It's Thomas Schlafly v. Phyllis Schlafly. At center stage — beer. Or at least the name of the beer.
With all of the talk about a new proposed voter ID law in Missouri and the outbreak of tensions in Ukraine's Crimean peninsula, beer seems to be the topic of the day.
Not our old friends at Anheuser-Busch but that small brewery just down the road a bit, the Saint Louis Brewing Company, aka Schlafly beer. It is a fight between nephew and aunt, not over ownership of the brewery, but of the name, reputations and politics.
And if you do not think this is a political issue — ah, gotcha.
As residents of this fine college town and avid consumers of the tap, I am sure most of you know that St. Louis’ Tom Schlafly and his partner Dan Kopman are the founders of Schlafly beer.
For the history, visit the website or, better, while in St. Louis or Maplewood, go to the Schlafly Tap Room at 21oo Locust St. or the Schlafly Bottleworks at 7260 Southwest Ave. at Manchester for food and, yes, beer. (Soft drinks for those not old enough to partake in the alcoholic sensation.)
Some of us, myself included, believe Tom and Dan are heroes in their mastery of the elements, producing some of the finest brews in the region. Today, mine happens to be the Schlafly Weizenbock.
But Phyllis Schlafly is another story. If you are politically conservative or an aware liberal (yes, there are a few of us out there), her name is synonymous with Eagle Forum, a conservative think tank.
Phyllis Schlafly opposed the Equal Rights Amendment and actively works to counter any proposal coming from the Obama administration and marriage equality issues. She is a “take-no-prisoners” conservative, an outdated one.
What you may not know is that she is also a noted author and constitutional attorney — and a very smart cookie. Her problem is that she does not want her name to be associated with a beer.
“Why not?” you ask with amazement. After all, isn’t any publicity good publicity? Well, not really, especially if you also happen to be a conservative who wishes to appeal to the religious right, including fundamentalists and Mormons who do not partake in these heavenly crafted brews.
The question is not who can craft the beer. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that is not the essence of the dispute. The question of who owns the right to the “Schlafly” name is at the center of the discussion. It is about a federal trademark and the name.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "The Schlafly beer maker applied for the trademark on the use of the brand name in 2011; Phyllis Schlafly filed a notice of opposition with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in September 2012. Settlement talks have failed to produce a resolution, and neither side appears ready to back down."
It seems that Phyllis believes her name is associated with the St. Louis brewery and not Tom’s. She is afraid that the association with St. Louis’ finest micro-brew masters will somehow insult those who believe, because of their religious convictions, that abiding in alcohol, even associating with the brewing of such products is sinful and is somehow harmful to her business.
The Saint Louis Brewing Company has been around just since 1991, but Ms. Schlafly has been practicing law for a few more decades than that. (By the way, Tom is also an attorney.) The fact is, her name is only remotely connected to the brewery through marriage to Tom’s uncle. According to the Post-Dispatch, the name association usually occurs outside of St. Louis where Ms. Schlafly’s reputation precedes her.
As silly as a lawsuit sounds, it is only a shadow of the bigger political picture: the failure of the political right to understand marketing and how to bring in the younger and more centrist voters.
The “it’s my way or the highway” approach to political action is no longer the way the people want to see the government work, locally or nationally. Even the Tea Party movement seems to be losing traction and the term “conservative” may soon be in the same nefarious position as liberal is today. Regardless of what the right wing right-wingers may believe, there is such a thing as being too conservative.
The trademark dispute is not about beer, but about the name, reputations and politics. Phyllis Schlafly’s reputation has been well established for at least five decades. I do not think sharing a name with a brewery will cause that reputation to be damaged in anyway.
After all, it was not Billy Beer that ruined the reputation of Jimmy Carter as president.
David Rosman is an editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. You can read more of David’s commentaries at ColumbiaMissourian.com and InkandVoice.com and New York Journal of Books.com.