Book review

The family behind Budweiser

Bitter Brew
William Knoedelseder
This book is about the rather messed-up family behind Anheuser-Busch – the makers of Budweiser.
And it’s a pretty good read (aside from the odd error, such as referring to the legendary Beer Hunter as ‘‘Peter Jackson’’. I do admit I found it a bit confusing keeping track of all the members of the Busch clan, which is the fault of the family and not Knoedelseder. I mean there were so many IIIs and IVs that I wondered if the Busch family thought there were only a handful of names in existence and they had to keep recycling them.

For mine the most illuminating part of the book is the terrible relationship each son who becomes the boss had with their father who was in charge before them. In each case, the dad is distant, more focused on being the boss of a brewery than a father.
They also push their sons relentlessly, in some misguided notion that it will make them better businessmen. It might do that but it also seems to encourage the father-son cycle to repeat itself.
Of particular interest was the antics of the last Busch in charge, August IV. A drinker and a partier, he was allegedly involved in the deaths of at least two women. One died in a car accident while he was driving (the authorities felt he was drunk at the time but the samples were magically destroyed before being tested) another died of a drug overdose while in his bed.
He was also by most accounts, not that great a businessman. Which would go some way to explaining how the company was taken over on his watch.

The book also talks about how the Budweiser Frogs commercial was genius (and also clears up claims that August IV came up with the idea. I don’t see what the fuss is at all

Much more enjoyable were the Spuds MacKenzie clips.

But maybe that’s because I think the ’80s fashions are hilarious.

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