Anheuser-Busch Brewery Tour, St. Louis, Missouri
A road trip with a handle like "Beer and Now" obviously must include ice-cold alcoholic beverages in some integral facet. For us, the real fun started in St. Louis when we toured the Anheuser-Busch brewery.
A-B is the world’s third largest distributor of beer, pumping out about 117 million barrels of frosty, malty goodness a year. Aside from brewing all Budweiser products and the obvious Busch brand, A-B also puts together the Michelob family and the inexpensive college fave, Natural "Natty" Ice. We learned quickly that most of the brews with any sort of delectable taste actually came from St. Louis (more on that when we get to the Miller plant and are able to make some comparisons).
Walking into the red-bricked home base building, we stepped into a virtual Land of Oz for beer drinkers. The foyer opens up to a delicious Hall o’Booze, sporting everything from a replica of Dale Earnhardt Jr’s #8 Bud car, to a display that shows every beverage A-B makes. Basically, it was Disneyworld for grownups.
The tour itself was extremely lovely. We started our trek outside in the June sun, heading towards the Clydesdales, which are some sort of uber-horses with fuzzy feet that closely resemble snow-bunny boots. Kyle took a plethora of pictures outside of the stable and in, where we headed next, because his lady friend is a fan of all things equestrian.
We saw mash tanks and packing facilities (A-B can fill something like 2,000 cans of beer per minute), but the highlight of this tour was the end, where they give out free samples. See, through the entire course of the tour, nobody’s actually paying attention to anything the guides are saying because at the beginning, they inform everyone that "there will be free beer at the end of the tour." At one point, Kevin and I saw a drinking fountain and wondered if it dispensed liquor like some sort of freaky Willy Wonka brewery. It didn’t, but that’s just how delusional we were for beer at that point of the go round.
So we finally ended up in the Hospitality Area and were provided with free samples of basically any Busch brand beer we desired. One of the highlights was a combination of Amber Bock and a chocolate "Spyke," which gave the bevy an appetizing cold cocoa flavor.
Two drinks later we were feeling mighty flippant, finally woozy enough to convince ourselves that going up into the Gateway Arch would be a good idea, despite the fact that the elevators are the approximate size of a cereal box. So, after a brief dip into the gift shop (in which I bought a glass for four bucks, which I’m positive I never would’ve done if completely sober), we headed back towards the river.
The Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Missouri
I went up the Arch in second grade as part of an overnight field trip, but I have hardly any recollection of this experience at all, other than being able to look down into the middle of old Busch Stadium while a game was going on.
Kyle and I tried again the day after Thanksgiving in 2005, but that is apparently a pretty hectic travel day in The Lou, and lines stretched all the way outside in the biting November cold, and after waiting for about a half hour and moving only a few feet, my family decided to disband the mission.
So, we tried it again as part of our road trip this summer. Kyle and Kevin had never been up the Gateway Arch, which was built as a multiple memorial in the 1960s for: 1.) The Louisiana Purchase, 2.) The establishment of the first civic colony west of the Mississippi River, and 3.) The debate over slavery raised by the Dred Scott case. I guess the good people of St. Louis’s Memorial Building Committee wanted to commemorate several birds with one stone?
In any event, our timing at the Arch was impeccable. We just strutted right up to the ticket booth, purchased three admissions onto the tram, and walked straight back to the boarding docks, where we first met the impossibly small mouse-holes they wanted us to crawl through to head up the architectural masterpiece.
These miniscule elevators resemble something from "The Jetsons," but only if the Jetsons were about 60% adult human height. We had to duck our heads just to squeeze into the futuristic pods (something I didn’t remember because as a child, I was of proper height for this tram). It’s built for five, which would have made things extremely claustrophobic considering we were smushed with only the three of us. Of course that’s probably due mostly to the fact that we are all so ridiculously strong and verile.
But, after approximately four minutes of intense freaking out, we made it to the top and took our first ganders out of the observation windows. From that height, we spotted the Old Courthouse, the new Busch Stadium, and a wonderful view of the Muddy Mississippi and I-55. There’s not much else to say about being up there (other than if it’s windy, the Arch sways up to ten inches in either direction), but the view was extraordinary, and with sun streams pouring through fluffy white cumulus clouds in the early summer evening anyway, we bagged ourselves a pretty memorable experience.
Of course, also memorable was the four-minute journey back down in the same little futuristic pea pods. The sad thing is, that wasn’t even as claustrophobic as we’d feel on this trip. Something would be even worse…
BB's Blues, Jazz, & Soup and New Busch Stadium, St. Louis, Missouri
With an hour to go before the game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Cincinnati Reds, we decided that it would be in our best interest to eat something for market value outside of the ball park, instead of taking out a 15-year variable interest mortgage for a hot dog and a beer.
As it turns out, the best place to do this is only about a block south of the ball park at BB’s Blues, Jazz, and Soup. This restaurant came a la suggestion by Uncle Marty, and it turned out to be an excellent choice. We all indulged in a sandwich affectionately named "The Muffalatta," which consists of smoked ham, thick salami, melted provolone, and a spicy olive spread to add a little zip. It was one of the Top-3 Most Delicious Sandwiches I’ve Ever Eaten, and the beer was cheap—only $3.75 for a pint of Fat Tire.
With beer that cheap, Kyle and Kevin grabbed two a piece and left BB’s feeling like small children on a beeline for playground equipment. Unfortunately, we were too early for any blues music, the eating experience there was an A++.
Inside New Busch Stadium, which is still in its inaugural season, Kyle power-walked the concourse like a sixty-year old woman in a running suit at any local mall at 6am. Before the whole evening was done, however, that would be the most fun we’d have at the Cardinals game.
We quickly discovered that baseball games are entirely tedious if the viewer of said game has absolutely no vested interest in who wins the contest. Games become even more lackluster when the home team is getting whomped and there’s absolutely no music or crowd-warming gimmicks to keep the crowd entertained.
That said, New Busch Stadium is a gorgeous ball park. The old version was extremely hot and sticky because no air ever swirled into its giant bowl structure. New Busch is entirely open-air, with the St. Louis skyline fully visible beyond the outfield. Had the Cardinals been winning, and had the crowd been more into it, I’m sure it would’ve been more fun. But we were tired after a very long day, and nothing was really happening. Plus, we were stuffed to the brim with Muffalatta and Fat Tire, so we left in the fifth inning.
The very little left of our evening was spent at our Uncle Marty’s in Chesterfield (about thirty minutes west of St. Louis). He actually offered us more beer, but at that point in the day we had no choice but to decline. Kyle did drink a protein shake, though, and I had about seven liters of ice water. We slept like dogs that night.
And we were only getting started.
Next Installment, Coming Soon: Day 2 in Central & Western Missouri