Schlafly buys Trailhead Brewing, will open Schlafly Bankside in St. Charles

A landmark St. Charles brewery is passing the torch to another industry pioneer. Trailhead Brewing owner Bob Kirkwood is retiring and has sold his 25-year-old brewery to Schlafly. Trailhead will soon be known as Schlafly Bankside, and is the brewery’s third location.

Schlafly CEO Fran Caradonna said Kirkwood approached her with the idea last fall. “We were not looking for this,” she said. “He’s the one who thought it might be a good fit for us.” Kirkwood was not available for comment.

Caradonna said the brewpub’s location at 921 S. Riverside Drive, just off St. Charles’ historic Main Street, was the biggest draw. “People know that a craft brewery is on that corner,” she said. “That just makes it an easy destination.”

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The space’s turnkey nature also appealed. Schlafly plans to double the tap handles and update the food menu, but Caradonna wants to retain as many of the service, kitchen and brewing staff as possible. She wants the space to retain its character.

“It’ll reflect its community and its neighborhood in the same way the Bottleworks reflects Maplewood and the Tap Room reflects [downtown St. Louis,]” she said.

Caradonna said Schlafly will likely use Trailhead's brewing system to create small batches of more experimental brews, but the majority of Schlafly’s beer will continue to be made at the Maplewood Bottleworks. “We’ll assess how the brewery fits into our other operations,” she said. 

Trailhead will remain in business through January. Caradonna anticipates a brief closure to address cosmetic changes, but she plans to keep the brewpub open during further renovations, if possible. She hopes to officially launch Schlafly Bankside in late February or early March.

Catherine Klene is managing editor, digital at Sauce Magazine.