Billy Busch is expanding Kräftig beer to several new markets in Missouri, including Kansas City and Kirksville.
The expansion set to begin next week will fill out distribution statewide in Missouri, and add another Illinois market, Busch told the Post-Dispatch. Last year, Kräftig expanded sales to Texas, Rolla and Springfield, Mo.
Beginning next week, Kräftig will expand sales to Kansas City, Hannibal, St. Joseph and Kirksville, Mo., and Quincy, Ill.
The brewer tapped several wholesalers to handle the distribution: Kansas City-based Central States Beverage Co.; Quincy-based Mississippi Belle Distributing Co.; Hannibal-based Mark Twain Distributing; Kirksville-based Lloyd Distributing Co.; and St. Joseph-based O’Malley Beverage.
“We’re rounding out the state,” Busch said of Missouri. “It’s our biggest expansion in the state since we started.”
Since founding the William K Busch Brewing Co. 2011, the maker of Kräftig lager and Kräftig light beer grew production to 13,000 barrels in 2015, a 17 increase in Missouri versus 2014, and a 9 percent increase in the St. Louis area. The growth in Missouri came as overall beer sales in fiscal 2015 dropped 3 percent.
“Our goal is to hit 17,000 barrels this year,” Busch said. “It’s our goal to be a national brand someday.”
By comparison, the St. Louis Brewery, maker of Schlafly Beer and St. Louis’ largest craft brewer, produced just under 60,000 barrels in 2015.
Since Kräftig launched, the number of breweries locally and nationally has grown substantially, making it more difficult for regional brewers to expand distribution nationally, said Eric Shepard, vice president and executive editor of industry publication Beer Marketer’s Insights.
There were 4,144 breweries in the U.S. as of the end of November, according to the Brewers Association trade group, topping a record set in the 1870s.
“In 2011, the sky was the limit,” Shepard said of smaller brewers seeking a nationwide footprint. “In the last two years, there’s so much competition and so many more players, the idea of going national has gotten riskier.”
Another challenge brewers face is consumers increasingly turning to local options, according to Shepard.
“‘Local’ is more of a cachet now than it was in 2011,” he said. “Building a local following and expanding in your own state or region is a safer model because of increasing competition.”
Busch remains bullish on Kräftig’s growth potential despite an increasing number of beers consumers have to choose from.
Kräftig stands apart from craft beer and other lagers, he says, by adhering to Reinheitsgebot, the German beer purity law that restricts ingredients to water, barley, yeast and hops.
Busch is the great-grandson of Anheuser-Busch founder Adolphus Busch, but he never worked at A-B. Billy Busch says he founded Brentwood-based William K Busch Brewing to create another chapter in the family’s brewing history following the 2008 sale of St. Louis-based A-B to InBev.
Kräftig is currently produced at the City Brewing Co. in La Crosse, Wis., and Busch said he continues to scout for property in the St. Louis region to build his own brewery.
Busch is seeking to take full ownership of the family-owned Grant’s Farm animal park in south St. Louis County to keep it in the Busch family and build a small brewery for production of draft beer on a portion of the land, he said. If he buys the Grant’s Farm property, Billy Busch said he’d still pursue building a larger Kräftig brewery elsewhere in St. Louis.
“Our goal is to build a brewery here in the next several years,” Billy Busch said. “If I’m fortunate enough to buy Grant’s Farm, we would build a small brewery there for our draft needs. We don’t want to hurt the character and integrity of Grant’s Farm.”
However, four Busch family members oppose the sale to Billy Busch and instead are pursuing a sale of 198 acres of Grant’s Farm land to the St. Louis Zoo.
Those Busch heirs who oppose the land sale to Billy Busch filed a lawsuit last year, and a hearing in the case in St. Louis Circuit Court is set for March 28.