Budweiser Sale Leaves A Thirst For Bygone Days

Budweiser bottle of beer

This was yesterday: A bottle of Budweiser beer is displayed at a New York City bar in June. Spencer Platt/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Budweiser logo

A sign inside the packaging plant for St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch Cos. touts the history of the iconic 150-year-old brewing company. Whitney Curtis/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Whitney Curtis/Getty Images
Other Spud

Is this the next step for Budweiser ad dog 'Spuds MacKenzie?' Stephen Chernin/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Stephen Chernin/Getty Images

Budweiser has a long history in America. It was introduced more than 130 years ago by Adolphus Busch, who wanted to brew what was called the United States' first "national beer brand."

Today, the maker of that "American" beer, Anheuser-Busch, agreed to sell itself to Belgium brewer InBev for $52 billion — although the St. Louis-based brewer's CEO, August Busch IV, had told the company's wholesale distributors months ago that a sale would "not happen on his watch."

"We at Anheuser-Busch are committed to transitioning into this new era quickly once this transaction closes, so everyone can benefit from the opportunities created by the birth of the new Anheuser-Busch InBev," Busch announced.

Spinning In His Grave

Employees at the company headquarters, who were ordered not to talk to the press, streamed into the brewery Monday, some with hunched shoulders and sour expressions.

Justin Brown, who tends bar at Big Daddy's, a popular after-work spot about a block and a half from the brewery, noticed the change in mood. According to Brown, a customer remarked that there's a blue light coming out of Anheuser-Busch founder Adolphus Busch's crypt right now, "because he's spinning so fast, he can generate electricity."

"Somebody was saying that ... he [Adolphus] was a little torqued at the whole idea, [that] he was pretty angry," Brown recalls.

This Bud's For You

Known for its iconic Clydesdale horses, Anheuser-Busch emerged as North America's best-selling beer maker in the 1980s, primarily on the strength of its marketing savvy — from the "This Bud's for you" slogan, to the introduction of bull terrier Spuds MacKenzie and the Bud Light 'Real Men of Genius' series.

Standing in the parking lot inhaling the thick smell of malt, Dale Anderson of Iowa, who is in St. Louis to take the famous Budweiser brewery tour, will never forget the timing of his visit.

"I'm a third-generation Budweiser drinker, and ironically, it's kind of a sad day, a bittersweet day," he said. "But I'll continue to drink it if they make the same product. ... I just wish it could have stayed American."

The newly formed company will easily become the world's largest brewer, producing 12 billion gallons of beer per year. Although all 12 of Budweiser's American breweries will stay open, Anheuser-Busch has already announced close to $1.5 billion in operational cost cuts.

The merger between Anheuser-Busch and InBev, which still must be approved by both companies' shareholders, is expected to be complete by the end of this year. It would end 150 years of local management of Anheuser-Busch.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.