In the mid-1800s, Eberhard Anheuser was a successful manufacturer of soap and candles in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. In 1859, he financed a loan to a struggling neighborhood brewery called The Bavarian Brewery, which was started by George Schneider in 1852. When the brewery faltered again in 1860, Anheuser and a partner, William O’Dench, bought the interests of minority creditors rather than see the brewery go under. They reorganized the company and resumed production under the name E. Anheuser & Company.
In 1857, the 18-year old Adolphus Busch, the second youngest of 22 children, immigrated to the United States from Germany to join his 3 brothers in St. Louis. Although his brother had started the John B. Busch Brewing Company in Washington, Missouri, Adolphus opted to enter into a partnership with Ernst Wattenberg to sell brewing supplies. It was through this business that Adolphus met his wife, whose father would be his future partner. Adolphus Busch and Lily Anheuser married in 1861. In 1865, the two beer companies merged, with Adolphus as equal partner with Eberhard Anheuser.
In 1876, Busch and his friend Carl Conrad, a liquor importer, developed a “Bohemian-style” lager, inspired after a trip to the region. Brewers in Bohemia generally named a beer after their town with the suffix “er.” Beers produced in the town of Plzen, for example, were called Plzners, or Pilsners. Busch and Conrad had visited another town, only 104 km (65 miles) south of Plzenalso, known for its breweries: Bömische Budweis, which became Ceske Budejovice in 1918. Beer has been brewed in Ceske Budejovice since it was founded as Budiwoyz by king Premys II Otakar in 1245. The German name for the town is Budweis. The name “Budweiser” is a locative, meaning “of Budweis.”
The beer recipes from Budweis were carried around the world – including by Busch and Conrad – and in the late 1800s there were several breweries producing beers called Budweiser. Miller and Schlitz both produced Budweisers but, as the name became so strongly associated with Anheuser-Busch, they stopped it. In the US the last other Budweiser producer was DuBois Brewing, which stopped making the brand only in the late 1970s.
The American Bud
Busch and Conrad introduced “Budweiser Lager Beer” in St. Louis, brewed by E. Anheuser Co.’s Brewing Association, and bottled and distributed by Carl Conrad. The Anheuser company was renamed Anheuser-Busch Brewing Association in 1879, and Adolphus became president the following year, a position he was to hold for 33 years. On 24 January 1883, Anheuser-Busch Brewing Association acquired the rights in the US to bottle and sell Budweiser. In 1919, the company was renamed Anheuser-Busch, the name by which it is known today. In 1997, the Anheuser-Busch annual worldwide beer volume exceeded 100 million barrels, confirming its position as the world’s largest brewer.
The Bud battle
In 1895, almost 20 years after Busch’s Budweiser was first brewed, a Bohemian company called Budejovicky Pivovar started making a beer known as Budvar, a shortened version of the brewery name. It was exported under the name Budweiser Budvar, being from Budweis.
The golden rule in business is that the one with the gold rules. Well, usually. In the battle for the Budweiser brand name there has not been a victor. A legal battle between the Buds has raged for years. According to EU regulations, a locative can be registered as a trademark only by a manufacturer residing at that place. Thus, according to EU regulations, the Czech beer is the legal bearer of the trademark “Budweiser”, or “Budejovicky.” But that’s not the only claim.
According to the German “Reinheitsgebot” (Beer Purity Regulations), the Annheuser-Busch Budweiser cannot be considered as beer because rice is used in the production process. According to the Beer Purity Regulations, beer can only be brewed from [barley] malt, hops and beer. (Wheat beers are called “weizens” in German.) Germany forbade the use of word “Bud” as trademark on everyone; the court ruled it was too close to “Bit” which the domestic Bitburger brewery uses as its trademark.
The oldest brewery in the town of Ceske Budejovice (Budweis) is Budweiser Burgerbrau, founded in 1795, and by far the most “original” of the claimants over the name Budweiser. The main brand of Budweiser Burgerbrau (Budejovice Burghers’ Brewery) is Samson, still brewed as both light and dark lager beer, bearing the labels Budweiser Bier and Budejovicky Pivo. It is said Samson was the model for Augustus Busch for his brew.
Budweiser Burgerbrau has claimed they have the right to the trademark “Budweiser” on the basis they were the oldest brewery of the German-speaking burghers of Budweis. They insist that Budejovicky Budvar was the brewery of the Czech-speakers, who thus only have the right to the trademark “Budejovicky”.
The Budweisers from Budejovice has been called “The Beer of Kings” since the 16th century. Adolphus Busch is said to have turned the slogan around to “The King of the Beers”. The Czech Budweiser is imported all around Europe, sold in some countries as “Budejovicky Budvar” but known as Budweiser. In Europe it is still known as the original Budweiser. In the US and elsewhere the Anheuser-Busch Budweiser remains, if not the king of beer tastes, the king of beer sales.
Eberhard Anheuser (1805-1880)
Anheuser had a taste for success. A German immigrant to the US, he made a fortune in soap manufacturing. But when he helped finance a small brewery in 1860, he suddenly found himself in the lucrative beer business.
Adolphus Busch (1839-1913)
Busch was taken with Lily Anheuser from the start. His brother Ulrich courted Lily’s older sister Anna. On 7 March 1861, Eberhard Anheuser gave away the hands of both daughters in a double wedding ceremony with the Busch boys in St. Louis.
Adolphus Busch died in 1913, and his son August took charge of the company. When August passed away in 1934, his son Adolphus Busch III took over. He was succeeded by his brother, August A. Busch Jr in 1946. In 1974, his son August A. Busch III became the fifth-generation Anheuser-Busch president, succeeded by his son, August A. Busch IV.
This story is from Laura Lee’s “The Name’s Familiar: Mr. Leotard, Barbie and Chef Boyardee”
Many thanks to Susanna Viljanen of Finland for contributing to this story.