The Falstaff Brewing Corporation was a major American brewery located in St. Louis, Missouri. With roots in the 1838 Lemp Brewery of St. Louis, the company was renamed after the Shakespearean character Sir John Falstaff in 1903. Production peaked in 1965 with 7,010,218 barrels brewed, and then dropped 70% in the next 10 years.While its smaller labels linger on today, its main label Falstaff Beer went out of production in 2005. The rights to the brand are currently owned by Pabst Brewing Company.
Doorway of the former Falstaff Brewery building in New Orleans with the “Falstaff” name and logo, as well as post-Hurricane Katrina floodlines
Falstaff Brewing’s earliest form was as the Lemp Brewery, founded in 1840 in St. Louis by German immigrant Johann Adam Lemp (1798-1862). Over the next 80 years, the Lemp family was devastated by personal tragedies as it built its beer empire over the caves of St. Louis. It adopted its famous “Blue Ribbon” moniker quickly, as an 1898 trial proved when it took the Storz Brewing Company of Omaha to court for tying blue ribbons on its bottles, and won.The Lemp Brewery company closed in 1921, and sold its Falstaff brand to the then-named Griesedieck Beverage Company. Griesedieck Beverage was renamed the Falstaff Corporation and survived Prohibition by selling near beer, soft drinks, and cured hams under the Falstaff name. Falstaff Brewing was a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange, which was rare for a brewing industry in which families closely guarded their ownership.o
When Prohibition was repealed in 1933, the first two cases of beer to be made by the brewery were airlifted from nearby Curtiss Stienberg Airport to the governors of Illinois and Missouri.After Prohibition, the company expanded greatly. Its first acquisition was the 1936 purchase of the Krug Brewery in Omaha, which made Falstaff the first brewery to operate plants in two different states. Other facilities bought in this period included the National Brewery of New Orleans in 1937, the Berghoff Brewing Company of Fort Wayne, Indiana, in 1954, the Galveston-Houston Brewing Company of Galveston, Texas, in 1956, and the Mitchell Brewing Company of El Paso in 1956.
The Falstaff Brewery located in the north side of St. Louis.
Falstaff was the third-largest brewer in America by the 1960s, with several plants across the country. The 1965 acquisition of another company, the Narragansett Brewing Company of Rhode Island, proved disastrous, with the state government of Rhode Island pursuing an antitrust case against them. The Supreme Court found in Falstaff’s favor in United States v. Falstaff Brewing Corp. (1973), but the company never recovered.
Fortunes declined throughout the 1970s as consolidation swept the beer industry, and the company was bought in April 1975 by the S&P Company, owned by Paul Kalmanovitz. In the interim, Chicago White Sox announcer Harry Caray endorsed the brew in live TV commercials, many times with a glass of beer in his hand and sipping it. Kalmanovitz also owns General Brewing, Pabst, Pearl, Olympia, and Stroh’s.That year, the company ranked 11th in sales nationally, and the original St. Louis plant was closed. Subsequent closures included New Orleans in 1979, Cranston and Galveston in 1981, and Omaha in 1983. After the 1990 closing of the last Falstaff brewery in Fort Wayne, the brand name became a licensed property of Pabst, which continued to produce Falstaff Beer through other breweries. Having sold only 1468 barrels of the brand during 2004, Pabst discontinued production of the Falstaff label in May 2005.