Beer industry David and Goliath form friendship at Olin Business School


Jim Ottolini held out a handful of dark-roasted barley and encouraged his guests to taste a kernel. The brewmaster at the Schlafly brewery, a small-scale craft beer maker in St. Louis, was giving a tour to his classmates in the Washington University-Fudan University Executive MBA (EMBA) program visiting from Shanghai.

Ottolini, an EMBA alumnus, invited the class for a tour and dinner during its two-week session in St. Louis that culminated in a graduation ceremony from the joint WUSTL-Fudan EMBA program. Ottolini met his Shanghai counterparts last spring on the flip side of the EMBA exchange program, when his St. Louis-based class of executives traveled to study in Shanghai.

While in China, Ottolini met Michael Sun, the president of Tsingtao Brewery — one of the largest beer companies in China and the country’s largest consumer product exporter. The Tsingtao chief was also earning an EMBA degree from Olin Business School and welcomed the opportunity to visit Schlafly, one of the successful pioneers in the U.S. regional brewery boom.

Olin’s EMBA program in Shanghai attracts top-level executives working full-time for Asian or multi-national companies. Among the 36 grads in this year’s class were the director of Intel’s Penang Design Center, General Motors’ controller and chief accounting officer in China, and high-level execs from GE, Coca-Cola, HP, Credit Agricole and HSBC Bank, to name a few.

Before sitting down to dinner and a sampling of Schlafly’s variety of beer styles, brewery co-founder Tom Schlafly gave the student-executives from Shanghai a brief history of beer in St. Louis.

From 19th-century German immigrants named Anheuser and Busch to today’s thriving microbreweries, the St. Louis area’s beer industry has undergone many changes during the past few centuries. Schlafly told his guests that his 19-year-old business was now the oldest American-owned brewery in St. Louis.

The savvy global business executives paused and laughed as they realized the Belgian-Brazilian conglomerate InBev bought the venerable Anheuser-Busch family of brands in 2008. They toasted global business and enjoyed the local brew.

Olin’s Executive MBA program is rated No. 2 worldwide by the Wall Street Journal and the Shanghai program is rated No. 1 in mainland China by the Financial Times.

Launched in 2002, the Shanghai program was one of the world's first United States-China joint EMBA programs. Co-taught by Washington University and Fudan University faculty, the program features a format and teaching approach that offers busy executives a full MBA program during four-day intensive sessions that meet once a month over a 20-month period. For more information, visit http://www.olin.wustl.edu/executiveeducation/ExecutiveMBA/Pages/default.aspx.

Mary Butkus

Think globally, drink locally. Pausing in front of storage tanks for yeast in the Schlafly brewery are left to right: Michael Sun, president of China’s Tsingtao Brewery; Patrick Moreton, associate dean and managing director of the Olin EMBA Shanghai program; Jim Ottolini, Schlafly brewmaster; and Tom Schlafly, co-founder of Schlafly Beer company.

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