By Dianne Sudbrock
Sales for Kräftig and Kräftig Light beer, flagship products of the William K. Busch Brewing Company, are exceeding expectations according to company Chairman Billy Busch.
Launched in November, 2011, Kräftig and Kräftig Light are Premium American Lagers, designed to appeal to people who drink other American style lagers such as Budweiser, Bud Light, Coors and Coors Light, Miller and Miller Light.
Billy is the son of August A. “Gussie” Busch and great-grandson of Aldolphus Busch. I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with him and company Brewmaster, Marc Gottfried (who happens to live in Defiance) to talk about the new company and its two new beers.
When asked why he wanted to start a new brewing company Billy said, “My family has been brewing beer for 150 years, and I wanted to keep that wonderful tradition alive—in the family and in St. Louis.
Also, I think there’s a great of opportunity to start a beer company right now because there are not a lot of American-owned breweries left that sell premium lagers. Most of the current premium lager breweries are foreign-owned. I think there’s a pretty good demand for an American-owned and brewed premium lager.”
What is a lager, you might ask? Marc explained it this way, “If beer was a family tree there would be two stalks – one for ale and one for lager. Virtually every other type of beer is a category of one of those two. For instance, pilsner is a type of lager.”
A fundamental distinction between ales and lagers is the type of yeast used and the fermentation process (warmer for ales, cooler for lagers.) Both ales and lagers can range from dark to light, bitter to sweet, and high alcohol content to low.
Billy said he wanted to brew a Premium American Lager because “Probably 80% of the beer consumed in the U.S. is an American Lager style beer.” He continued, “What makes our beer different – and better – is that we follow the Reinheitsgebot, the German Beer Purity Law of 1516.” That means Kräftig and Kräftig Light are made with only the four ingredients used by classically-trained German Brewmasters: hops, barley (malt), yeast and water.
A lot of mainstream brewers use other ingredients, like corn, rice and other additives. Those other ingredients are generally less expensive, but also affect taste. Billy said, “I think we are the only mainstream brewer that uses only the four traditional ingredients; and I believe we’ve created two of the finest American Lagers ever made. They are smooth, clean and flavorful with a hint of sweetness that we’re really, really proud of.”
Before joining Billy in this venture, Marc was head Brewmaster at the Morgan Street Brewery in downtown St. Louis for 16 years, and a writer for beer industry publications. He is a two-time and current World Beer Cup Champion in the Bohemian Pilsner category. (The World Beer Cup is a global competition – i.e. the “Olympics” for beer.)
Billy said when he started looking for a Brewmaster for his new company he heard a lot of wonderful things about Marc. “Marc has a great reputation throughout the beer world and especially in St. Louis, and he specialized in lagers,” Billy said. “In addition, he’s young, passionate, and great to work with. I could tell in his voice the first time I met him that his passion was the same as mine for making the finest premium lager in the market.”
Marc started brewing beer at home when he was 14 years old. It is his life’s passion, and he is very excited to be involved with the Busch family brewing legacy. “I feel very privileged to have been selected to part of the team Billy put together to launch his company,” Marc said.
Marc attributes much of Kräftig’s and Kräftig Light’s taste and development to Billy. He said, “Billy had an idea of what he wanted in a beer. He brought in world famous Brewmasters from Germany who provided a framework from which we began. It was definitely a team effort, but it was Billy’s input and vision that led us to the end result.” Marc said, “It takes people who are willing to spill their guts about how they want the beer to taste, look, smell and feel, and then a Brewmaster to know how to do that with ingredients.”
Perfecting the recipes for the two beers took about two years. Though Kräftig and Kräftig Light are not “craft” beers, Marc said the development approach was similar to craft brewing in that Billy put the emphasis on quality and taste rather than cost. “We were told, ‘Lets make the best beer we can make first, then develop the business plan and determine if we can we really do this.’” Billy explained that the emphasis on quality was a lesson learned from his father who strongly believed that consumers were smart and understood quality.
The brand name, Kräftig (pronounced “kreff-tig) is a German word that means strong and powerful. It is not a word meant to describe the taste of the beer, but rather to communicate the company’s intent for the brand to be a strong and powerful entity in the U.S. premium beer market, and to tie the brand to the German heritage of the Busch brewing tradition.
Currently, the beer is brewed at City Brewing in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, a state-of –the-art brew house where the company leases time. Marc personally brews every batch from start to finish and oversees the packaging process.
The beer is distributed through Summit Distributing in Missouri and Fritz Distributing in Illinois. It is sold at nearly all the major grocery and discount stores, including Schnucks, Dierbergs, Wal-Mart, and Target; convenience stores and gas stations, bars, taverns restaurants and liquor stores throughout the greater St. Louis area.
So far, sales have exceeded expectations and customer loyalty is growing. If things go as planned, Billy intends to build a brewery in the St. Louis area that will create jobs, have a positive influence on the St. Louis economy, and be a supportive corporate participant in the community. The plan is to build a loyal customer following in the St. Louis area first, then expand the company to become a regional and national premium American Lager brewer.
Residents of southwestern St. Charles County can find Kräftig and Kräftig Light at Liz’s Bar and Grill, Short Stop’s and Centerfield’s Convenience Stores, Fireside Bar and Grill, Terry and Kathy’s Bar, Double D Market, plus numerous places in Wentzville, Lake St. Louis and Washington, Missouri. You might also find Billy and/or Marc in one of the local establishments enjoying a Kräftig with area residents.
Marc lives in the Callaway Valley subdivision south of New Melle and has been president of Callaway Lake Owners Association for about seven years. Besides brewing beer for most of his life, Marc has also played a lot of paintball! He played professional and semi-professional paintball for 20 years. He was head referee for the “world series” of paintball and has been on ESPN and Fox Sports Net. He left that position to clear his plate to work with the William K. Busch Brewing Company.
Billy has owned property in the New Melle/Defiance area for about 15 years. A few years ago he opened the Blue Heron Farm Polo Field and also purchased the former Bridlespur Hunt Club, both of which are located on Benne Road. On May 25, 26 and 27, 2012, the Bridlespur Horse Show will be held at Blue Heron Farm and the Friends of Kids With Cancer will have their annual fall event at that location as well.
There will also be weekly polo matches again this summer at the Blue Heron Polo Field, starting with charity matches June 9 (for Epworth Children’s Foundation) and June 16 (for the Endangered Wolf Centers.) Regular weekly polo matches will begin June 30 and will continue each Saturday at 3 p.m. through August 24. (Note: Start time may be later in very hot weather.) Tournaments/special events will be Sundays, June 24, and Aug. 12 through Sept. 9. On any given week, spectators could very well see world class players at the Blue Heron Polo Field.
Admission for the polo matches is free except for charity events. The community is invited to come out and enjoy the sport. Be aware, however, that there are no concessions for the weekly events, so bring your own refreshments. (Kräftig and Kräftig Light are highly suggested!)