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Monday, April 15, 2013

The Mothership in St Louis is ... Gorgeous

There were a few things I didn't anticipate about the main Anheuser-Busch brewery in St Louis.  I've never seen a 15 million barrel brewery, and somehow in my imagination, it was appropriately scaled up--mash tuns as big as city blocks, fermenters that could do double-duty as oil tankers.  That was silly and naive, a mistake I recognized the minute I saw how AB does it.  (A complex matrix of big but not insane vessels that dance through intricate choreography to push through lots of beer in a day.)  But it was not naive of me to imagine that the place would look like an industrial plant.  I've been to smaller big breweries that did.  Paulaner does five million hectos and it's beautifully steampunk fused with 70s utilitarianism. 

But no, the Budweiser brewery is gorgeous--probably the prettiest I've ever seen:

It's a turn-of-the-(20th)-century gravity brewery with a soaring atrium, chandeliers made to look like hop vines (they were made for the 1904 St Louis World's Fair), tiled artwork, and incredibly gracious space.  You can see the equipment peeking out to the left in the picture above; here's what it looks like at eye-level:

And here was my tour guide, the gregarious and affable Jim Bicklein, master brewer at the St Louis brewery (AB has eleven others in the US and 8 more in Canada), standing in front of the equally-impressive building exterior.  

I'll try to give a report of the visit in a couple weeks--when my brain can handle a little blogging.  It was eye-opening and intriguing, and like nearly every brewery I've visited, made me think more deeply about the nature of beer.


  1. Fine pictures that give a real sense of the history of this legendary brewery. I'll be interested to hear your comments on the products as tasted there (I always felt the Michelob at the brewery in Tampa was outstanding but that was in the 80's and the beer may have been better then with craft beer not nearly as far ahead as today). If you asked me, I'd find it interesting what Jim Bicklein thinks of craft beer and how he views his regular output (Bud Light, Budweiser, etc.) in that light.


  2. Sorry Jeff, I meant, "...if you asked him [Jim Bicklein]...". Thanks.


  3. I toured there in about '98, Jeff - a beautiful brewery indeed. The AB St. Louis tour page says the horizontal lagering tanks each hold "200,000 six-packs" - could they really hold 3,600 BBL each? (72 oz per 6 pack x 200,000 = 14.4 mil oz; /3968 oz. per BBL.)
    Somebody check my math . . . !
    -Craig H

  4. Craig, absolutely. The ones I saw were 2500 barrels, but I only went into one cellar. And anyway 2500 barrels ain't nuthin'!