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The Anheuser Busch Brewery

Jack Corbett gives you a primer on the Anheuser Busch Brewery's rich and fascinating History

In 1876, 100 years after Our Declaration of Independence, brought Americans Budweiser beer and the chilling image of the Custer Massacre at the Little Big Horn. Today, 48 out of every 100 domestic beers consumed in the United States is made by Anheuser Busch. Anheuser Busch is the largest beer company in the world. And although the company has 12 breweries in the United States, St Louis has the distinction of not only having Anheuser Busch's largest and oldest brewery, but also of being the largest brewery in the world.

You aren't number one in the world unless you produce good product, but it wasn't always that way. In 1859 a small brewery went bankrupt. A wealthy soap maker named Eberhard Anheuser was one of its major creditors. The E. Anheuser and Company's brewery was officially founded in 1860. In 1865 the brewery was producing only 4,000 barrels a year but by the turn of the century production will have exploded to over a million barrels annually. Success started to come when Adolphus Busch, a German immigrant, who worked for one of Eberhard Anheuser's suppliers of brewery goods, started courting Eberhard's 16 year old daughter while acquiring a part interest in the company.

Adolphus Busch must have been a super salesman because the company sure didn't make good tasting beer in those days. Back then breweries often owned their own taverns or sponsored bars that carried their product exclusively. Breweries often paid for a prospective tavern owner's license and the bar's fixtures and glassware. Adolphus Busch became a master at inducing tavern owners into carrying the inferior Anheuser beer as he assembled a team of salesmen who had learned well at the feet of the master.

Soon after Louis Pasteur published his findings in a book on pasteurization, Adolphus Busch decided that Anheuser be the first American brewery to cash in on the Frenchman's revolutionary discoveries. By 1872 Anheuser was shipping its beer from St Louis into Texas on the country's now excellent St Louis to Texas rail service. Adolphus Busch had revolutionized the brewery business by being the first brewery magnate to recognize and to implement the principle that beer could now be preserved for a much longer time without deterioration.

Still.....the company produced an inferior product. Once again, Adolphus Busch got busy, journeying a number of times to Czechoslovakia where he closely studied the techniques of the Pilsner brewers. Sixty-five miles south of the city of Pilsen, there was a town called Budweis, which is the German name under the ruling Hapsburg Empire at that time. Adolphus This particular beer came under Adolphus's close scrutiny. In 1876, Budweiser, the King of Beers was born but it wasn't until 1911 that Adolphus paid off the German brewer in Czechoslovakia. Although closely patterned from the beer made in the town of Budweis, the actual beer he marketed in the U.S. would be formulated to appeal more to American tastes.

After the breakup of the Hapsburg Empire just after World War I, the little Czechoslovakian town reverted to its Czech name, Ceske-Budojovice. At late as the 1990's the right to market the Billy Bob brand of beer in Western Europe still belonged to the German brewer in Czechoslovakia even though the American brewing giant outsold its Czech namesake by two hundred to one.

The Saint Louis Brewery Today

Every twenty-one days a new batch of beer is cycled through here, here being the largest brewery in the world, which amounts to thirty-four million gallons of beer every three weeks, good for five hundred and ninety gallons of beer a year. I drove my Miata over to the Missouri side of the river to take Anheuser Busch's free tour. The free tours last a little longer than an hour and wind up with a fifteen to twenty minute opportunity for visitors to sample a few of Anheuser Busch's beers.

I am impressed by the scrupulous cleanliness of the plant. The place is kept so fastidiously clean that one can nearly eat off the floor. Which takes me back to an old article I once read in "Business Week" more than twenty years ago in which it compared the Schlitz Beer Company with Anheuser Busch. Schlitz had just recently undergone a whole series of plant modernizations together with a whole slug of cost cutting measures that would hopefully give it an advantage in the beer brewing marketplace. The same article recognized Anheuser Busch's unstinting efforts to maintain the highest quality ingredients even if its production process wasn't the cheapest around. From then on, I decided to stop drinking Schlitz drinking Anheuser Busch products instead simply because it seemed to me that Anheuser Busch was more committed to producing a higher quality product.

Anheuser Busch's strategy of using only the highest quality of ingredients must have paid off since its competitive edge in both the U.S. and World markets has continued to widen over its rivals. A process exclusive to Anheuser Busch products is its practice of Beech wood Aging which amounts to placing large wood shavings in the bottom of fermentation tanks. These shavings or scrapings of beech wood allow the yeast to settle on top of them and to adhere which increases the efficiency of the fermentation process in which sugars are converted to alcohol.

Anheuser Busch and other large beer conglomerates have often been criticized for appealing to a generic palette of taste buds while not producing something that is truly distinctive. After touring the brewery after which I settled into tasting several unique flavors of Anheuser Busch products I am no longer so sure of that. I found out that the number one imported beer in the United States is Corona, a Mexican beer and that Corona is one of eight Mexican breweries operated by Modelo in which Anheuser Busch has a controlling interest. Since 31 percent of all imported beers served in the U.S. are produced by Modelo operated breweries would it be stretching it too much to say that nearly one third of all imported beers Americans drink is Anheuser Busch beer?

And if I haven't convinced you yet that Anheuser Busch beer products are much more varied and less generic than you think just check out this description of some of Anheuser Busch's beer products on the Anheuser Busch web site. The last beer I tried at the breweries hospitality room was a beer that is presently being test marketed in just two Colorado cities. Hopefully it will fair well in the test market and soon join the Doc Otis hard lemon malt beverage brand. This is an apple flavored beer which reminded me a lot of certain microbrews I had tried in the past. It was excellent. I hope it will soon appear throughout the United States where I assume it's going to appeal especially those who don't truly enjoy a beer that tastes too hard core of beer.

The brewery is virtually a small city unto itself since it employs nearly 5.000 people and is spread out over a number of streets and buildings. Here you will find some of the company's Clydesdale horses and lots of memorabilia of the past. This is the world corporate headquarters for Anheuser Busch and it is here where all the great marketing schemes are hatched then worked out in detail by one of the best marketing teams in the world. I am now going to provide you with some links to other spots where you can learn more about the Anheuser Busch brewery. Just don't wander too far away from Jack Corbett's Ten Wonders of St Louis .

Links to other Anheuser Busch web sites
The official Anheuser Busch web site

Grant's Farm, Part time home for wealthy
scions of the Busch family Grant's Farm has been open to the public for some time. Tours here where you can experience animal life in their natural setting and much much more.

Budweiser, the King of Beers Site
Interesting place to visit. Focuses on the history of Budweiser so it's a bit of a trip into the past

Budweiser Tour of the Anheuser Busch Brewing Plant


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