Sunday, November 6, 2011

Anyone Want a Beer?

I had planned to visit the Budweiser plant here in Jacksonville during the month of October and do an Oktoberfest post. But, time and tide were against me. I took the tour only in November. As usual, click each photo for a better view.

As you take the factory tour the thought that jumps out at you is the story of beer and Budweiser is a German and yet uniquely American tale of immigrants who came to this country looking for a taste of home who transformed it into something completely different.

Adolphus Busch was a German immigrant who through a love of beer, making connections, and being a skilled promoter transformed American beer. He had the good fortune to meet and marry Lilly Anheuser whose father owned a brewery. The old man helped him finance his own brewery which was first named Anheuser and Company and later when the old man died became Anheuser-Busch.

Busch had the foresight to analyze and use the tools of the day. As the railroad transformed America, he looked for a beer that was lighter in color and taste that would retain its special quality no matter where it was shipped using the Bavarian bottom fermenting process. Pasteurization and a network of ice houses near railroad stations, allowed him to distribute better than anyone.

Once he had established his network, he set about promotion after promotion to keep the Anheuser-Busch name out in front of as many Americans as possible, right down to announcing that Budweiser was America' s favorite beer. One of his most famous promotions was the distribution of "Custer's Last Fight" as a lithograph after acquiring it in 1888. Saloon keepers wanted it and agreed to carry his beer to get it.

He used all kinds of ideas to promote his beer and perception became reality in the minds of the people. This made Busch a wealthy man and a force in the brewing industry as a result.

However, nothing in his American journey could have prepared him for January 16, 1920, the beginning of Prohibition. For years he had worked to keep those forces away from the production of beer and never imagined they would get national legislation passed. But he and his son, Busch Sr. who assumed leadership of the company, had diversified into other areas which kept the company going during those years.

I have often wondered how the famous Clydesdales became the emblem for the company and learned it was tied to Prohibition. Busch Sr. surprised the old man in 1933 with the famous bright red hitch complete with Clydesdale horses as a gift to mark the end of Prohibition. I guess there was still a bit of the little boy in Adolphus because it became one of his prized possessions.

That too was turned into a marketing wonder. He made big productions of the horse drawn hitch showing up at all manner of places to deliver beer to famous people. So much so that the Clydesdales are an international symbol of the company.

And now, into the 21st century the company remains a power house. But, is now owned by a Brazilian-Belgian brewing company, InBev, with several major brands.

The end of the tour leads you into a nice little "Hospitality Room" where you are allowed to sample new types of beer the company is developing as well as current brands. You really do have to view beer from a totally different perspective knowing what you now know about the formation of the company.

Anyone want a beer?

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