In 2008, for a cost of $52 billion dollars, InBev, the Leuven, Belgium-based owner of Beck’s and Stella Artois swallowed Anheuser-Busch whole. Better known as “Budweiser,” Anheuser-Busch is the hallmark of American beers. A brief history of Budweiser starts with the marriage of German immigrant Adolphus Busch to St. Louis native, Lily Anheuser. Busch, an investor in manufacturing, went to work for his father-in-law’s brewing company. St. Louis has long been home to many different breweries. However, before the formation of Anheuser-Busch, most beer was sold within the area in which it was brewed. A savvy businessman, Busch made it his mission to create an “American style lager” with broader appeal. He would succeed beyond his wildest expectations.
While Budweiser grew uncontrollably through the 1950’s and 60’s, Anheuser-Busch remained steadfast to its native home in St. Louis. Naturally, it came as a shock in 2008, when the company, as old as Chevrolet, was acquired by a European company. While Belgium now has official rights to the name 'Budweiser,' the company image remains an important symbol for St. Louis. Advertisements for the beer plaster the city. Lit-up signs can be seen in virtually every bar window and “Busch Stadium,” is home to the city’s beloved baseball team, the St. Louis Cardinals. Tours of the massive brewery, located in Soulard, continue to share the Budweiser story.
The recent success of Urban Chestnut, a St. Louis based German-style Beer Company started by two ex-Anheuser-Busch employees, brings to question whether the annex of Budweiser by Belgium could contribute to a rise in of craft and local breweries. This past year, Urban Chestnut, which opened its doors in 2010, expanded operations to a second, Ten-million dollar facility masterminded by Green Street St. Louis located in The Grove, the St. Louis equivalent to Brooklyn in New York, and the city’s most up-and-coming area. Schlafly, which has been around since 1991 and brewed out of “Saint Louis Brewery,” currently capable of brewing 50,000 in-house, announced they plan to at least double production capacity with the acquisition and construction of a new facility. These are just two examples of a new “beer culture,” currently brewing in St. Louis.
Schlafly and Urban Chestnut are just two local businesses that evidence craft breweries are finding roots in St. Louis. St. Louis, along with many other rust-belt cities, has often been criticized for holding onto the memory of manufacturing economy. For St. Louis, this memory is deeply tied to a feeling of deep pride in being home to the all-american success story of Anheuser-Busch and Budweiser. The recent surge of craft breweries has no doubt changed the culture of beer brewing and consuming in the city, but local breweries can be important drivers of the economy and community as well. For example, craft breweries are often eco-leaders in their communities. Urban Chestnut’s website outlines sustainability efforts here, while Schlafly put two abandoned buildings back into use to create The Schlafly Tap Room and Schlafly Bottleworks as well as grows all the food for its restaurants through the program gardenworks.
Has big business leaving your area helped the local economy? What are some examples? Share your thoughts and stories in the comments below.
Credits: Images by Lindsay Naughton. Data linked to sources.