Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Q/A with Dan Kopman (Schlafly Brewery)
During the City Museum "dessert party," you couldn't miss the Schlafly Brewery stand, just inside the main doorway. There, co-founder Dan Kopman greeted people with: a) beer; and b) information about his company's intriguing role in St. Louis, along with a commitment to consistently greening its brewing operations. We stole Kopman away from the taps long enough to get a few minutes' of conversation.
GTH: We posted something up the other day about Schlafly and your environmental practices. Tell us about your philosophy in that vein, as a company.
Kopman: Local. It wasn't by design. Ten years ago when we were planning our new building, or you planning what we wanted to be as a brewer, we weren't thinking, "oh, we need to be green." We were thinking "how many nights do we want to be in a Super 8 in Omaha?" Let's just sell our beer locally, not other parts of the country. There's good beer all over the place in this country. Our long-term plan was to focus on our market. And everything we've done to this point has really been in the spirit of that mission. If we support other local food companies by buying their products and selling them at Bottleworks or if we have our farmer's market, where we tie farmers to consumers, it's all about encouraging people to consume locally. It's not about spending a lot of money to be green, it's just about doing it. Does that make sense?
GTH: But there are extra efforts like the garden at the Bottleworks that seem to dovetail into that effort, too.
Kopman: When you're growing it next to where you're serving it, that takes the lowest amount of fuel necessary to get it to the restaurant. It was a bad parking lot that needed repaving. It was cheaper to tear it up and do a garden, than to repave it. And we had plenty of parking spaces, so we didn't need more.
GTH: To what degree does your clientele understand this philosophy, as opposed to simply liking the food and the beer?
Kopman: They wouldn't come back if they didn't like the food and the beer. You can be as green as you want to be, but at the end of the day, you have to produce a certain level of quality that people want to come back for. We've always done that. That's always our mission: to brew some of the nation's greatest beer, right here in St. Louis. That hasn't changed. It's really pretty simple from that perspective. We're not trying to be something we're not.
GTH: Can you give us a sense of the conversations you've had with people tonight?
Kopman: They're impressed to see there's another local brewery. A lot of people come not expecting to find another brewery. That doesn't take away from what the city's largest brewery is doing; they do so much for the city, as everyone has heard about recently. But we're very comfortable in our role as St. Louis' other brewery. So there's been a lot of that discussion, explaining to people what our role is, and that we're not aspiring to be anything more. That's really important: to be comfortable in the clothes that you wear. And try not to wear someone else's clothing. And buying fewer new clothes is environmentally sound.