For the first time since anyone started keeping track, Schlafly parent The St. Louis Brewing Co. stands among the 40 biggest craft brewers in the country.
That's according to new rankings out this week from the craft trade group The Brewers Association, which annually tallies the 50 biggest craft brewers by sales volume. Schlafly clocked in at 39th, up from 42nd last year. It was the only St. Louis craft brewer to make the list (though of course Anheuser-Busch ranked first in the Association's list of all U.S. brewers). Kansas City-based Boulevard Brewing placed 10th.
Schlafly's sales grew 22.5 percent in 2011 to nearly 43,000 barrels, one of its best years in the last decade, according to co-founder Dan Kopman. But craft beer is booming in general, and Schlafly's climb in the rankings is due largely to a run of consolidation elsewhere.
Three brewers that sold more beer than Schlafly in 2010 were merged or acquired by 2011, and no longer qualified for Brewers Association's craft definitions (less than 6 million barrels, independently-owned and an all-malt flagship brew). On an organic basis, two brewers jumped ahead of Schlafly last year, while two fell behind.
Pure size has never really been Schlafly's goal, said Kopman. They've taken a more cautious approach to growth than some other craft brewers, and they constantly demand and expansion against the costs of adding brewing capacity - which they're bumping up against in their current facilities.
"We're trying to figure out that central question of what's going to be the long-term demand for Schlafly beer in St. Louis and the cities close to St. Louis," he said. "That's a really hard question to answer."
Still, Top 40 is Top 40. And it's a first.