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June 10 2012 / Emily

Anheuser-Busch Brewery Tour

On Monday, June 4, my  family visited the Merrimack, New Hampshire Anheuser-Busch Brewery.  We were in NH for a funeral but between a Sunday wake and the Monday evening services, there was a chunk of time which needed filling, rather than just sitting in our hotel.  Turns out we were about 15 minutes from the Brewery, and they offered free tours.  My parents don’t drink, but we were all intrigued when we heard the iconic Clydesdale Horses were stabled there as well.  Plus, the free tour probably appealed to my father significantly more than the other idea – a trip to the local mall.

We drove on to the brewery property and as we exited the car, the rainy air smelled like we were about to visit a bakery, not a brewery.  Of course, beer is sometimes referred to as “liquid bread,” so the similar scent is unsurprising.  It reminded me of the sourdough bakery I ran past in the first few miles of the San Francisco marathon last summer – I didn’t think I was hungry until that fantastic smell wafted my way.  We received our tickets and had about 10 minutes to wait before the tour began, and spent that time in the main lobby area which had a number of displays on the history of the Anheuser-Busch company.  Six or seven other folks were on the tour along with my family, and a worker poured us all a small cup of Budweiser to sip while we got the introduction from our tour guide, and soon we were on our way.

Tickets – I hadn’t realized Natty Light was in the Anheuser-Busch family… nor that “Natty” was an actual accepted nickname! Pretty sure the cans say Natural Light. Ah, it was the nectar of college.

handsome lobby area – love the rafters

don’t worry, we had a guide!

me and the brewery!

I’ll just note that while the guide told us a lot about the beer making process, I’m not going to try and regurgitate all of that information here.  I’ll probably get things mixed up, and this isn’t a “how to make Budweiser” research blog either.  🙂  It was just neat to explore the brewery.  I’ve previously toured the Coors brewery in Golden, Colorado so I did make some mental comparisons of those two big-dogs in the American beer industry.

I made sure to follow the posted signs for the tour – as well as holding the handrail appropriately! There actually were a number of places throughout the brewery where the floors were quite slippery, due to very frequent cleaning. Lots of smooth tile floors throughout and I’m sure we all know those can be dangerous. They made careful note of this and asked those of us on the tour to use caution. No problems!

be careful on the tour!

The assorted giant kettles hold the ingredients during their transition from hops and rice and barley and water into the beer most of us are rather familiar with. The bulk of the beer produced from this factory is Bud Light (the best selling beer in the world), so although I don’t know for sure what’s in process in these photos, it’s most likely Bud Light. Though as you will see in some later photos, they were bottling Budweiser, so it’s not just Bud Light!

mashing process

brew kettles

primary fermentation – looks complicated!

beechwood chips for filtering

me among some of the many filtering tanks

After all the beer-production areas, we came to my favorite part – the packaging area!  While we were there, they were bottling Budweiser.  But they also do cans here.  It was really noisy.  Lots of general machinery noise as well as all the bottles clacking along the belts, bumping one another.  I also imagined how I’d feel if people took tours of my workplace – and photographs! – during my day-to-day.  Don’t think I’d like that.  And it must be a challenge to work in such a noisy environment.  I realize now that there are no workers in any of my photos, but there were a number down there getting things done.  Maybe they were wearing headphones to block some of the noise.

labeler machine – not in use at the moment

so. many. bottles.

Budweiser moving along the conveyors

incredible capacity

empty bottles moving along to be filled. note some broken ones on the floor along with what I assume to be beer foam. biggest party foul ever.

After the tour, we were guided to the tasting room, where (for free!) we could each have two glasses of our choices of beer, along with a bag of pretzels (palate cleansing?).  I selected a classic Budweiser and the Shock Top Shandy.  I do love a shandy in the summer – beer is refreshing, lemonade is refreshing, so combining the two is perfect!  They also had set up some cases of their special America cans into the shape of a flag.  Very clever packaging!  When these cans first launched last summer, I definitely chose them specifically for the cans a few times at the store.  Specifically on the 4th of July!

Meredith and me with the Budweiser flag and our beers

My beers – Budweiser and Shock Top Lemon Shandy

Next it was on to the Clydesdale Stables.  What fantastic horses these are.  There were about 8 of them in their stalls that day.  I was a bit disappointed not to be able to get closer, or take photos without the bars of their enclosures in the way, but I can understand the need to keep them contained and safe from visitors.  Each had their name printed above their stall.  We saw one “pee like a racehorse” which is rather impressive really, and another horse fart.  Somehow I never thought about horses farting and it cracked us all up.  Quite the noise producers, those Clydesdales!  Maybe they learned from the bottles in the factory.

heading to the horses

for transporting the Clydesdales, when they aren’t providing the horsepower!

they seemed like friends 🙂

me & Duffy the Clydesdale

look how big their shoes are compared to the standard horse!

fancy wagons they might pull

wagon specifically for Merrimack Brewery

harnesses the horses would wear for pulling the wagons

Finally, if you love the Budweiser commercials as much as I do (real talk: most of the time, their Super Bowl commercials with the animals make me cry) you’ll have noticed their dalmatians as well.  We were so excited to see one of the dalmatians come through the stables while we were touring!  He was such a well-mannered dog.

me and the pup

Me, Dad, dalmatian 🙂

It was a very enjoyable tour!  Compared to the Coors tour in Golden, this one was more open.  As I recall, this one seemed to have guests walk through more of the actual brewery, while I think Coors was more of a room with many windows overlooking the brewing floor.  Also, most of the Coors used copper kettles instead of whatever material these silver-colored Budweiser kettles were.

Touring breweries is lots of fun.  I’d like to see more!  And fancy that – I will be going to another one this weekend when I go up to Pennsylvania to visit my sister and run the Double Creek Half Marathon.  We plan on visiting Tröegs, which is a much smaller facility, of course, since it’s not a mass-producer like Budweiser and Coors.  They make macro-brews instead, so it should be interesting to see the differences, if I can notice any besides the smaller scale.

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4 Comments

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  1. hinsone / Jun 10 2012 9:15 PM

    That seems really cool! I was very disappointed last time I went to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg they don’t do the brewery tours there anymore. They also have Clydesdales in Williamsburg (or at least the used too). I love touring wineries and there’s a ton of them here in NC. Pretty similar process, but of course smaller. I’m not a huge fan of A-B beers (although I do have a 12 pack of Shock Top currently residing in the fridge) but I’d love to do the tour. Obviously the food scientist in me is fascinated by food/beverage manufacturing plants. Hate the reason for the trip, but glad you had a little fun while you were there.

  2. SgtHarp / Jun 10 2012 10:42 PM

    Your old man is our good-looking dude….

Trackbacks

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