Schlafly’s Three-Headed Approach to Its Winter Releases

How do you pinpoint what beer your customers are going to be in the mood for this winter? 

It’s hard to guess what one style of beer is going to appeal to a wide swath during a season. Schlafly Beer in St. Louis solved this conundrum by making a lineup of three special release beers in completely contrasting styles: a white lager, a hazy IPA and a coffee stout.

Schlafly’s seasonal strategy involves making special release beers that both support and complement their core lineup.

“For us, coffee stout has been a mainstay core seasonal for almost 20 years,” Lead Brewer Jared Williamson said. “White lager is the counterpoint to summer lager in our lager loop, and wintry haze joined the special release line three years ago. Between the three of these, we like to think that we offer the craft consumer a wide array of options in addition to our core lineup.”

The 5.7% ABV coffee stout brings in both stout and coffee fans, and appeals to a wider range of consumers than Schlafly’s oatmeal stout, Williamson said, while also reinforcing sales in its core lineup.

“And given that it is ‘stout season,’ coffee stout doesn’t hurt oatmeal stout sales,” Williamson noted. “If anything, it helps enhance it.”

The Wintry Haze, a hazy IPA, debuted out of their trials in their 20-gakllon pilot system, moved to a 15 barrel pub only release and sold out in eight days across the bar in pints before graduating to the special release series.

“Through our process of innovation and exploring new hop varieties, we wanted to craft a Hazy IPA that didn’t feature Citra and Mosaic as so many beers already do, and Wintry Haze accomplishes that with a tropical and dank blend of Sabro, Strata, and Idaho 7 hops,” Williamson said. “It complements our year-round Just A Bit Hazy IPA but has a completely different hop profile, so consumers looking for new hop experiences can enjoy both.

“For the double dry-hopping process, we explored a wide array of dry hopping techniques, timing of introduction in the process, warm vs. cold, and over the years we feel we’ve dialed in a very effective and efficient process that gets the best from the hops and also the best yield for the end product. Beyond process, it really comes down to these incredible new school hops that we have selected to work with.”

With the 6% ABV Wintry Haze, the beer ideation process came first and then it was slotted into the winter seasonal spot and given its current name, Williamson said.

“We really loved the beer and that was the best spot to get it into the sales portfolio, so the winter aspect really came on the back end from marketing,” he explained. 

To produce the coffee stout, the brewery creates a cold toddy to extract the flavors from French roast beans sourced from St. Louis roaster Kaldi’s Coffee before blending it with the stout.

“We have trialed various toddy methods over the years, and with the help of our friends at Kaldi’s Coffee here in Saint Louis we have perfected our cold toddy process,” Williamson said. “The key is the timing on the coffee grounds as you don’t want to over-extract various flavor compounds, as there is a narrow window of time when peak flavor extraction has happened and it’s time to get the toddy off the coffee grounds and into the beer.

“If the toddy process goes too long, you’ll develop off-flavors like green bell pepper that show up in the beer over time.”

The 5.5% ABV white lager features their German lager yeast, which they also use in their summer lager and Oktoberfest. 

“Beyond our lab keeping our various yeast strains happy and healthy, there’s no secret here, just consistent quality batch after batch,” he said. “Our lagers really showcase that commitment to quality from our production team.”

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.