Old Breweries Tell the Forgotten Legacy of Falstaff Beer in St. Louis

Categories: Architecture

falstaff.jpg
www.taverntrove.com | wikimedia.org
Drink Falstaff and be jolly!

It's a common myth around St. Louis that Anheuser Busch was the sole brewery in St. Louis to survive Prohibition and the only locally brewed beer from 1933 until the opening of Schlafly in 1991. In reality, A-B was the only brewing game in town for less than two decades. Before that, the Falstaff Brewing Company competed in its ultimately unsuccessful battle to dominate the beer market in St. Louis.

The story of Falstaff has roots as old as the history of brewing in St. Louis. Originally introduced by the Lemp Brewery, Falstaff Beer was just one of several different brands offered by the largest brewery in St. Louis prior to Prohibition. The Lemps chose the Shakespearean character for the name of their new beer due to Sir John Falstaff's reputation as a jolly, fun-loving knight. When the Lemp Brewery closed, William J. Lemp Jr. sold the Falstaff brand to his friend and fellow brewer, Joe Griesedieck in 1920; it would be one of the last business decisions Lemp would make before committing suicidein the family's mansion in 1922.

See also: Mausoleums Recount St. Louis Beer War Between Rival Clans -- Lemps and Wainwrights

Following the end of Prohibition, the Griesedieck family began to expand their new Falstaff Brewing Company aggressively, competing with Anheuser-Busch Brewery in the decades of the mid-twentieth century. While Anheuser-Busch focused on expanding and improving its brewery on Pestalozzi Street as well as opening new breweries around the United States, the Griesediecks' strategy focused on purchasing defunct breweries around St. Louis and the nation.

The strategy failed. The older, small breweries Falstaff purchased decentralized production, cost valuable money to retrofit and maintain, and ultimately proved too inefficient to compete with Anheuser-Busch. The four plants in St. Louis, out a total of ten plants in the Falstaff Company, closed one by one, the last in 1977. Over the years, they have found new life, or continue to sit empty.

Plant No. 1 (Old Forest Park Brewery)

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Former Plant No. 1, now Six Row Brewing

The first plant acquired by the Griesediecks was a small, defunct brewery just west of Grand on Forest Park Avenue. A relatively small brewery, it later functioned as a bottling plant for larger Falstaff breweries in St. Louis. Today, beer has returned to the long abandoned brewery building; Six Row Brewing Company occupies the former office building of the plant.

Plant No. 2 (Old Otto Stieffel Brewery)

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The old Otto Stieffel Brewery and Plant No. 2 Office

Otto Stieffel's brewery, at the corner of Minnesota and Gravois, closed at the beginning of Prohibition. Stieffel would later commit suicide, despondent over the closure of his business. Plant No. 2, as Falstaff rechristened the brewery, quickly picked up the increased demand straining Plant No. 1. Falstaff eventually closed the plant, and the central core of the brewery was demolished. However, the original office building and the stock house remain; the latter now houses a cat sanctuary.

Continue to explore the Falstaff world on the next page

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25 comments
Terry McCammon
Terry McCammon

At least in S. Indiana the Falstaff brewery was remembered as having once been named (the spelling is not correct) Grisadic which was pronounced as you might think. Somewhere in all the crap I have piled up around here is an old beer opener with "Get yourself a Grisiadic".

Jeff Vargo
Jeff Vargo

I used to get it for $1 a 6 pack..

Julia Coffman
Julia Coffman

I drink some of that beer. Long time ago. Dad work for stag beer.

Tony Merklin
Tony Merklin

Memories: I remember Falstaff; Use to work for their Printing Company, back in the good ole' College Days. They were located on Oakland Ave, just West of SLUH, and directly across from Forest Park. SLMPD had their Mounted Horse Patrol Stables in Forest Park & CBC's Soccer Field was just to the West of the Mounted Patrol. Their Printing Company was in Bentwood, in a small Industrial Park. They're Brewery was on Gravois @ Shenandoah. Used to drive a Truck for them........ Less I Digress AnyMore......Damn, I'm getting Old.

