On April 7, 1933, an estimated 35,000 people crowded the streets in South St. Louis outside the gates of the Anheuser-Busch brewery. At the stroke of midnight, the gates opened and trucks loaded with bottled beer rolled through the streets of St. Louis for the first time in 13 years.
The new book Bitter Brew: The Rise and Fall of Anheuser Busch and America’s King of Beers fittingly doesn’t open with the above story, the prologue instead describes a moment near the end of the fall. The book is not a Walt Disney movie, it doesn’t have a “storybook’ ending.
William Knoedelseder is the gentleman who got me to buy this book. He came through town in November to promote his new book. A good crowd of people saw him give a talk sponsored by Left Bank Books in the basement below Bridge. Many of the seats were filled by members of the author’s extended family and a few members of the Busch family were even rumored to be in attendance.
As a kid, I had a Spuds Mackenzie poster on my wall. I went on field trips to Grant’s Farm. I never knew some of the tragic things behind the Busch dynasty. I also never knew some of the more impressive things. I’m not a professional book reviewer or anything so, here are of the more impressive things I learned in reading the book. I highly suggest picking up your own copy.
- At 12:01 AM on April 8th 1933, a twenty-four count crate was sent to Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had including ending Prohbition in his campaign for the presidency.
- Before Prohibition, Anheuser-Busch employed eight hundred teams of horses to deliver their beer.
- Adolphus Busch had a mansion in Pasadena, California that was the envy of Andrew Carnegie and J.P. Morgan.
- When A-B bought the Cardinals in 1953, Falstaff was the #1 selling beer in St. Louis.
- Gussie would follow the team on the road in a customized rail car hitched to the back of the team train.
- Busch Gardens was Gussie’s pet project. It would be expanded on to include 10 parks across the country with 25,000 employees. With 25 million visitors a year, it was the second-largest theme-park operation behind Disney.
- Bud Light was introduced to the market in 1982.
- In March of 2012 AB InBev CEO Carlos Brito qualified for a stock option bonus worth $180 million+
Throughout the book, references are made to commercials and other marketing aspects in the company’s history. Here are some of the best commercials:
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