A look inside Anheuser-Busch's economic, environmental and cultural impact involved in operating a Jacksonville-based brewery where 99.6 percent of everything utilized in the manufacturing process is recycled.
William Ostner's Jax Brewing Company was the largest brewery to operate in Jacksonville before the 1969 arrival of Anheuser-Busch.
Although Philadelphia was the first place in this country where lager beer was made, it wasn't long before the brewing industry had discovered Jacksonville. As early as the 1870s, Philadelphia-based brewer Bergner & Engel was regularly sending refrigerated railcars, loaded with barrels of beer, to its West Bay Street depot in LaVilla's Railroad Row. Bergner & Engel would cease operations during prohibition but by that time brewers in St. Louis had taken note of Florida's gateway city. With assistance from his inlaws, the Schorr family of St. Louis-based Schorr-Kolkscheider Brewing Company, German immigrant William Ostner established the Jacksonville Brewing Company in 1913. Later called Jax Brewing Company, Ostner's flaghship project, Jax Beer, a German-style pilsner, became one of the most popular drinks in the southeast. During Jax Brewing's early 20th century heyday, the Durkeeville brewer was one of the city's largest employers, churning out 200,000 barrels of beer annually.
60 years later, beer still means big business in Jacksonville and the rest of the country. According to the Beer Institute's 2015 Beer Serves America Economic Contribution Study, an estimated 196 million barrels of beer are produced by more than 5,150 brewers in the United States annually. The same report states that in Florida there were 222 breweries with a combined direct workforce of 1,384.
The lion's share of those jobs are located in Jacksonville and a direct impact of another brewer with historical ties to St. Louis. A fixture in Jacksonville's manufacturing scene since 1969, Anheuser-Busch's third largest U.S. brewery produces 9 million barrels of beer annually. Anheuser-Busch's roots date back to 1852 with German American brewer George Schneider establishing the Bavarian Brewery in St. Louis. In 1960, the operation was purchased by William D'Oench and German-born soap manufacturer Eberhard Anheuser. In 1869, Anheuser's son-in-law Adolphus Busch purchased D'Oench's share. In 1957, Anheuser-Busch became the largest brewer in the United States.
Recently, Modern Cities was invited for a behind-the-scenes tour of the Jacksonville brewery with plant general manager Craig Tomeo, brewing business process manager Brittany Bass, and brewmaster Carl Belshause. Also included was a trip to the brewery's tasting room for a five course meal developed by Riverside favorite Black Sheep, to pair local foods with various brands produced at the brewery and its Home Brew Club.
Covering 1.4 million square feet, the manufacturing operations of the brewery are pretty impressive. Operating 24/7, the 205-acre plant site recieves regular shipments of raw ingredients by rail, accommodates 235 trucks each day and even includes its own natural gas power plant. Brands produced include Budweiser, Bud Light, Busch, Busch Light, Michelob Light, Michelob, AmberBock, Michelob ULTRA, Natural Light, Natural Ice, Shocktop and Landshark.
To ensure consistency, every product produced in the brewery is sampled every day at 3:00pm by staff. When asked how he found his way into the brewing business, Belshause, a millennial and Riverside resident of six months, responded "I've always been in manufacturing and always liked beer. So I found a way to put them together".