My husband is a Bud man. We now live in the state with the highest number of microbreweries in the country, and he has branched out to some of our local brews, but when it comes down to it, his beer of choice is still Budweiser. Which is why I had to read Bitter Brew: The Rise and Fall of Anheuser-Busch and the King of Beers. Now when I’ve mentioned this book title to friends, their comment is always, “what fall?” To which I tell them to read the book and find out.
Bitter Brew tells the story of Anheuser-Busch, starting with Adolphus Busch’s emigration to the US from Germany, where he and Eberhard Anheuser, father of Adolphus’s wife Lilly, came together to form the company. Adolphus made some enormous leaps in brewing, causing A-B to quickly become the number one brewer in the country, thanks to its flagship brand, Budweiser. Through two world wars and Prohibition, A-B stood strong, and the position of president passed from father to son throughout the years.
The family wasn’t without problems or scandals, each of the men profiled is portrayed as womanizing, self-aggrandizing and seemingly above the law, but they also contributed greatly to the city of St. Louis and were fiercely loyal to the company, its employees and products. Bitter Brew includes detailed and interesting descriptions of A-B’s “beer war” with first Schlitz and Pabst, and later Miller Brewing Company, their ad campaigns throughout the years, the decision to add a light beer to their product line, as well as the succession of each of the men who ran the company. A good portion of the book is spent on August IV, known as the Fourth, and his run-ins with the law, before finally getting to what’s considered the fall of the company, the takeover of A-B by InBev, the Belgian conglomerate who took advantage of a poor economy and personal troubles of the company’s leadership.
Bitter Brew is a fascinating look at the history of a well-known company and the family that was behind it during the 20th century. I highly recommend this book for beer lovers and recent history aficionados alike.
Nancy is also a beer lover, and needs to rectify the fact that we have yet to visit the Anheuser-Busch site near our home. She writes about her boys, books and life in Colorado at Life With My Boys and Books.