh, we're going to do another beer. Okay I'll take one of those!

Schlafly Hefeweizen
Mike: 2.0 Gina: 2.0 Jess: 2.0 Rodney: 1.9 Jim: 2.0 Jason: 2.0
KOTBR Average: 1.98 Mugs

Holy cow! Look at this thing! It's like I'm looking at coffee! Is this a Guinness or something? Oatmeal Stout? Smells kind of like chocolate. I'm getting the oatmeal in there. Creamy oatmeal. Smoky too, like a good barbecue but no meat. You know what I mean? Can I drink this or what? Wow! It might be.... it could be...... it is! Amazing! I don't think I've ever had a beer like this. This is crazy! No way I would drink this at a ball game, but it's darn cold outside and this is darn tasty! I can't believe it! It's nice and smooth but it's like coffee and chocolate and Guinness and nuts. What! I'll say it's like Guinness if I want but it's better than that. This is good! Wow!

Good to see St. Louis is still a great place! This is fun guys, what else do you have? How about that Pilsner? That's baseball beer!

Schlafly Oatmeal Stout
Mike: 3.0 Gina: 3.9 Jess: 3.8 Rodney: 3.81 Jim: 3.7 Jason: 3.7
KOTBR Average: 3.65 Mugs

Schlafly No. 15 - For review #4, Jess asked our spirit guide if it would be possible to channel St. Louis Native Maya Angelou; and after tasting the No. 15 she had this poem to share with us:

Phenomenal No. 15

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not a big beer or built to suit a fashion model's Chelada tastes,
But when I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the banana and clove nose,
The deep, rich amber color,
The sugary, smooth mouth-feel,
Then the holiday spice notes.
I'm a beverage.
Phenomenal beer,
That's No. 15.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It's that I lack that boozy kick,
And the flash of my wheaty aroma,
The swing of my earthy hop sweetness,
And the flavors reminiscent of Bells Winter White.
I'm a beverage.
Phenomenal beer,
That's No. 15.

Schlafly No. 15
Mike: 3.78 Gina: 3.3 Jess: 3.4 Rodney: 3.2 Jim: 3.75 Jason: 2.9
KOTBR Average: 3.38 Mugs

Schlafly Pale Ale - In the course of getting to our next review, our spirit guide became drunker and drunker, finally passing out. So Jason got out the Ouija board, and summoned the spirit of Mark McGwire, who immediately began to launch into legal-speak. The following is what his lawyers (also contacted via Ouija board) have allowed us to use.

The following is testimony from Mark McGwire, St. Louis Cardinals first baseman from 1997 to 2001, before a Hoosier Beer Geek committee about the enjoyment of craft beers by Major League Baseball players:

My name is Mark McGwire. I have been drinking beer since I was 21 years old. I was privileged to be able to drink lots of beer in the Major Leagues. I even had the honor of representing my country on the 1984 Olympic Baseball Team while drinking lots of beer. I love and respect beer, and I will do everything in my power to help craft beer, its brewers and fans.

First and foremost, my heart goes out to every person who were victims of bad beers. I hope that these hearings can prevent others from suffering. I admire craft brewers who had the courage to appear before Hoosier Beer Geek and warn of the dangers of bad brews. My heart goes out to them.

When I was lucky enough to secure my last major league contract, one of the first things I did was to use $3 million dollars of my own money to buy craft beer. I applaud the work of Hoosier Beer Geek in exposing great breweries so that their qualities are clearly understood. There have been problems with bad beers. Like any business where there is pressure to perform at the most profitable level and there has been no testing to control performance, problems develop. It is a problem that needs to be addressed.

Most importantly, every beer drinker needs to understand that some beers that claim to be good can be bad. I will use whatever influence and popularity I have to encourage beer drinkers to try any beer that is recommended by a beer geek. What I will not do, however, is participate in naming names and implicating specific breweries.

I will not point out that there are better beer choices from St. Louis. I refuse to say that Schlafly is a good example. And I won’t further explain that Schlafly is even available in a stadium named after a really, really, REALLY big St. Louis brewery.

I do not sit in judgment of other beer drinkers – whether it deals with their selection of Budweiser, Miller, or Coors – including whether or not they drink the “craft” brews that come from these breweries. That has never been my style and I do not intend to change just because the cameras are turned on.

Nor do I intend to dignify the beer commercials that talk about things like “drinkability”. It should be enough that you consider the source of the statements and the many inconsistencies and contradictions that have already been raised.

I have been advised that my testimony here could be used to harm breweries. Asking me or any other player to answer questions if they drink Schlafly Pale Ale for its mild but tasty flavor will not solve this problem. If a baseball player answers no, he simply will not be believed, because while the Pale Ale is not as hoppy as the American pale ales we are used to, it still has enough bite to satisfy but enough of a sugary finish to entice those who do not normally drink pales. If he answers yes, he risks public scorn from the breweries who sign them to lucrative endorsement contracts and pay millions for exclusive advertising rights with teams and leagues. My lawyers have advised me that I cannot state the Schlafly Pale Ale, which compares to English-style Pale Ales, is an enjoyable and drinkable beer without jeopardizing the endorsement contracts of my friends, my family, or myself. I intend to follow their advice.

I'm not here to talk about the past. I'm here to be positive about this subject.

Schlafly Pale Ale
Mike: 2.6 Gina: 2.8 Jess: 2.1 Rodney: 1.5 Jim: 2.5 Jason: 3.2
KOTBR Average: 2.45 Mugs

Schlafly ESB - At this point our Ouija board just up and quit. Luckily we had stopped to pick up Rich Little, who does a pretty good version of St. Louis' Own Yogi Berra. Mike asked him to contribute.

