Last week, we noticed that the CEO of St. Louis Brewery, maker of Schlafly Beer, had resigned. We didn’t know why or think much about it. James Pendegraft is a long-time beer veteran. The St. Louis native was a former vice president of sales and marketing for North American Breweries, a subsidiary of Florida Ice and Farm Co. (FIFCO), which brews brands from Genesee to Magic Hat. He was also previously president of Labatt USA from 2003 to 2009 and director of category management at InBev from 2003 to 2006. We figured he was just on to his next thing.
And he is, but not in a good way. Pendegraft is being blamed for at least the most controversial paragraph in an anonymous newsletter called Brew IQ in the Lou, which was being mailed to restaurants and bars in St. Louis and included industry news, market trends, business advice and apparently misleading gossip. It should be noted that St. Louis Brewery has not directly said Pendegraft is behind the anonymous blurb. He also appears to be the “senior executive” in the press release below being accused of deceptive online postings and a phone survey to local bars and restaurants in the first half of the year. It’s all very strange.
The newsletter in question can be viewed here. This particular issue focuses on everything from foaming keg issues to the slowing of tap handle rotations at bars. A section called The Buzz is dedicated to “Fresh Brewed Scuttlebutt Circling the Streets,” promoting rumors or apparent popular opinions about local news using hashtags. There’s one on a local concert promoter that has a “long list of disgruntled sponsors waiting to hear about refunding their payments for the 2018 event” (#delusional) and a paragraph dedicated to an “all talk-no action” local brewers guild (#resist).
The last entry, titled #metoo, seems to indicate that 4 Hands Brewing Co. (never directly mentioned) is named after a massage parlor sex act performed by two girls or two guys.
Naming your brewery after a sex act provided at a massage parlor no longer feels as good. Naming a beer after the lube needed for such service feels even worse. Leave glamorizing a pimp’s wad of dollars to the Deuce. Maybe it was all that gin? The ladies are becoming woke and are starting to ask questions. We’d like to give them a hand, but think the four are proving to be too many.
The gin reference appears to comment on 4 Hands’ new line of craft spirits. After visiting 4 Hands Brewing Co.’s website (their beers are not distributed here in Ohio), there appears to be zero sexual innuendo in the brewery’s marketing or brand names. According to the Riverfront Times (one of America’s great alt tabloids):
4 Hands President Kevin Lemp has said the 4 Hands and logo represent the intertwined hands of his family, including his wife and two boys. So not a massage parlor sex act.
We reached out to St. Louis Brewery to see if they had a comment, and they gave us this press release:
The Saint Louis Brewery (“SLB”) has issued a public apology to 4 Hands Brewing Company regarding actions taken by one of its executives in an attempt to damage the company’s reputation. SLB learned in recent weeks that a senior executive had caused negative and misleading information to be circulated about 4 Hands Brewing Company through a derogatory paragraph about the company in an anonymous newsletter mailed recently to local bars and restaurants, as well as deceptive online postings and a phone survey to local bars and restaurants in the first half of the year. The executive acted alone and without the knowledge of SLB’s other employees and owners. SLB reacted immediately upon learning this information. The executive has since resigned.
“We were embarrassed to learn of these actions and sincerely apologize to 4 Hands Brewing Company,” said Tom Schlafly, chairman of SLB. “Such actions are inconsistent with the core values on which we were founded and which have defined Schlafly for 27 years. The craft brewing industry in St. Louis was built by a closely-knit group of breweries that mutually respect one another. There’s no question that 4 Hands has earned its reputation for community involvement, civic pride, corporate responsibility, and inclusiveness,” said Schlafly.
“We are grateful to have this behind us,” said Kevin Lemp, president and co-owner of 4 Hands Brewing Company. “We have always run our business with an emphasis on family; even the 4 Hands name and trademark design are a reference to the intertwining of my hand with those of my wife and two young boys. Given our City Wide charitable program, community engagement, and focus on inclusiveness, the false information that was circulated about us was all the more hurtful, inflammatory and confusing. Nonetheless, we have accepted Schlafly’s apology. We look forward to moving past these unfortunate events and focusing our energy on continuing to provide unique, high quality craft beers to the St. Louis community,” said Lemp.
SLB and 4 Hands Brewing Company have agreed to put this incident behind them and work to restore the mutual respect on which the craft brewing industry was built in St. Louis.
We’ve also reached out to Lemp for his insights and will update this story if we hear back from him.