Brewing Beer in St. Louis

Anheuser Busch Barley Cleaning House and Elevators, 1911 postcard.

It has been estimated that at one time during the mid nineteenth century St. Louis had anywhere from 40 to 53 breweries. Possibly the earliest brewed beer in St. Louis was concocted by a John Coons, a few years after 1804, when the territory was purchased by the United States.  By 1810 one of St. Louis' original French residents, Jacques St. Vrain, a former officer of the Spanish government, opened the St. Vrain Brewery. But beer production and consumption did not really become popular until waves of German immigrants reached St. Louis. [Pictured at left is bottle from the Henry Grone Brewery, that was located at 2219 Clark avenue, producing beer and soda water from 1861-1934. This bottle was found by the author in a creek in north St. Louis County]




Some historic breweries in St. Louis:

Of all the breweries St. Louis offered, Anheuser Busch became the most successful. Its most popular beer, Budweiser, was first sold in 1876. Today in 2002, Budweiser Lite is the world's number one brew. One of Busch's advertisements published in 1903 was the song, "Under the Anheuser Bush" (words by Andrew Sterling and music by Henry von Tilzer. Its chorus went," Come, Come, Come and make eyes with me, Under the Anheuser Bush Come, Come, drink some “Budwise” with me.." In the early 1900's one could hear this song played with the piano at the local dime store. That's when dime store's sold sheet music, before records became real popular. If you have never heard this song or read the words, select the following link and hear it now: "Under the Anheuser Bush".

The outlaw of alcoholic beverages, called "Prohibition" in 1919 was disastrous for St. Louis breweries. Hundreds of people were laid off of work and breweries had to try to survive until the prohibition law could be repealed. For example, Falstaff made brewer's yeast and Busch produced non-alcoholic beverages, like "near beer". In the meantime, prohibitionist in the city were happy. One prohibitionist song, "John Barley Corn Good-bye" (audio available online) was published in 1919 by John Stark in St. Louis.

But with St. Louis being a beer city, alcohol consumption did not die with prohibition. Instead it went underground with bootleg wine, beer or whiskey. Most was produced in small quantities in resident's cellars, but larger quantities were peddled by organized crime. This black market ended with the repeal of prohibition on April 7, 1933, a day when St. Louis' taverns were packed to capacity.

Glass Plate Photography of 1914-1917 construction work at Anheuser Busch Brewery by J. R. Eike, Thomas Kempland Collection:

For a complete listing of glass plate photography by J.R. Eike, visit:

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