To Brew Or Not To Brew: The Anheuser-Busch Brewery
It’s the day every American youngster waits for. The coveted night (or morning depending on your determination) you can walk out of a liquor store with a six-pack legally in hand. Being able to drink in our country is delayed longer than anywhere else, except places like Cameroon. So it gets built up in our minds, like a trip to Disney World did in grade school. Anheuser-Busch’s Brewery in St. Louis has embraced this giddiness for booze and created an adult amusement park-like tour. But instead of looking forward to a hug from Mickey, visitors can’t wait until the free sample room.
The Brewery Tour is free and runs about every half hour or so, depending on the time of day and season (check http://www.budweisertours.com/home.htm for times and contact info). As I waited for my tour to begin I perused the well-lit displays chronicling the history of Anheuser-Busch. Beginning in the mid-1800′s Anheuser-Busch’s story includes twist, turns, innovation, and a few strategic marriages, but I won’t spoil the plot anymore than that.
The tour began when my guide stepped up to a small stage reminiscent of those stand-up comedians use in small nightclubs. He shared a few facts and led us on our merry way. The first stop was the Clydesdale’s stables. An immaculate, echoing hall with stone floors, dark wooden rafters, and stained glass windows it was more like a church than a stable. Except for the smell.
Tanks O’ Beer
Next came the facility where the beer is aged on beech wood chips in massive metal tanks. The room had a cold mechanical hum and a damp, shivery, controlled-climate in order to mimic the underground caverns beer used to be made in. The tour guides raved about the quantity of beer this facility holds. One tank, and they were stacked a few stories high, holds so much beer that if you were to drink one beer an hour, 24 hours a day, it would take you 137 years to down a whole tank. But as a keen frat boy on my tour pointed out, who drinks just one beer an hour?
Surviving The Prohibition
The tour also took us to the Bevo Packaging Plant. Bevo was a nonalcoholic drink that helped Anheuser Busch survive prohibition. The drink’s mascot, a sly chicken-eating fox named Bevo, sat on the corners of the building, with glimmering memories of how he bested prohibition dancing on his face. Inside the plant there was an intense video on how Anheuser-Busch packages its beer. Very informative, but I don’t really recall any of the facts.
What I do remember is the exhausting details of the buildings, streets, and atmosphere at every point of the tour. Everything was clean and exact. There were signs identifying photo ops, appropriate German sounding elevator music, straight and spotless grout lines in the walls, and unchipped green Bavarian trim. The Brew House has an amazing, if not out of place, chandelier. Decorated with hop vines, it was made for the 1904 World’s Fair, the peak of St. Louis’s history, and is part of several historic landmarks inside the Brewery’s grounds. Keeping things so neat and undamaged in an establishment flooded with alcohol was actually quite impressive.
Samples, Samples, Samples!
The tour ended with a trolley style bus that transported guests back to the sampling room. Which was the highlight of the tour. Every guest over 21 (it goes without saying they I.D.) got two free samples of A&B products. Personally, I went for the American Ale and the Michelob Golden, recommendations for the later.
A Little Strange, But Worth It
All and all the whole experience was a bit eerie, mixing an adult world with a family style tour. I was completely engrossed and excited, with my kiddy-dropped jaw “wow” face on. But it wasn’t because of cool animatronics or life-size cartoon characters walking around; it was because of the number of beers the brewery packages a day. It just seemed odd to be lead around a brewery by backwards walking, mic wearing tour guides when all I was thinking about was the beer at the end. But you know what I got over it. I enjoyed the beer and the tour and would do it again. After all it’s free.
By Kristen Klempert