Free alcohol is a big draw in any context. But free booze, in addition to an opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at how some of the world’s most popular beers are made? That’s hard to turn down.
The Anheuser-Busch / Budweiser Brewery tour in St. Louis is entirely free for those who want the basic tour of the grounds. Here’s the inside scoop about the Budweiser tour.
About the St. Louis Budweiser Brewery Tour
TripAdvisor recently named the St. Louis Budweiser Brewery tour the #1-ranked brewery tour in the country. Tours generally run every 30 minutes from 10 am to 5 pm. During the spring and summer, tour hours are extended, and during winter, the last tour starts at 4:30 pm.
The tour is easily accessible by public transportation. I took a bus from downtown that stopped right in front of the Budweiser complex, which is enormous – they even have their own credit union on the grounds. The complex features plenty of signs directing visitors to the tour site, about a 10-minute walk from the bus stop.
Our tour group consisted of about 30 people, along with a guide whose disheveled hair made it look like he just rolled out of bed. But that was cool – people who want to learn about beer generally aren’t going to be bothered by a sloppy haircut.
The Budweiser tour “lounge” area
While I waited for the tour to start, I was able to wander around the main room at the tour facility. The room offers displays about topics like the brewing process itself, Budweiser’s famous Clydesdale horses, the specific ingredients in the beer, the locations of Bud breweries across the country, and more.
There’s also a gift shop. I didn’t bother to enter it since I’m not a fan of overpriced gift shop relics, but if you care for an Anheuser-Busch keychain or postcard, go for it.
Clydesdale horses and more sights on the tour
The tour involves a lot of walking and a good bit of time outside, so if you visit in the winter, dress appropriately. When the tour began, the guide took us outside to see two Clydesdale horses. I had no idea horses could be this massive – they had to be at least seven feet tall!
Next, it was into the Beechwood aging cellar, where the guide showed us the wood used during the filtering process. We stood next to enormous drums which each hold enough beer to provide 1.2 million servings. The thought of that much alcohol is overwhelming!
Then, it was off to another building to see the mash tanks and, finally, the bottling room, where thousands of still-unlabeled bottles made their way down conveyor belts. That was one of the coolest parts of the tour, seeing thousands of future bottles of Bud without labels and caps.
From there, the Budweiser shuttle trolley took the group back to the main building for the beer sampling.
Free beer on the Budweiser Brewery Tour
We were ushered into the café and offered two glasses of about a dozen different beers on tap. I went with Bud Light Lime and a Christmas-themed winter ale. Sadly, I didn’t notice the blueberry-flavored beer until it was too late. I immediately regretted not trying it. Blueberry beer!
We were also given small bags of pretzels and had the opportunity to use the soft drink bar as well, which I also took advantage of, since I was really thirsty and root beer is a much better thirst-quencher than alcohol.
Two beers is a nice free gift at the end of the tour. There’s no limit to how long you can spend in the café, so I suppose if you go with a friend who isn’t a beer drinker, you could conceivably down four beers, get smashed and have your friend drive you home (not that I’d recommend such a thing, of course…)
The St. Louis Beermaster Tour and Other Budweiser Plant Tours
Since my visit, the Budweiser Brewery has come up with different types of tour experiences.
The General Brewery Tour is the most basic. This is the free tour. It lasts 45 minutes, and you can either show up for first-come, first-serve access, or reserve a specific time online for $5.
The general tour takes visitors to see the Clydesdale horses and the full brewing process. However, guests on this tour do not get to sample the beer. Lame!
The next step up is the Day Fresh Tour, which costs $10 and lasts 75 minutes. This one is like the general tour, but adds on a trip to the aging cellar and the packaging facility. It also provides free beer samples and one bottle to take home. I’d recommend this tour for most people.
Finally, there’s the Beermaster Tour, which provides an even more behind-the-scenes look at the brewing process. This two-hour tour, designed for the really dedicated, hardcore beer lover, costs $35 per person. Guests on this tour receive a sample of beer straight out of the finishing tank!
Budweiser also offers brewery tours at its other locations in Fort Collins, Colorado and Merrimack, New Hampshire. I’ve never taken those tours, but if you have, leave a comment and let us know how you enjoyed your Budweiser plant tour!