Maximillian Windsor Harrington III
Maximillian Windsor Harrington III

Falstaff an old favorite back in the day.Still remember This beer as a sponser for Saturday baseball with Dizzy Dean as the play-by-play announcer.That's in the mid 1950's

Fred Wachter
Fred Wachter

There was also the Greisedick brothers beer dad realy like!

smdrpepper
smdrpepper topcommenter

Dont forget the ties Falstaff had with the old Lemps.  If only William had sold the old Lemp brewery to the Griesediecks instead of the International Shoe Company, Budweiser might never had been as big as it is today.

billj598
billj598 topcommenter

Griesedieck Bros. Beer was the best selling beer in St. Louis and SW Illinois in the early 50's before Gussie bought the Cardinals from Saigh and A-B brought out "Busch Bavarian" beer.  The commercial time during the radio broadcasts of every half inning of Cardinal games was full of Harry Carry's ads touting Busch Bavarian which soon replaced GreasyDick, as it was called back then, as the local sales leader.  

Christopher Slater
Christopher Slater

There were so many breweries in St. Louis in the 19th century. Prohibition ruined so many brewery owners. Now, craft breweries are all over the place. People want their beer!!

egolterman
egolterman topcommenter

Falstaff was one of the first major sponsors of the Saint Louis Blues hockey team as they made the Arena on Oakland Avenue their first home. .

Dennis Williams
Dennis Williams

Schlitz made some real good beer too. Let's not forget the founding fathers!

Sudsy
Sudsy

Myth: "AB... the only locally brewed beer from 1933 until the opening of Schlafly in 1991."

Ok children, Local Brew History 101. 

LOCAL breweries in the St.Louis area  (Schlafly is located in Maplewood , MO by the way) have ALWAYS been present since prohibition.  AB was NOT the only brewing post-prohibition game in town till 1991 (If that means locally?)

St. Charles ,Mo had Fischbach's Brewery "Ruskin's" and "Van Dyck" beer . "Cardinal Brewing" was there too.

"Green Tree Brewery" was in StL,. So was "Hyde Park Beer".

Nearby Alton, Ill. had "Bluff City" brewery ,and of course Griesedieck had the Griesedieck Western Brewery in Belleville till 1996.


AB was never the ONLY Brewing Game in town, though they like to have you think so.

Timmy
Timmy

@billj598  

My father worked at AB in the 1950's. Busch Bavarian Beer was a *sweeter* beer brought out to appeal to women. It became more successful to younger drinkers as it was not as strong in flavor as Budweiser and the corn sweetness of Busch appealed to new beer drinkers.

The last real vestige of a good Griesedieck recipe for local beer is Stag Beer. It is much maligned because it is an older style *drier* beer and the A-B distributors make it seem cheap. NOT TRUE to the experienced beer aficionado. Stags *dryness* makes it more drinkable for a multiple beer-after-beer gathering. The newly produced Griesedieck Beers in local markets are NOT well brewed yet and do not get the real flavor of the old Griesedieck recipe...... yet. 

Stag Beer is as close as we can get today to an old GB fame {and the dryness and diminished yeastie-ness does not produce a terrible hangover like other beers}

222Dink
222Dink

@egolterman  

Falstaff was sponsor of the old Sportsmans' Park , home to both the St. Louis Browns AND the Stl Cardinals before the coliseum style Busch Stadium was built. {Harry Carey was a Falstaff favorite}

Falstaff also sponsored the early STL Cardinals football team.

bpe235
bpe235

@Sudsy  Schlafly's HQ (The St. Louis Brewery) is located at the Tap Room location at 2100 Locust street in the Downtown West neighborhood of St. Louis City.

222Dink
222Dink

@bpe235 @Sudsy  

Since Schafly's HQ is in STL ....does that mean its more local than AB? 

The HQ for Anheuser-Busch InBev (a Belgian-Brazilian multinational beverage and brewing company) is headquartered in Leuven, Belgium.



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