Stephen Hale Interview


As the new stadium is being built, you can't help but look around the area and imagine what it will be like on gameday. As we know, the team will have it's own area next to the stadium, on the east side, for entertainment and gatherings before and after the match. And then, of course, there's Union Station with everything that it has to offer, just a short walk away. But one big standout that has been there all along is Schlafly's Tap Room. Stephen Hale from Schlafly took some time out of his schedule to answer a few questions, in what is our very first interview.

1. Stephen Hale, for those who may not be familiar with you, please tell us a little bit about yourself and your involvement with Schlafly (Saint Louis Brewery, LLC).

Tom Schlafly and Dan Kopman gave me an opportunity thirty years ago: to move to St. Louis from Maine to help build the first brewery to open in St. Louis since Prohibition, and it's been quite the experience since then. I was hired as the assistant brewer to Dave Miller, noted beer-brewing book author, and after he left a few years later I took over as Chief Brewer. Just a few years ago I made another transition to working more closely with the Marketing and Sales honchos, spending more time in the market with our fabulous retailers to support them in their efforts providing great beer to all our thirsty fans.

2. The Schlafly Tap Room, the original Schlafly brewery at 2100 Locust Street, is just a couple blocks north of St Louis City SC's brand new stadium that is currently being built. You have been posting great pictures and videos of the stadium being built for the City SC Report. What has it been like to watch the development and progress?

Ever since the news was confirmed that the stadium was going to be built directly across the street from us (okay, there's an alley between us as well), the mood amongst the crew has been nothing short of ecstatic, possibly even approaching frenzy and hysteria if we could exaggerate a bit. I immediately thought it would be good fun to get a bird's-eye view every so often to watch the construction progress, and since I was a chimney sweep in a former life, standing on the parapet up there doesn't bother me. The recent progress is moving quickly as the framework goes up, and I'm really looking forward to assembling the one photo-per-rooftop-visit into a "flipbook" format to watch the progression from the initial demo work. Should be fun, and I count myself lucky that I get one of the best views around whenever I can get myself up there.

3, What does this mean for the Tap Room to have the stadium be so nearby? And what are your thoughts about them being in this location in general?

I think it means everything! It's pretty incredible, really. No one knew this was going to happen thirty years ago, and one can only guess that it's going to be, how shall we say, "good for business", in short. Things will likely be a bit different in the area, let's hope all in a good way, and our staff is certainly going to have to learn how to get to work and park on game/event days, so that's one little wrinkle. Parking won't be an issue for those who use "the P/T Cruiser!" (public transportation), but savvy drivers will know how to get around things like this. We really couldn't be more thrilled that Carolyn & Crew chose to build this stadium right there, the excitement is palpable. And I think I'm finally over missing those highway ramps, but they were pretty convenient for many years. ;)

4. With your close proximity to the stadium, there's a very good chance that you will attract big crowds before and after the match. Are there any plans to keep that soccer momentum going by holding events, such as showing away matches on your TVs?

Heck yeah! Things will fall into place as time goes on, of course, but we'll do all we can to support the team, the fans, our employees, and our customers. St. Louis is a sports city and this couldn't be a clearer indication of it. I recall as if it were yesterday when we put up some huge TVs in the only part of the building that was open then (the south part, not the 'newer' north part with the TVs now). It was June '02 when the U.S. Team was in the World Cup, and we hosted a free breakfast; Sara and I thought we were getting there early at 6 a.m. to help with the dining room crowd for an event that started at 7 a.m., but the parking lot was overflowing and the bar was packed, so I found sanctuary in the kitchen washing the endless bacon pans; the energy level and beer consumption were pretty evenly matched, such an unforgettable morning. Beer and soccer, what a stellar combination, we can't wait.

5. Given your involvement in soccer branding, how would you describe yourself as a fan? What teams do you follow?

Over all my years in St. Louis, I have many standout memories, and two of the most vivid were at STLFC games. At one of them, I suddenly found myself in the midst of the Louligans' corner playing a djembe with the drumming crew, with green smoke circling everywhere and trying not to spill my beer. Again, the excitement was electric, an immeasurable energy force unto itself. The next one was opening day, where I got to do the coin toss-huge fun and great to be a close part of things on the field. The team I follow most closely now is St. Louis City SC...

6. What are you most excited about with the upcoming arrival of St. Louis City SC?

Watching a game from the roof of the Schlafly Tap Room (not really likely, but we'll take a peek now and then). Since I'm not sure we'll actually be able to see the pitch, I think one of the most exciting things about this whole thing is the energy level that's going to change for the city, the increase in self-esteem for the whole region, and personally I'm looking forward to the day when the Cardinals, the Blues, and STLCSC all play on the same day, with another team playing in the Dome. And they'll all be full. Truly impressive display of dedication in St. Louis, we need and deserve a team like this.

7. Any other thoughts you'd like to share with us?

I think people are enjoying what I'm able to share, and I'm open to suggestions, if they want more closeups, longer filming or whatever I might be missing, but right now it seems about right: one photo for the flipbook, and a ~thirty-second clip updating the latest as it moves faster and faster. I'm really happy I'm able to share this with everyone. See you at the game!

by Steve Rusnack