by DICK KEREKES
Visit Jacksonville held its third annual media night at the Budweiser. Entertaining U was invited to a fun evening at Anheuser-Busch at 111 Busch Drive in North Jacksonville just off Dunn Avenue. This reporter took a tour of the brewery back in the seventies and it was delightful to revisit and learn about the many changes that have occurred in the beer making world.
Members of the media were greeted in the tour hospitality room by Patty Jiménez, Communications Manager of Visit Jacksonville. Patty gave us a brief rundown of the things Visit Jacksonville does to bring about 400 groups to Jacksonville and the Beaches each year for conventions, trade shows, and meetings. These visitors spend money in hotels, restaurants, and stores, which benefits all of our residents. Visit Jacksonville is funded by a percentage of the bed tax paid by visitors who rent lodging during their Jacksonville stays. Visit Jacksonville works year round to book convention groups in this area who will keep those cash registers ringing. In looking over some of the conventions already booked for the next five years, I noticed that July 2015 should be a magical time in downtown Jacksonville when over 1,000 members of the International Brotherhood of Magicians along with their friends, families, agents, and suppliers will be occupying rooms in River City.
Before we learned interesting facts about beer and the brewery, Sticky Fingers Smokehouse provided delicious barbeque from one of their local restaurants.
There are three types of tours available to the public; tours are scheduled daily, except for Sundays. The Free Tour is offered about nine times a day and takes about 45 minutes. The tour ends in the hospitality room where visitors age 21 and older can sample finished product. For designated drivers and younger guests, a free soda fountain is available that even has caffeine-free roof beer.
Two other specialized tours are available for a small fee. Beer School is about 30 minutes long, and teaches guests about varieties of beer styles, pouring techniques, and suggested food pairings. Guests have to be 21 or older to attend. The cost is $10 and includes a sampling of the product and gifts.
The Beermaster Tour is a two-hour experience that provides an opportunity to go behind the scenes for a look at the brewing of Budweiser. Closed toe shoes and pants are required for safety reasons. The tour includes visits to the Brew Hall, Fermentation Cellar, Lager Cellar, Packaging Facility, Quality Control, and the Finishing Cellar where guests over 21 will receive a sample directly from a finishing tank. The tour finishes in the Hospitality Room with product sampling and a variety of gifts The cost is $25 dollars for adults and $10 for those ages 13 to 20.
For reservations or additional information, call 904-751-8117 or visit www.budweisertours. com
Fourteen different beers are brewed and bottled here, with Budweiser, of course being the most popular. Water comes from three wells under the building that go down 900 feet. Reverse osmosis is used for purification. In additional to barley malt and hops, Busch uses rice to make Bud and Bud Light with the various Busch Breweries using 15% of all the rice grown in this county. Many beer producers use corn in making their beers, and Busch produces several beers using corn as well.
At the Media event we had the opportunity to sample two new beers that may be produced for the mass market. The Brewmaster wanted our impression of the beers, currently known only as batch 543 and 548. After a number of samplings with various groups at Budweiser plants throughout the county, a beer may be selected, brewed, and packaged for a test market in a selected city. If the beer is well received, it may go into production at one or more of the breweries.
To complete the evening, several of us visited the large gift shop that had a choice of many unique souvenirs; in addition we could purchase our favorite brews to take home.
This plant has been around since 1969, but is so well maintained and clean that it looks as if it had been built very recently. I was impressed with the displays that showed the history of beer brewing through the ages.
If you are having guests from out of state visiting in the future, by all means take them to the Jacksonville home of the King of Beers. The friendly people at this Anheuser-Busch location are quite proud of their facility and love visitors.
Thanks, Visit Jacksonville and Budweiser, for a very interesting evening. It was both enjoyable and informative.
BUDWEISER BREWERY – JACKSONVILLE'S UNIQUE TOURIST ATTRACTION
by DICK KEREKES