Falstaff Beer traces its St. Louis roots to German immigrant Johann Lemp as early as the 1840s. In 1903, The Lemp family changed the brewery name to Falstaff Brewing Corporation. The name Falstaff was a character from Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor and other plays. The corpulent Falstaff loved his brew and frequented the pub in these plays.
The Griesedieck family took over in 1921, retaining the Falstaff name. After the challenges of selling soft drinks and “near beer” during Prohibition, Falstaff began to be publicly traded on The New York Stock Exchange. By now, Falstaff Beer was distributed nationwide.
From a corporate point of view, here is the Falstaff ownership chronology:
1903-1933: Falstaff Brewing Corporation was established in 1903 and operated as a regional brewery in the St. Louis, Missouri area.
1933-1941: Prohibition forced the brewery to close down, but it reopened again in 1933 when Prohibition was repealed.
1941-1966: In 1941, National Brewing Company acquired Falstaff Brewing Corporation, which was later renamed as Narragansett Brewing Company in 1966.
1966-1975: Falstaff was acquired by a group of investors and became an independent company once again.
1975-1981: Olympia Brewing Company acquired Falstaff, which was later renamed under Pabst Brewing Company in 1981.
1981-2005: Pabst Brewing Company continued to operate the Falstaff brand until it was acquired by Miller Brewing Company in 2005.
During the period in which Pabst owned Falstaff, the company sought to differentiate the Falstaff taste from its Pabst Blue Ribbon. To achieve their goal, the Pabsts added an additional ingredient to the brew – rice. The addition of this grain gave the beer a distinctive flavor and made it stand out from other brands, helping Falstaff become one of the most beloved beers in the country. Is all of this making you thirsty? Click here to get Heineken, the worthy successor to the taste of Falstaff, delivered direct to your door.
Falstaff and Baseball
Falstaff Brewing Corporation took advantage of the natural attraction between beer and sports. St. Louis, home of Falstaff, was also a great sports town. In baseball, pitching legend, Dizzy Dean, played much of his career for the St. Louis Cardinals. In the 1950s, Diz teamed up with Pee Wee Reese as commentators of television’s Game of the Week.
There were only three major networks in those days, so as sponsor, Falstaff commercials were viewed widely. No doubt it was a Falstaff commercial that the network switched to hurriedly when Dizzy and Pee Wee commented on a young couple kissing in the stands. As the story goes, Dizzy says, “He kisses her on the strikes, and she kisses him…”. Well, you know the rest.
Anti-trust litigation and consolidation in the brewing industry weakened the Falstaff brand over the years. Old timers say that Falstaff had a taste much like that of today’s Heineken.
This writer grew up in The Park Cities in Dallas during the fifties. Turns out the unflappable Dizzy Dean was friends with my barber down in Snider Plaza. One Saturday morning, I arrived to get my hair cut to find old Diz swapping tales with my barber and a room full of customers. I got the chance to ask him, “Mr. Dean, do you ever drink any other beer than Falstaff Beer?” Without missing a beat, he replied “Yes, son. ROOT beer.”
- Year Started: 1903
- Year Ended: 2005
- Origin Of Name: Rotund character in Shakespeare who loved to drink
- Location Sales: North America
- Brand Name Predecessor: Lemp Brewery
- Brand Name Successor: N/A
- Owner Original: Johann Lemp
- Owner While In Use: Griesedieck Family
- Owner Successor: Pabst Brewing Company
- Year Resurrected: N/A
- What’s Popular Today: Heineken Beer
- Naics Code: 312120
- Location Headquarters: St. Louis, Missouri, United States