I have been to Saint Louise many times. My wife has family there so we visit the Gate Way to the West once a year or so. Looking at the map it’s not hard to see why the city is located where it is. There are several rivers merging in the area; Mississippi, Missouri, Meramac and Des Peres all come together there. Saint Louise became the place for settlers to continue west, thus the nickname, Gate Way to the West. A lot of Germans settled in the area and they of course brought with them their brewery tradition from the old country. The German born soup manufacture Eberhard Anheuser bought a brewery on the brink of bankruptcy in 1864. His son-in-law Adolphus Busch joined in 1869. When Eberhard died in 1880 Adolphus took charge of the company and Anheuser & Busch Brewing Association was born. A&B has been an important part of Saint Louise. The brewery has helped in putting the city on the map and has been an important part of the city and it’s history. On my visits to Saint Louise I have many times planned to visit A&B but never got around to it until now.
The A&B visitors’ center is impressive. There is an exhibit about the company and beer brewing and a tour around the brewery. Everything is free. The tour is a well-oiled operation. Guides take you to the different steps in the brewing process. Every stop have informational signs and announcement systems to make sure that you get to know everything there is about A&B. If that is not enough you can always ask the guides who seems to know everything there is to know. The tour ends with a free A&B beer at the lounge. All is very impressive. It’s not only a brewery tour. It’s also a history tour spanning through brewing, architecture, Busch family and the city of Saint Louise. There are some remarkably beautiful building inside the brewery area and also, of course the Clydesdales. The A&B Clydesdales was introduced at the celebration of the repeal of the Prohibition in 1933. A Clydesdale hitch; 8 horses and a red, white and gold beer wagon carried the first beer that was distributed from A&B after prohibition. Today there are 5 hitches (8+2 Clydesdale horses a wagon) stationed in 4 different places in the country. They are used for commercials, parades and other public events.
Everything at A&B seems very professional and efficient and done with high quality, even the beer. But that is where I think it lacks interest. Somewhere along the history the passion for brewing disappeared. I think many craft breweries are struggling with the same now as A&B did many years ago. I think it’s a sign that the passion for beer and the beer community is gone when the marketers and chare holders decide what the flavor the beer should be. Just until recently A&B still had some of the old commitment to their employees and the community left. The A&B employees I have met and the local people in Saint Louise says that what ever was left now is gone since InBev bought the company in 2008. They started major cuts in employee benefits and their support to the local community. A&B used to be big donors to Saint Louise Symphony, Art Museum and the zoo. During the 4th of July parade the Busch family always had the Clydesdales in the parade for free. Now the City of Saint Louise has to pay for them to participate. A&B InBev has just turned in to another corporation that happened top be in the line of beer and because they love beer. Don’t get me wrong. For any brewery profits are the basics fore their survival. But when the maximized profits rule over quality and value the passion get lost. You can still make good money, brew great beer and have happy and engaged employees. I bow for all those craft breweries, big or small that still have the passion for beer. Isn’t that what beer is about; passion, community and a h-ll of a lot of fun!