Billy Busch stays true to his beer brewing heritage

David Weinberg Dec 27, 2011

Steve Chiotakis: Next time you crack open a Budweiser beer, consider this: the family that brought you that beer has been out of the brewing business for the past three years. But one member of the Busch family isn’t about to tap out the keg.

From St.Louis, reporter David Weinberg explains.


David Weinberg: In 2008, Belgium beverage giant InBev purchased Anheuser-Busch for $52 billion and it ended the nearly 150 year reign of the Busch family in the beer business… sort of. Billy Busch, the son of son of Augustus Busch, was not among the family members forced to sign a non-compete agreement. He assembled a seasoned management team that includes former Anheuser-Busch executives, and this fall, he founded the William K. Busch Brewing Company.

Billy Busch: There hasn’t been a new beer in the premium lager category for years, so we decided to go big.

Busch unveiled two beers — Kraftig and Kraftig light — based on German recipes. He’s already brewed more than 7,000 barrels.

Ben Steinman: I’ve been here 31 years; I don’t remember anything like this.

Ben Steinman is the editor of Beer Marketers Insights.

Stienman: It is very ambitious and well-capitalized. They are aiming right at the heart of the marketplace.

The William K. Busch brewing company has made it very clear that they are not a micro-brewery. They intend to compete directly with Budweiser and Coors.

Krafitg brew master Marc Gottfried is what you might call a beer brewing prodigy. He started making beer in his room at the age of 14. By 21 he was a full-fledged brew master. Then one day, out of the blue, he got a phone call from Billy Busch.

Marc Gottfried: I often tell the story that I thought it was a prank call. And this phone rings and it’s like Mark, this is Billy Busch. Of course I think I pulled the phone away from my ear — I’m staring at it — is this for real?

Kraftig is currently brewed under contract in La Crosse, Wisc. but Busch and Gottfried plan on breaking ground on a new brewing facility in St. Louis in the next year or two.

Gottfried: The heritage that’s in this town is what sparked me to become a brewer and for us to bring that back or even just to take a shot at bringing it back, it’s a chance at writing brewing history.

For now Kraftig is only available in St. Louis but the company hopes to build a nationwide distribution network in the coming year.

In St. Louis, I’m David Weinberg for Marketplace

Marketplace is on a mission.

We believe Main Street matters as much as Wall Street, economic news is made relevant and real through human stories, and a touch of humor helps enliven topics you might typically find…well, dull.

Through the signature style that only Marketplace can deliver, we’re on a mission to raise the economic intelligence of the country—but we don’t do it alone. We count on listeners and readers like you to keep this public service free and accessible to all. Will you become a partner in our mission today?

Your donation is critical to the future of public service journalism. Support our work today – for as little as $5 – and help us keep making people smarter.