The Central Library has an extensive collection of rare books, many of which are extremely fragile due to age. But Special Collections also has books from the Twentieth Century that are in perfectly good condition, such as Alvin Griesedieck’s The Falstaff Story from 1951. Falstaff was still chugging along then, competing strongly with Anheuser-Busch, and expanding around the country buying up old breweries. In 1951, Falstaff had not even bought the old Stumpf/Griesedieck/IBC/Consumers’/Griesedieck Brothers brewery at Gravois and Shenandoah yet (it would become their final, Plant 10). Even more interestingly, the company still called the Continental Building as its corporate offices, before the building of the new Modernist office building (now demolished for the Science Center).
The book has some amazing stories, such as the iconic tale of Papa Joe and Alvin meeting with William Lemp Jr. in the mansion on DeMenil Place to buy the Falstaff brand after the brewery had been shut due to Prohibition. Alvin openly admits to producing “near-beer” that was designed to be easily alcoholized with moonshine. Interestingly, the newly formed Falstaff Brewery produced non-alcoholic beer in a very intelligent way: unlike other brewers, they brewed the beer normally and then removed the beer after production. It tasted better, in Alvin’s eyes, and more importantly, when Prohibition ended, Falstaff was already brewing alcoholic beer legally. In his words, they just had to switch off the “de-alcoholizing machine” and they had post-Prohibition product ready to sell. And yes, they did have huge picnics to celebrate their success out at Rock Alva.