We recently sat down with Stephen Hale, founding brewer at Schlafly Beer, to pick his brain about beer and bicycles. Over a pint of Common at The Schlafly Tap Room we learned that not only is Hale a big fan of natural exercise, but he’s also a forward thinker who supports alternative transportation and food distribution in order to create healthy communities. Here’s how our conversation unfolded.
Tell me how you became founding brewer at Schlafly?
I came out from Maine in 1991 to help start The Saint Louis Brewery [Schlafly Beer]. One of the co-founders, Dan Kopman, was my roommate at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. We were the only two students we knew who home-brewed at Kenyon. Other than a four-month sabbatical, I’ve been here for 26 years.
What did you do before that?
During the summer I was a chimney sweep. Climbing on rooftops, I didn’t have to pursue other forms of outdoor exercise. In the winter I gathered sea urchins, which included wearing a dry suit, regulator and BC [buoyancy compensator] and jumping off lobster boats into 40-degree water. I did that for four years and enjoyed it, but knew it couldn’t last forever.
A highlight now is sitting by the fireplace, eating sushi and drinking beer — a combination of all three parts of my working life!
And what do you do to stay active these days?
When I was a more active brewer, I did a lot of natural physical work — schlepping kegs, slinging hoses — and these days I move tons of food for my wife’s business, Fair Shares, which is a CSA [community supported agriculture] share that brings the farmer’s market to you.
My wife and I like riding the Great River Road and the Katy Trail, though not often enough. I got into walking for a while when the Fitbit came out, which was fun. And I played rugby for six seasons in college. Rugby is a great sport, I wish I could still play it! There’s always the ‘third half.’ Basically, you beat each other up for two halves and then throw your arms around each other, drink beer and sing songs.
The important thing is just to get out and move, just be active. It can be in Forest Park or Tower Grove or in the Ozarks. My second year here, my wife and I went to Eminence for a float trip. Coming from Maine, I didn’t know what a float trip was. It was a pretty magical experience.
And you bike commute.
I’ve always wanted to be outside as much as possible. I ride my bike from Soulard when I can, and I’ve even cross-country skied to work before. It took about 20 minutes.
I’m a big fan of Bike Share. I’ve used it a lot in Washington, D.C. and rode from mid-town Manhattan to Brooklyn in New York. I would love to see it here in St. Louis and would definitely have a membership. We’re a little spread out, so density might be an issue, but I think it could work.
There’s something special about a beer after a ride or a run or a hike. Why is that?
I’m not going to tell someone what they should or shouldn’t drink after exercise, but a lot of the electrolytes in a sports drink are also in beer — plus that one other thing, alcohol. To paraphrase Rennie Ellis, “Beer is a prime lubricant for social intercourse.” Radlers and Shandies especially, which are usually lightly carbonated lemon-flavored wheat beers, are great cycling beers.
Lastly, I have to ask you about your kilt.
I saw my brother wearing one and decided to give it a try. It was a non-thing that became a thing. I wear one almost full-time now, except when we’re in production.
Brad Kovach is the editor/publisher of Terrain Magazine.