Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc. traces its roots to 1852 and the Bavarian Brewery in St. Louis. The struggling brewery was acquired by Eberhard Anheuser, a successful soap manufacturer, in 1860.
Anheuser had no experience in the brewing business, but his son-in-law did. Adolphus Busch, a successful German businessman, joined his father-in-law in the business in the 1860s and took on increasing responsibility. Through new technologies and modern marketing practices, he transformed the local brewery to an industry leader.
In the early 1870s, Adolphus Busch became the first American brewer to use pasteurization, which allowed beer to be shipped long distances without spoiling. By the mid 1870s and early 1880s, he introduced artificial refrigeration, refrigerated railcars and rail-side icehouses. These technological innovations allowed the company to grow – now, it could distribute beer across the country.
Budweiser was the first national beer brand, introduced in 1876. Twenty years later, Busch introduced Michelob, America’s first specialty beer. To market his beers, Busch used traditional, proven selling methods but in a far more organized and deliberate manner than his competitors. He pioneered the use of giveaways and premiums, and used his brewery as a showplace for the public to visit.
When Eberhard Anheuser died in 1880, Adolphus became president of the brewery. In 1901, the company broke the 1 million barrels of beer sales mark for the first time, making it one of the nation’s leading breweries.
Adolphus Busch died in 1913 and was succeeded by his son, August A. Busch, Sr.
The brewery’s bleakest period began at midnight on Jan. 16, 1920, when national Prohibition became law. Rather than close its doors, as more than half of the nation’s breweries did, Anheuser-Busch diversified and remained in business.
Under the leadership of August Sr., the company marketed more than 25 different non-alcoholic products such as soft drinks, truck bodies and ice cream. In preparation for Prohibition, Anheuser-Busch released Bevo, a non-alcoholic cereal beverage, in 1916. On April 7, 1933, beer was re-legalized.
Recovery from Prohibition was slow but steady under Adolphus Busch III, who became president of the company in 1934, upon the death of his father, August Sr.
Economic conditions caused by the Great Depression also restrained growth, but, thanks in part to the introduction of the metal can in 1936, sales began to climb. By 1938, Anheuser-Busch hit the 2 million barrel mark. During World War II, the company diverted many of its operations in support of the war effort, voluntarily relinquishing its West Coast markets to conserve railcar space for war materials shipments.
Following the war, America and Anheuser-Busch experienced an era of growth and prosperity throughout the 1950s and 1960s. In 1946, August A. Busch, Jr. became president of the company following the death of his brother, Adolphus III. Beginning with the opening of the Newark, N.J. facility in 1951, August Jr. created a national network of nine breweries.
Under his leadership, beer sales increased from 3 million barrels to more than 34 million barrels, and corporate diversification was extended to include family entertainment, industrial products, real estate and can manufacturing. In 1957, Anheuser-Busch became the leading U.S. brewer, a position it retains today.
August A. Busch III was elected president of Anheuser-Busch, Inc. in 1974, and the next year succeeded his father, August Jr., as chief executive officer, becoming the fourth generation of the family to lead Anheuser-Busch. August III led the company to build four additional breweries, expand the family entertainment business, and significantly strengthen the company’s horizontal and vertical integration.
In 1982, the company introduced Bud Light nationally, which grew quickly in popularity and today is one of the world’s best selling beer brands.
In 2008, Anheuser-Busch and InBev combined to become Anheuser-Busch InBev. The new company is the world’s largest brewer and one of the top 5 consumer goods companies in the world.