THE KINGS OF BEER
“Great American Heroes. Real Men of Genius.”
The founder of Anheuser-Busch did not spend his formative years in the Show Me State, but his family legacy is a central part of the history of St. Louis and Missouri as a whole. Adolphus Busch built his company into the largest beer manufacturer in the country and one of the most recognizable names in the world. His descendants have since taken over the reins of the company, remaining a major presence in the Missouri economy and the national business scene.
THE EARLY YEARS
Adolphus Busch was born in Germany on July 10, 1839, the youngest of 21 children from a wealthy family with a rich history in alcoholic beverage manufacturing. His father made a fortune dealing in wines and other supplies for breweries in Europe, but Adolphus had his eyes set on America. He left home at eighteen and settled in St. Louis, using his family’s wealth to establish a brewer’s supply company. He further expanded the family’s empire when he co-founded a company in 1866 with his father-in-law, Eberhard Anheuser. That company became known as Anheuser-Busch, Incorporated.
Busch perfected how to sell alcoholic beverages to a mass market while discovering a way to pasteurize beer so it could withstand temperature fluctuations, which enabled his company to distribute beer nationwide. It didn’t take long before A-B surpassed their chief brewing rival, Pabst Brewing, to become the largest brewer in the United States.
Adolphus, his wife, and thirteen children lived like royalty, with a palatial mansion in downtown St. Louis, a country estate called “Grant’s Farm,” two homes in Pasadena, California, a hops farm in Cooperstown, New York, two villas in Germany, and a private railroad car called “Adolphus.” He passed away in 1913, leaving quite a legacy for his St. Louis–based family to build upon.
SHOW ME SUCCESS
When the patriarch of the Busch family died, his eldest surviving son, August, inherited the controlling interest in the company. World War II and Prohibition took a toll on the August era though. When the federal government began a crackdown on alcoholic beverages, Anheuser-Busch came up with a strategy to sell alcohol-free beverages and supplies so that buyers could make their own beverages at home. August even spoke to Congress, arguing that ending Prohibition would help America pull out of the Great Depression. Prohibition was ended in 1933, which paved the way for the next generation of Busch descendants to inherit the fast-growing company that had just become publicly traded.
The next family member in line to lead the brewery was Adolphus, III, who took over the top spot in 1934 upon the death of August, Sr. The most notable change in the beer during Adolphus’s leadership was the advent of canned Budweiser.
August, Jr., or Gussie as he was known, was next in line, becoming president of the company in 1946. His marketing prowess led to the first-ever sponsorship of a national television show by a brewer, and he spearheaded the purchase of the St. Louis Cardinals. He was also the driving force behind making Budweiser known as the “King of Beers.”
His son, August Busch, III, took over as president in 1974, the same year the company reached the 30 million barrel mark. Another Busch, August, IV, took the helm in 2006 and continued to expand the dominance of the brewery through aggressive marketing and advertising campaigns.
The Busch family’s control over the brewery came to an end in 2008, when the company was purchased by a foreign company, InBev. The official name of the company was then changed to AB-InBev.
*Anheuser-Busch is the largest beer producer in the world.
*According to Forbes Magazine, the Busch family had a net worth of more than $2 billion in 2004.
*The St. Louis brewery is on the National Historic Landmark Registry.
*Bud Light was introduced nationally in 1982.