Lager Heads stopped by Anheuser-Busch's brewery gift shop in St. Louis on Tuesday and caught up with Tom Shipley, Budweiser brand director. Shipley was getting ready to go in front of TV cameras today to discuss a new coffee table book published by A-B. The subject of the 200-page, photo-heavy book? The company's Clydesdale horses, which have figured large in Budweiser's staying power over the years.
Thanks to helping plan a celebration of the 75th anniversary of Prohibition's repeal earlier this year, Shipley is one of Anheuser-Busch's in-house experts on Prohibition. He said A-B has never done a book of "this magnitude and quality" on the Clydesdales, Budweiser's most recognizable symbol of heritage and quality.
A bit of history. In 1933 - shortly after beer became legal after suffering years under Prohibition - August A. Busch Jr. and Adolphus Busch III presented a hitch of Clydesdales to their father, August Busch Sr. The idea was to commemorate the first bottle of post-Prohibition beer brewed in St. Louis.
Busch Sr. grasped that his sons had struck advertising and promotional gold. He had a team of Clydesdales sent by rail to New York City; The horses picked up a case of Budweiser at Newark Airport. The beer was later presented to Al Smith, former governor of New York and a reliable foe of Prohibition. From there, the Clydesdales continued on a tour of New England and the Middle Atlantic States. The hitch delivered a case of beer to President Franklin D. Roosevelt at The White House.
The rise of the automobile had made horse-drawn hitches less common in the 1920s and 1930s, Shipley explained. So, the appearance in 1933 of the red Budweiser wagon, pulled by the massive Clydesdales and guided by green-uniformed drivers, "brought people back to (a) simpler time," he said. A marketing and advertising icon was born.
Since then, the Clydesdales have logged thousands of appearances in communities across America, helping to burnish Budweiser's image. (About 1,000 requests for appearances roll in every year; Anheuser-Busch says yes to about half of them). The Clydesdales are also an advertising mainstay on huge events such as the Super Bowl.
"We really don't have plans to deviate more or less," Shipley said. "Just maintain the high level of quality and exposure."