Schlafly Apologizes for Senior Exec’s “Embarrassing” Attempt to Bring Down Anoth

Dear Client:

We’ve seen a lot of anonymous cheap shots in this industry against competitors (Corona in the late 80s, anyone?), but this bizzaro one takes the cake as not only the clumsiest in its execution, but just generally embarrassing.

Right before the weekend hit, The Saint Louis Brewery (better known as Schlafly Beer) issued a public apology to fellow St. Louis-craft brewer, 4 Hands Brewing Company, after learning that a “senior executive” at Schlafly had “caused negative and misleading information to be circulated about 4 Hands.”

Schlafly did not name the senior executive, but noted that the person has resigned. As you may recall, just days before this apology was released, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Schlafly CEO James Pendegraft had resigned for undisclosed reasons. Recall that prior to his time at Schlafly, James served as VP of sales and marketing for North American Breweries. Before that James was president of Labatt USA and led category management for InBev in the early 2000s. (In fact we tried a few e-mails and phone numbers to reach him, but have not heard back as of press time.)

So what did this “senior executive” do?

The Schlafly exec contributed a “derogatory paragraph about [Four Hands] in an anonymous newsletter mailed recently to local bars and restaurants,” per company apology. This exec also penned “deceptive online postings” and conducted phony “phone surveys to local bars and restaurants in the first half of the year,” according to the release, but let’s stick with the newsletter for now.

This newsletter, entitled Brew IQ in the Lou, basically appeared out of thin air.

Honestly, we’re surprised that anyone paid close enough attention – to what is likely the first and last edition of this anonymous newsletter – to find the strange, sparse shots at 4 Hands.

We’ll pull some snippets from a weekend report in the Post-Dispatch, which obtained a copy of the newsletter, to give you an idea of what we’re talking about here:

“The newsletter’s anonymous articles are a mixture of opinion essays, advice columns and ostensible person-on-the-street interviews with area bartenders and bar owners. Most interview subjects are identified by first name, last initial and a general location (e.g., Courtney K. in the Loop, Keith R. in South County).”

And the jab at 4 Hands?

“An item in the newsletter, which was mailed to an unknown number of area restaurants and bars in November, makes a barely coded reference to 4 Hands facing a “dilemma” in the #MeToo era because of the possible meaning of its name.”

“The attack… is an item in ‘The Buzz,’ an article described as ‘fresh-brewed scuttlebutt circling the streets.’ The item states, ‘Naming your brewery after a sex act provided at a massage parlor no longer feels as good.’ The item continues: ‘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.'”

Huh? This is what the senior exec of a struggling regional brewery (down 13% the past two years in production) is up to?

Schlafly stated in the public apology that the “executive acted alone and without the knowledge of [Saint Louis Brewery’s] other employees and owners.” So that would imply that this executive, quite possibly, crafted, published, and circulated this entire newsletter on their own doing.

Not even sure what Schlafly found worse … learning that one of your “senior executives” had tried to harm one of your fellow brewers in the area, or realizing the time it must have took for said person to execute such a lame shot? I doubt it cost 4 Hands a case of beer, even before it was revealed as a sham.

Suffice it to say, Schlafly was “embarrassed.”

“We were embarrassed to learn of these actions and sincerely apologize to 4 Hands Brewing Company,” said Saint Louis Brewery chairman Tom Schlafly. “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 Tom.

Fortunately for Schlafly, 4 Hands found the Schlafly’s actions upon discovery of the newsletter and its culprit, to be satisfactory, and accepted their fellow brewer’s apology.

“We are grateful to have this behind us,” said Kevin Lemp, president and co-owner of 4 Hands. “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.”

Kevin added that “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 high quality craft beers to the St. Louis community.”

OUR TAKE. What a bizarre way to cast derogatory comments on a competitor? The shots are just strange (we’ve Googled ‘four hands massage’ to see if there was any inkling of truth to what this newsletter had to say and nada).

But the medium, is perhaps, the most unusual thing in this entire skullduggery. Who would pick an anonymous newsletter over word of mouth or the most obvious choice – social media/message boards, to spread such nasty rumors? It stinks all around, but kudos to Schlafly for owning up to it, and kudos to 4 Hands for graciously accepting their apology.

Until tomorrow,
Jenn, Jordan, and Harry

“If you make it plain you like people, it’s hard for them to resist liking you back.” – Lois McMaster Bujold

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