February 6, 2007

Anheuser-Busch

And the men behind the brand are...
Eberhard Anheuser and Adolphus Busch

Georg Schneider, a German-born tavern owner, established the Bavarian Brewery in south St. Louis in 1852. The "Mound City" already had a rich history in beer going back 50 years and was clearly the leading malt city in the Midwest, ahead of Chicago and Milwaukee. The Bavarian Brewery was one of many neighborhood breweries.

From its inception Schneider struggled with the enterprise. In 1857 he brewed 500 barrels but was constantly on the lookout for a financial savior. In 1860 Eberhard Anheuser, a successful soap and candle manufacturer, bought the Bavarian Brewery with his friend William D'Oench.

Still the neighborhood brewery struggled. In 1864 D'Oench withdrew to return to his drug and chemical trade. Anheuser couldn't operate two diverse businesses like soap manufacturing and malt brewing by himself and sought help. He didn't have to look beyond his family.

In 1861 Lilly Anheuser married a 21-year old German immigrant who was working as a "mud clerk" checking cargo along the Mississippi River. Shortly after their marriage Adolphus Busch enlisted in the Union army as a corporal but served only three months before he learned he had been bequeathed a portion of his wealthy father's estate.

Busch returned to St. Louis to open a brewers' supply store, the same business the family had conducted in Germany. In 1865 Busch merged his business with his father-in-law's Bavarian Brewery as equal partners. Within a year the brewery's output of Anheuser beer doubled to 8000 barrels.

The trade grew steadily with the enthusiastic Busch often acting as his own sales force in the local saloons and beer gardens. Anheuser and Busch also employed "beer collectors" whose duty was to make monthly rounds to every restaurant and beer garden in St. Louis and buy Anheuser beer for the house.

Anheuser's participation in the enterprise declined through the 1870s as Adolphus Busch searched for the perfect brew. In 1876 Busch brewed a light Bohemian beer with rice as a supplemental grain. He called the new beer "Budweiser" after a Bohemian brewer named Budweis.

At the same time Busch became the first brewmeister to pasteurize his beer so it could withstand any climatic change. Busch was now able to bottle beer and "St. Louis Lager Beer" began appearing in saloons in Denver and elsewhere. In 1878 he undertook a major plant expansion for the newly named Anheuser-Busch Brewing Association.

In 1880 Eberhard Anheuser died after a two-year illness, having lived long enough to see his tiny brewery on the banks of the Mississippi grow into a national concern. Adolphus Busch always invested in new technologies to find the most economical and expeditious way to manufacture malt. In 1881 he purchased three massive 50-ton ice machines to turn his brewing operation into a year-round business.

He always bottled his own beer and soon wasn't able to buy enough bottles fast enough. He studied manufacturers on both sides of the Atlantic before founding the Busch Glass Company. Transportation was always a problem and Busch amassed a fleet of 850 railroad cars to move his beer.

By the 1890s Busch was advertising extensively. His favorite medium was freshly painted beer wagons, advertising Busch considered more dignified than large billboards. He used playing cards, calendars, corkscrews and knives as promotional materials for his 14 beers. He distributed thousands of historical lithographs advertising his products. The Anheuser-Busch brewery grew to occupy 40 acres at this time. It required more than 2200 men to operate. Busch was brewing over 3000 barrels a day. It was the world's largest brewery.

Busch traveled extensively and took an interest in other matters besides brewery work. He served for a time as President of the South Side Bank and the Manufacturers' Railroad Company. Most of his business activities ceased after contracting dropsy in 1906.

In 1911 Busch celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary in a style the nation's papers trumpeted as "unprecedented in its elaborateness in the world's history." The value of the floral tributes alone exceeded $50,000. Busch presented his wife with a crown studded with gold, diamonds and pearls valued at $200,000.

Busch died in 1913 in his native Prussia on the eve of World War I. His son Augustus took over and the company patented the world's first diesel engine for the brewery which was quickly adapted for military use. Anheuser-Busch rode out of Prohibition with the introduction of the world-famous Clydesdales in 1933 to resume its position as the world's leading brewery.

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