Busch family continues crafting beer
by The Associated Press
December 02, 2012 12:00 AM | 936 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
ST. LOUIS — Billy Busch’s family built the nation’s largest brewery, Anheuser-Busch. One year after breaking out on his own, Busch is also finding success selling a classic American lager in St. Louis.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Busch’s Kräftig Lager and Kräftig Light make up about 1 percent of beer sales in the St. Louis market.

Busch launched about a year ago, hoping to capitalize on his famous last name in St. Louis and turn loose mainstream beer drinkers away from bigger rivals.

Busch hopes to eventually expand to other markets but for now is focused on St. Louis. He says the push to new markets is going slower than expected, but that sales are ahead of projections.

His company, William K. Busch Brewing, plans to roll out 30-packs of Kräftig this month in an effort to tap more volume in supermarket sales. Plans also call for an increase in marketing.

“I think the story of our company has been resonating with customers,” Busch said. “And people in St. Louis know a good beer.”

Billy Busch is the son of the late August Busch Jr. but was never directly involved in the operations of Anheuser-Busch. Busch, 52, spent years overseeing and assisting operations at Grants Farm in St. Louis County, but last year decided to answer the calling to brew.

The private company doesn’t share sales figures, but trade publication Beer Marketer’s Insights, citing data from the Missouri Beer Wholesalers Association, reported earlier this month that William K. Busch had shipped about 8,000 barrels in the first nine months of the year in Missouri. It had sold about 5,900 as of June 30.

That would put Busch on pace to sell about 10,700 barrels in Missouri for the year, or about one-third of the volume sold by Schlafly parent The St. Louis Brewery in the 12 months ending June 30. The St. Louis Brewery is the largest independent brewery based in St. Louis. Anheuser-Busch was purchased by InBev in 2008.

Unlike Schlafly, which offers a variety of flavors and seasonal brews, William K. Busch focuses only on American light lager. That puts the company among the so-called “premium lagers,” a slice of the industry that’s lost customers to more flavorful craft beers and malt beverages.

Sales of Budweiser — perhaps closest in style to Kräftig — have slumped for two decades straight. But Busch points out that the premium lager category includes the four biggest-selling beers in the U.S. — Bud Light, Coors Light, Budweiser and Miller Lite. They combined to make up 43 percent of all sales last year, according to Beer Marketer’s Insights.

Busch sees room for Kräftig to pick off some of those customers.

“It’s still a big pie,” he said.

For now, Busch is seeking to grow market share in St. Louis, and eventually grow the company into adjacent markets such as central Missouri or downstate Illinois.

His end goal, though: “Ultimately we want to be a national company.”

Busch would like to have his own St. Louis-based brewery, but currently the company brews under contract in LaCrosse, Wis.

“When it’s going to happen, we can’t say for sure,” he said.

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