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The Scoop: Schlafly brewmaster heads to Brew Hub

January 8th 03:01pm, 2015

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Change is in the air at Schlafly. Brewmaster and longtime employee Jim “Otto” Ottolini has accepted a new position as chief of brewing operations for Brew Hub, as reported by Lisa Brown of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Ottolini said his last day at Schlafly is Jan. 16.

Brew Hub announced plans to open its second partner brewery in Chesterfield in September 2014, after opening its first location in Florida that same month. In addition to moving its corporate headquarters to Chesterfield, founder Tim Schoen explained that Brew Hub would partner with breweries from around the country to brew, bottle, package and distribute their products in a remote facility.

In his new position, Ottolini said he would oversee construction of the large brewery and then brewing processes for all the partners when production begins in early 2016. “In a very broad sense, I’m going to try to make sure the whole kit and caboodle moves along well and efficiently and can make the beer it needs to make,” he said.

Ottolini said Brew Hub, which plans to open five such facilities across the country, appealed to him as a company focused on the future of craft brewing in the U.S. “Knowing the folks that started Brew Hub – they’re local; they were at (Anheuser-Busch) – we’ve known each other, and I really admire their business model,” he said. With thousands of new breweries popping up in the last few years, he explained, brewers are looking to expand without building new facilities in other parts of the country. Brew Hub is “building the ability to meet the market demand,” he said.

Schlafly co-founder Dan Kopman said Ottolini was instrumental to the brewery’s growth during the last 22 years, often devising solutions to tricky problems at a time when few suppliers carried equipment for small operations. Before serving as brewmaster, Ottolini had been Schlafly’s director of brewing operations since 2003.

“Where Otto really excels is to see a problem in a small brewery and come up with a solution that wasn’t necessarily off the shelf,” Kopman said. “He’s been a fixture for 22-plus years … I’d say its sudden news, but for various reasons, it did make sense for both him and for Brew Hub … It’s a great opportunity for him, and we wish him very well.”

Ottolini said his decision to leave was a difficult one. “I can’t imagine a more appropriate setting to use the term ‘bittersweet,’” he said. “It’s a family. It’s been my honor and privilege to work there. My hat is off to Tom Schlafly and I’m forever grateful to him for taking a risk and sinking his money into a company that a lot of smart people said probably wouldn’t make it.”

Kopman said there were no plans to replace Ottolini at this time. Instead, he said he wants to focus on empowering Schlafly’s team of young brewers as the brewery prepares for its own eventual expansion in the next few years. “There is definitely a youth movement at Schlafly Beer,” he said.

 

 

By Catherine Klene

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