Anheuser-Busch Brewery Tour
I was recently back in my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri and I was invited to do someting I've never done, take a tour of the Anheuser-Busch Brewery. St. Louis is home to Anheuser-Busch, and US headquarters to AB-InBev. The brewery is one of AB's largest in terms of physical size and it's the largest in terms of volume of beer produced.
Anheuser-Busch offers tours of their breweries in St. Louis, Fairfield, CA, Ft. Collins, CO, Jacksonville, FL, and Merrimack, NH. The brewery in St. Louis is where it all began, so if you want to see the original home of Anheuser-Busch, the mecca of Budweiser, this is the place to go. AB offers a free tour or you can pay $25 and go on a Beermaster Tour. This is the tour I took thanks to a family friend who works at AB and who got us tickets. Even if I was paying the $25, it's worth it. On this tour you will go inide the brewery, really inside. Since I didn't take the free tour, this review will cover the Beermaster Tour.
There were a total of ten people in our tour group. Six part of my group, four part of another family. You start in the Anheuser-Busch visitors center. From there they take Beermaster Tour participants to a private room off of the lobby. This is where you get an introduction to the brewery, the ingredients used in Budweiser and get a chance to meet your tour guide. Before you leave this room they give you a wireless headset, safety glasses and a hat. You get to keep the hat after the tour. Both the hat and safety glasses are required when you enter the brewery buildings. The headsets were a great idea. The tour guide wears a microphone and this made it easy to hear him during the tour, especially inside of some of the buidlings where it gets quite loud.
The brewery is a series of red brick buildings spanning several acres. Part of the tour involves walking from building to building. During the walk your tour guide will point out some of the architectural features of the brewery and talk about the history. Several of the buildings at the St. Louis brewery are on the national registry of historic buildings. Look carefully and you'll see the Anheuser-Busch logo on just about everything from trash cans to lamp posts.
The tour covers every step of the beer making process. If you get cold easily, bring a jacket. You'll go in several buidlings that are cool and even one building that's down right freezing (or close to it). You'll also go inside the building with the mash tanks, which is hot and humid. In the aging room you will get a chance to taste unfiltered beer. This is the beer before it goes to the finishing stage of the process. On our tour, the sample we tasted was Budweiser. (This is the photo with the plastic cup.) This beer tasted a little flat and heavier than a typical Budweiser, but it was good.
Before you make it to the finishing tanks, the tour stops by the bottling building. Your tour guide walks you right out onto the factory floor among all of the bottling machines. When we were there they were in the process of bottling Bud Light Lime. We were able to see them cleaning the bottles, placing labels on the bottles, filling the bottles with beer and then putting the bottles in cases.
Following the bottling line the tour stopped at the stables where Anheuser-Busch keeps some of its clydsdales. AB has dozens of clydsdales, and if I recall, six hitch teams located throughout the country. The clydsdales and hitch teams are a throw back to the days when Budweiser was delivered by horse driven cart. They are still used today in advertising, parades, promotions, etc. Our friend who got us tour tickets also got us behind the scenes with the clydsdales. We had a chance to meet the guy in charge of the clydsdales at the St. Louis brewery. He was a wealth of knowledge about the program and how the horses are selected for hitch teams. We also got to meet AB's newest dalmation puppy! (Dalmations are part of the hitch teams)
Following the stables the final tour stop is the finishing tanks. This is where you get to drink beer right from the tanks before it goes to bottling. This building is where a jacket comes in handy. They keep this building around 34 degrees. At this point of the tour we were each given a glass, which we got to keep. The tour guide then screwed a tap into one of the finishing tanks and poured us each a glass of beer. On this particular tour we were tasting six hour old Budweiser. I'm not much of a Budweiser drinker, but this ice cold beer was very good.
The finishing room is not the end of the beer tasting. At this point our tour guide led us back to the room in the visitors center where we started. This room contained a bar and we were given thirty minutes to sample anything we wanted. They had about a dozen beers on tap and various other beers in bottles. In case you didn't know, AB produces ShockTop, Land Shark, BudLight, Michelob, Rolling Rock, Becks, Stella Artois, Hoegaarden and many others. It was also interesting to find out that many of the European AB-InBev brands are made in the US at AB's St. Louis brewery.
In summary, if you like beer or factory tours I definitely recommend the Anheuser-Busch brewery tour. I've been to micro-brewereries and that doesn't come close to comparing to the sheer scale at which AB produces beer. Plus, who can pass up drinking some good beer?