For people like me, who grew up in St. Louis, the whole InBev takin' over AB thing felt like the end of something. But someone once said 'it ain't over till it's over', and these Schlafly guys are doin' a pretty good job of buryin' the torch.

You take a beer like this ESB - Budweiser don't make anything like this. First off, it's dark. And it smells funny - I almost get a sort of strawberry thing. A little spicy zap up front, a little grassy on the back... it's confusing. What's extra special bitter supposed to mean anyway? I ain't exactly sure, but they got something here. They didn't make too many wrong mistakes with this one.

Schlafly EBS
Mike: 4.23 Gina: 3.8 Jess: 3.7 Rodney: 3.6 Jim: 4.0 Jason: 3.5
KOTBR Average: 3.80 Mugs

Schlafly Coffee Stout - Rich Little had a gig to get to, but our spirit guide came back around. Gina asked him to use the Ouija board, hoping to come up with something extraordinary. Instead the spirit guide began to rap, and bestowed upon us an excerpt from Nelly's lesser known "Beer wit me"

If you wanna go and drink some beer with me
We can make it a Coffee Stout from Schlafly
Oh why do I love this so? (Hey! Must be the coffee!)

If you wanna go and drink some beer with me
We can make it a Coffee Stout from Schlafly
Oh why do I love this so? (Hey! Must be the coffee!)

At a Knights' on a late night, feeling right
Lookin and tryin beers that are real nice
Lookin for the kinda flavor of some coffee I could make at home (make at home)
The ABV (BV) isn't high at all
IBU's are 40, and that's not small
The mouthfeel isn't thicky thick thick, but still nice and strong (still nice and strong)

I keep smelling something sweet (hey) from the first pour
java and chocolate
Sayin my mug rating is the highest that it could go
So when Mike, can we go, the next time we're back home
The Taproom on 12-26, don't say no.
Yellin, I like the way they make their beer
I wish they brewed it over here
I like the way the light hits the glass and there
is no color coming through anywhere.

If you wanna go and drink some beer with me
We can make it a Coffee Stout from Schlafly
Oh why do I love this so? (Hey! Must be the coffee)

Schlafly Coffee Stout
Mike: 4.21 Gina: 5.0 Jess: 4.25 Rodney: 4.3 Jim: 4.25 Jason: 4.4
KOTBR Average: 4.40 Mugs

Schlafly Christmas Ale - As the party began to wind down, Jim thought it might be nice to relax with the music of St. Louis area legend Miles Davis. Our spirit guide agreed, but once summoned, Miles refused to play - insisting that he had a few things to say first. Jim agreed to interview Miles.

Jim: Linked with your musical renown and vast knowledge of beer is your reputation for a bad temper and rudeness. Would you comment?

Why is it that people just have to have so much to say about me? It bugs me because I'm not that important. Some critic that didn't have nothing else to do started this crap about I don't announce numbers, I don't look at the audience, I don't bow or talk to people, I walk off the stage, I talk trash about brewers, and all that.

Look, man, all I am is a trumpet player and a cat who knows something about beer. I only can do two things -- play my horn and down some suds -- and that's what's at the bottom of the whole mess. I ain't no entertainer, and ain't trying to be one. I am two things, a musician and a cat who loves his beer. Most of what's said about me is lies in the first place. Everything I do, I got a reason.

You know, I talk straight about brewers because I ain't never gonna pull no punches. Besides, if a cat who makes beer can't take the heat, then you know that saying about getting out of the brewhouse? Well, he ought to do exactly that.

Take the Saint Louis Brewery. You know, them Schlafly cats. I've been honest about some of the stuff they made. Ain't liked some of it too much, and they were okay with that. But other stuff is just damn good. That Christmas Ale they put out every winter? Man, not out of this world good, but still good stuff all the same. Nice orange-like color, smells real spicy and sweet and like orange peels. Tastes spicy and sweet too. Mmmm.

But some of them brewers bitch that I won't talk to them when I'm done after a sitting. That's a damn lie. I talk plenty of times if everything's going like it ought to and I feel right. But if I got my mind on something about my band or the latest stout or porter or something else, well, hell, no, I don't want to talk. When I'm working I'm concentrating. I bet you if I was a doctor sewing on some son of a bitch's heart, they wouldn't want me to talk.

Anybody wants to believe all this crap they hear about me, it's their problem, not mine. Because, look, man, I like people. I love people! I'm not going around telling everybody that. I try to say that my way -- with my horn and my love of beer. Look, when I was a boy, 10 years old, I got a paper route and it got bigger than I could handle because my customers liked me so much. I just delivered papers the best I could and minded my business, the same way I play my horn and drink beer now. But a lot of the people I meet now make me sick. Too bad for them.

Schafly Christmas Ale
Mike: 3.25 Gina: 3.6 Jess: 3.6 Rodney: 3.3 Jim: 3.8 Jason: 3.75
KOTBR Average: 3.55 Mugs

Our selection of Schlafly depleted and our spirit guide exhausted, we brought Jason's jet back to the hanger. Irvington had a different look about it - or perhaps, having touched the other side of the void, our lives would never be the same. Or maybe it was just the beer. Our suggestion? Try some and find out for yourself.


  1. I never thought that I would see a nelly parody on here...

  2. Parody? Those words are straight from Nelly through a oujia board and spirit guide.

  3. But if you ARE looking for parody, you might check out these reviews, featuring parodies of Feist, Peter Bjorn and John, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Fergie.

  4. Thanks for the colorful reviews, to say the least. I never thought I'd see a beer review in poem form. Excellent stuff!