Saturday morning, after a City Cafe breakfast and another woefully unbearable match by the Fulham Football Club, Gina and I headed back to our old St. Louis area homes for the holidays. After wasting Saturday away between the drive back and the lack of options in our tiny hometowns (Trenton and New Baden IL), we hoped to make a better day of Sunday. Thanks to a suggestion from my mother, we did just that - we spent the day drinking.
We started our Saturday in the heart of American beer consumption - on the Anheuser Busch St. Louis brewery tour.
As a veteran of a few small brewery tours, this was quite a different experience. We started our tour in a small museum, which featured different kiosks for the history of Anheuser Busch brands. Because we arrived just as the tour was starting, we didn't dally; We walked over and started listening to one of our two tour guides, who was busy rattling off a series of facts about Adolphus Busch. These facts were thrown out in a rapid-fire method - best to get them out of the way - before the commonly-known announcement (at least to St. Louis residents, anyway) was made - this tour would include free beer.
We walked out of the museum and into the cold outdoors, where we were shown a Clydesdale, eating from a fenced patch of fresh hay and standing directly in front of a tractor trailer advertising the Budweiser brand. After a few horse facts we were lead into one of the three national landmark buildings on the tour - the stables for the Clydesdales. After another series of facts about the horses, we were given the option to advance directly to the hospitality room (with the free beer), or continue on the tour.
We continued on to a building containing the beechwood aging room, which featured holding tanks two to three stories high each, where the beechwood aging of Budweiser takes place. These tanks were in rows of (I'd guess) about 20, and double or triple stacked. If I were to guess, I'd say each one of these tanks contained the equivalent of all the beer that passes through Warbird's facilities each year, and the beer only stays in these tanks for 19 days before moving on to be bottled.
After visiting the tanks, we headed over to the Brewhouse, where we learned about the four quality ingredients in Budweiser - Hops, two-row malt, four-row malt, and "to give it that crisp taste" - rice. After our quick beer lesson, we were taken to see the mash tanks and brew kettles in rooms as large as a high school gymnasium. As we passed the computerized control room, I couldn't help but think that the type of sitting around waiting for alarms to go that Budweiser's brewmasters do isn't all that different than the methods most homebrewers are used to.
We then left the brewhouse and headed over to the packaging facility, where we were shown a short film hosted by some very young and attractive "model" AB Employees, who told us all about AB's amazing production capacity. This seems to be the focus of the whole tour, and included a minute or two talking about how amazing Budweiser's packaging was.
After we left the packaging facility we finally made our way to the hospitality room, where we sampled the rarest things we could find on tap - a highly agreeable, highly drinkable stout by the name of "Mule Kick" - it wasn't listed under any particular Budweiser brand, so I'm not sure what they've got planned for this one. I also tried the Bareknuckle Stout - a Guiness rip-off that was a poor follow up to the Mule Kick. I tried a sip or two of a Belgian White called "Shock Top", which looked to be packaged in a way similar to AB's Spring Heat Spiced Wheat from earlier this year.
All in all the tour was pretty fascinating, but as a beer geek I found myself wishing they had focused more on the actual beer - perhaps not such a strange feeling, considering the brewery.