Without question Anheuser-Busch is one of the best known breweries worldwide. Today the American company is part of the international corporation Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABInBev), just like the German beer brands Beck’s, Franziskaner, Hasseröder, Diebels or Löwenbräu. The brewery originated in the 1850s in St. Louis (Missouri). It was acquired by Eberhard Anheuser and a partner in 1860. Anheuser died 20 years later, on 2 May 1880 in St. Louis.
In 1852, the small Bavarian Brewery was founded by the German immigrant Georg Schneider in St. Louis. Due to economic difficulties he had to sell it in 1857. Eberhard Anheuser started to invest into it in 1858 and finally bought it in 1860 together with his longtime business partner William D’Oench. The brewery was then renamed E. Anheuser & Co.
It wasn’t the only business venture of the German that was born on 27 September 1806 in Kreuznach (at the time occupied by the French, today Rhineland-Palatinate). The Anheuser family has a vineyard since 1627; today Rudolf and Paul Anheuser run it in 14th generation. But Eberhard Anheuser emigrated in 1843. He first stayed in Cincinnati (Ohio) where his wife and children joined him. In 1845, he settled in St. Louis, working at the soap factory of D’Oench, who was of Prussian Silesian origin. Anheuser left the factory in 1852 and was partner in two other soap and candle factories until he founded the family Business E. Anheuser & Son with his son William in 1862. At the same time Anheuser was already partner in the brewery. Only 5 years later, the company was dissolved when William founded his own company together with another German immigrant.
The brewery remained small and didn’t exploit its full potential. The Civil War between 1861 and 1865 had negative effects to the business as well as positive ones, as it brought troops and therefore many customers to St. Louis.
Rise to a national company under Adolphus Busch
Anheuser’s brewery was supplied amongst others by Adolphus Busch. In 1861, he married Anheuser’s daughter Lilly in a double wedding with his brother Ulrich and another one of Anheuser’s daughters. Adolphus Busch later bought himself into the brewery and transformed it into the big national company it became around the turn of the century.
Adolphus Busch was born on 10 July 1839 in Kastel (Hesse) as the son of a dealer of wine and brewery supplies. In 1857, he decided to emigrate together with three of his brothers. Busch settled in St. Louis where he worked as an employee at a wholesale company and later bought part of another wholesale company of Ernst Wattenberg. In 1865, he took over the company and continued as a wholesaler for brewery supplies under the name Adolphus Busch & Co.
He already had started to work at the brewery of his father-in-law in 1864. And probably in the next year he took over the share of D’Oench. Until 1869, he led both companies simultaneously. Only then he sold his shares of the wholesale company. Busch seems to have been the driving force of the brewery, although Anheuser’s influence was felt until 1877. Still, in 1875 the it was renamed E. Anheuser Brewing Association before it was finally called Anheuser-Busch Brewing Association in 1879. In the following year Busch became president of the company after Anheuser died. He was its head until he died on 10 October 1913 in Lindschied (Prussia, today Hesse). His coffin was transferred by train and ship in 1915 to St. Louis where he was buried.
Under Busch’s guidance the company expanded continuously. He extended the market, at first towards the Southwest, as early as 1878 nationwide and internationally as well. He also implemented important innovations as cooling systems or pasteurization of bottled beer that made the market expansion possible in the first place. At the end of the 1870s/beginning of the 1880s Bush was first to build cold storage houses along the railway tracks and used cooled railcars. The rail network around St. Louis goes back to Busch to a significant part as well. In 1897, Busch purchased the American rights to produce the just invented diesel engine. One year later, as president of the Diesel Motor Company of America he had the first American diesel engine build. As early as 1910 he invested in motorized delivery trucks and in 1920 the company produced its own trucks in large quantities based on this.
Adolphus Busch also introduced the best known beer brand of the company. In 1876, he and Carl Conrad created the Budweiser or Bud. In 1891, all rights were acquired from Carl Conrad and since the beginning of the century worldwide rights are aspired. This was accompanied by legal disputes with the Czech Budvar-brewery in Budweis that was founded in 1895. In 1917, it was established that Anheuser-Busch only uses the name Budweiser in North America, in the European market the short form Bud is used.
Both, Eberhard Anheuser and Adolphus Busch were important members of the German-American community. They donated money and supported causes like the Saengerfest in St. Louis (Anheuser) or the Germanic Museum of the Harvard University (Busch). Busch also donated for the persons affected by the flood of the Rhine in his birthplace Kastel in 1882.
Prohibition and beyond
After his father died, August A. Busch Sr. took over the brewery in 1913. He led the company through prohibition by producing more than 25 different products like soft drinks, truck bodies and ice cream as well as Bevo, some kind of near beer.
After prohibition the rise of the brewery continued further under several Busch-descendants. From 1957 onwards Anheuser-Busch was the biggest US-brewery. In 2008, it was taken over by InBev which operates under the name Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABInBev) ever since. The headquarters are in Leuven, Belgium while the brewery is still in St. Louis. The corporation is now the biggest brewery-group worldwide and holds over 500 beer brands. In 2016 it produced a total volume of 433.9 Million hectoliters beer.