As I have written in this space more than once, one of the many benefits of my position with the brewery has been meeting Lucy Hamm. At the time of her death on August 18th Lucy was 110 years old, making her the oldest person in Missouri. Over the years I had the privilege of celebrating several of her birthdays with her and hearing her confirm that one of the secrets to her longevity was drinking Schlafly Beer.
While Lucy was happily enjoying her Schlafly Beer in St. Louis, I spent much of the summer traveling to parts of the country where Schlafly is not available. In June I fished for salmon in the Pacific Ocean near Sitka, Alaska; and in August I swam in the Atlantic Ocean near Cape Cod. At the end of the summer I have some random observations on these disparate locations.
In 1788 Massachusetts, which was one of the original 13 colonies, became the sixth state to join the Union. It’s one of the smallest and most densely populated states. More than 3,000 miles to the northwest, Alaska is the largest and most sparsely populated state. It became the 49th state admitted to the Union when I was in fifth grade.
In the early 19th century much of the Massachusetts economy depended on whaling. While I was swimming in the water off Cape Cod, great white sharks were sighted not too far away. While I was fishing off Alaska, I saw dozens of whales. I wasn’t personally threatened by any aquatic creatures, though a sea lion tried to purloin a halibut I had caught. There was a race as the sea lion made a beeline for our boat and I frantically reeled in the halibut as fast as I could. This particular halibut is now in my freezer.
Alaska was settled by Russians who built a Cathedral in Sitka. A newer Russian Orthodox Cathedral still stands on the site. While the area abounded with furbearing animals whose pelts were shipped back to Russia, it wasn’t particularly suitable for farming. In search of farmland the Russians pushed south into California and established an outpost called Fort Ross, which is approximately on the same latitude as St. Louis.
Massachusetts was settled by English Puritans whose spiritual descendants are still around today. With assistance from Native Americans, they were soon able to engage in sustainable farming in the area. One of their earliest priorities was building a brewery. While I was on Cape Cod I had several meals with food from local farmers’ markets and beers from local breweries.
In addition to my planned visits to two oceans, I had an unplanned sojourn in the Sonoran Desert, an experience I would not recommend in July. After missing a connecting flight I spent the night of July 23rd at a hotel near the Phoenix airport. At 9:00 p.m. the temperature was 115 degrees. I had a local beer, which was fine but still didn’t really mitigate the oppressive heat.
Throughout my travels the heaviest item by far in my luggage was Grant by Ron Chernow. It’s a massive biography of the 18th President of the United States and well worth toting around every kilogram. Among the nuggets of information that were new to me were that two of the four pallbearers at Grant’s funeral were former generals in the Confederate Army he had defeated; and that Grant’s Presidential Library is housed at Mississippi State University in Starkville, deep in the heart of Dixie. Who knew? I’m sure some alert readers (ARs) must have known, but I certainly didn’t.
After finishing Grant, I was ready for some lighter reading, both literally and figuratively. I found what I was looking for in Young Lincoln, an historical novel by Jan Jacobi about the early life of the 16th President. Jan is a certified AR who did a signing for his fine book at Schlafly Bottleworks on May 8th.
More light reading came courtesy of another AR named George Vournas, who lent me a copy of Wit’s End: Days and Nights of the Algonquin Round Table by James R. Gaines. While many ARs are undoubtedly already familiar with the Algonquin Round Table and the literati who populated it, I urge you to indulge me in two related observations. First, the Round Table was characterized by witty repartee, much like what one hears today at Bottleworks, The Tap Room or anywhere else Schlafly is served. Second, and in a similar vein, the Round Table flourished during Prohibition, when speakeasies thrived and helped break down the class barriers that had previously separated American social circles. I like to think that Schlafly has accomplished the same thing while brewing and selling beer legally.
George Vournas was in my class in high school and is now a distinguished cardiologist. He attributes his excellent health at the age of 70 to his regular intake of Schlafly Beer and rigorous cardio workouts, including long bike rides. Without questioning the wisdom of the good doctor, I would simply note that Lucy Hamm lived to 110 on a regimen of Schlafly Beer without the bike rides.
Chairman – The Saint Louis Brewery