Missouri Historical Society Falstaff Sign

One of my fondest recurring childhood memories is seeing my grandfather, Art Landsbury, sit at the kitchen table with his transistor radio tuned to the Cardinals ballgame. In the ashtray would be a Raleigh cigarette. In a tall brown bottle would be either a Falstaff Beer or a Stag Beer.

When I recently went to the Missouri Historical Society, I was pleased to see a Falstaff sign. It reminded me how ubiquitous Falstaff was in St. Louis, and it prompted me to do a little digging into the history of this St. Louis brewery.

Although the Lemp Brewery – the parent company for Falstaff – began operations in the mid-nineteenth century, it wasn’t until 1903 that the Falstaff trademark and logo came into existence. According to the Falstaff Beer fan site, William J. Lemp

thought the Shakespearean character of Sir John Falstaff represented the more positive social aspects of drinking, rather than the destructive consequences of over-consumption emphasized by prohibitionists. Sir John was a ‘man’s man’ whose philosophy was to ‘eat drink & be merry’ and his sense of good fun was tempered by an exceptional intellect. According to the company’s profile, Sir John was beset by no frustrations, fears, or problems of protocol.

Throughout the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, Falstaff’s popularity grew, not just in its hometown of St. Louis but in other key markets around the country. In the 1940s, Falstaff began sponsoring the St. Louis Cardinals and other St. Louis sports teams, with Dizzy Dean and Harry Caray broadcasting the play-by-play. By the mid ‘60s, Falstaff was the third largest brewer in America, and by 1968 case sales of Falstaff were nearly 50% higher in St. Louis than competitor Budweiser.

By the 1970s, Falstaff sales began to decline. Harry Caray left St. Louis and became a sportscaster for the Chicago White Sox – and Falstaff shifted its sponsorship to the Sox. Sales continued to plummet in the 1980s, and in 1990, the last remaining Falstaff brewery (in Ft. Wayne, Indiana) was closed.

For a list of great FAQs (including thoughts as to why Falstaff ultimately failed), visit the Falstaff Brewing fan site.

Here are some great Falstaff-related images:

Falstaff logo
Falstaff label
Another Falstaff label
Yet another Falstaff label
Picture of Falstaff bottle of beer

Other great resources can be found at this Falstaff collector’s site and on Wikipedia. And of course, you’ve got to love this Falstaff commercial about the “man-sized pleasure” of this beer.

Next up: history of and reflection on another of my grandfather’s favorite beers: Stag (. . . Stag) beer.