Only real beer fans show up for brewery tours at 9:45 am. That's why Schlafly Beer serves visitors hop-and-malt-inspired donuts from its neighbor Strange Donuts, which recently baked an Irish Car Bomb concoction using Schlafly's special release Irish-Style Extra Stout. With a full stomach and a taste for suds, the group of 15-20 visitors that congregates each morning meets with three of Schlafly's brewers for 90 minutes of education – one of the best ratios we've found. "We break down some of the science of the brewing and interact with the ingredients," says brewer Jared Williamson. "It allows us to nerd out with people who really want to be there."
Groups visit the brewhouse control center to see how a sophisticated, modern operation works, then stop into the malt room and beer cellar, where small tasters of its flagship pale ale are filled straight from the fermenter. "This is always the best way you're going to taste the beer," says Williamson. The tour, which is only offered on the third Saturday of every month, finishes in the packaging area, where a full charcuterie plate is set next to the bottling line. VIP-specific commemorative glasses unique to each tour are provided, but Schlafly plans to up the ante in 2015 by supplying VIP-only specialty brews. "You do this tour and that’s the only way you're going to get this beer," says Williamson.