Executives of the new William K. Busch Brewing Co. want you to know two things about them:
They have no association with Anheuser-Busch InBev, even though their company's namesake and chairman is a great-grandson of A-B founder Adolphus Busch.
And they are not setting out to make craft beers, even though their brewmaster spent the past 16 years making craft beers for Morgan Street Brewery, a St. Louis brewpub.
William K. "Billy" Busch and his management team hammered home those points last week during an unveiling of their brewery's flagship brands, Kräftig Lager and Kräftig Light, at Forest Park's World's Fair Pavilion. The beers began showing up in bars and restaurants and on retail shelves over the weekend; distribution areas include St. Louis, St. Charles, Jefferson and Franklin counties.
"There is no connection between us and A-B," said James F. Hoffmeister, Busch Brewing's president and CEO.
That said, three of the new brewery's top five employees — Hoffmeister, COO Gary J. Prindiville Jr. and executive director Michael J. Brooks — were longtime A-B executives. And their beers — an American lager and a light lager — will be familiar to the palates of any Budweiser or Bud Light drinker. (Kräftig's press materials note that its beers are not brewed with "rice, corn or other adjunct grains to reduce costs or alter taste.")
Busch wants his brewery, like A-B, to be a major player in the beer market.
Hoffmeister said, "We are a mainline beer company, not a microbrewery."
Despite the scale of the brewery's ambitions, its principals say they are committed to producing high-caliber beer.
Kräftig Lager and Kräftig Light (pronounced CREF-tig, it is German for "powerful") are being brewed under contract in La Crosse, Wis.
"Not a drop is brewed unless I am there," chief brewing officer Marc Gottfried said.
The audience at the World's Fair Pavilion applauded when Hoffmeister promised to "build our headquarters and our brewery" in St. Louis in the next few years.
So far, sales appear to be swift. The Schnucks store near Plaza Frontenac reported selling 12 cases of the beer (about $6.50 a six-pack) in less than 24 hours.
Clearly, Busch has assembled a team with the experience and cash needed to run a big brewery. (I haven't been to any other beer launch party that featured an ice sculpture.) And Gottfried can make great beers.
I appreciate Busch's desire to return his family name to the ranks of St. Louis' independent brewers. And I hope he makes good on his word to build his brewery here, employing local workers.
I'm not sure I understand why Busch is declaring that his company is not a craft brewery; until it brews 6 million barrels a year or starts using adjunct ingredients, that's exactly what it is, according to the Brewers Association.
Running a brewery is in Busch's blood, and a pedigree like that can only help when you're trying to make the Next Great American Lager.
More info enjoykraftig.com
Evan's pick: Summit Extra Pale Ale
Lowdown: Although Minnesota's Summit Brewing Co. has been making its flagship Extra Pale Ale since 1986, the brewery added Missouri to its distribution network just last month. The brew's longevity and popularity make sense once you taste its easy-to-drink balance of citrusy hops and bready malts.
Price: About $7.50 a six-pack.
Where to find it: The Wine and Cheese Place, 7435 Forsyth Boulevard, Clayton.