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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on December 7, 2012
Wow - I never thought I would say a book about Anheuser-Busch brewing history would be a page turner but I'm happily wrong. The story hits on all cylinders in my opinion. Yes, it's a story filled with scandal about a really colorful family. But it's more than that. It talks to what I think is wrong with today's corporate culture as well. How businesses in this country started out good but have become corrupted over the years. Through the good and bad, the Busch family played a major part in the American business landscape. It was great to see the whole story unfold and tough to see the kingdom come down in the end. Bill does a great job of setting the table and keeping your interest throughout the book. I'm not kidding when I say you won't want to put this down.
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on November 11, 2012
I live in the metropolitan St. Louis area and the Busch family is part of the culture and history here. I found this book to be intriguing and a bit sad as well. Money really cannot buy you happiness and this book tells the family's tragic story. Well written and engrossing. I literally could not put it down.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon November 24, 2013
More a biography of the Busch family than it is a book about their beer empire, it was compelling nonetheless, with sons conspiring against fathers, orgies, and the final, tragic and sad collapse of the empire when their drug-addict CEO, after having pushed his dad out of the way, let the company fall out of Busch hands for the first time in 150 years.

As a longtime beer geek I enjoyed this more than I expected. I should have disliked it, largely because I expected to be reading about the beer industry and instead ended up reading about a quirky, unusual family. Didn't matter, though, because their story was so compelling I didn't CARE that my expectations were thrown off.

If you want a book on the beer industry, this one is fairly light (though there is some worthwhile material here), but if you want a book on the rise and fall of American royalty, this is it.
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21 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on November 13, 2012
This book is really good. I just wanted more and hope it's not the last word about the rise and fall of the Anhauser-Busch and the extended Busch family, the royal family of St. Louis and their castle on Grant's Farm. It is the best post-WWII chronicle to date of the company and to a lesser extent of St. Louis itself. Every page is replete with larger than life characters and urban legends that have been whispered about in St. Louis for decades.

If August A. Busch III ever tells his story it would be fascinating but given the sad, sad story of his son "The Fourth" I can understand if he remains silent. Telling the truth might amount to kicking a man while he is down. Hopefully, there will be a book some day about the comeback, personally and professionally, of August A. Busch IV.

"Bitter Brew" largely glosses over the early years of the brewery and the culture that produced one of the world's most recognizable brands. It also just touches upon the descent of the company since the InBev takeover as necessary cost cutting has replaced tradition and what built Budweiser in the first place. One can make a case that InBev saved the company from itself and at least there is no evidence that they have compromised on quality. I would have also liked it to address issues such as the battles over the original Budvar brewery in the Czech Republic and Gussie Busch's role as a civic leader who helped St. Louis avoid racial riots in the 1960's. A full scale biography of Gussie would be at the top of my Christmas wish list. In the meantime "Bitter Brew" will leave the reader, especially anyone interested in the beer business or family dynasties thirsty for more, just like a guy who wants more than one Budweiser after a hard days work. I could not put this book down.
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29 of 40 people found the following review helpful
William Knoedelseder chronicles a behind-the-scenes look at one of America's successful and popular brands of beer in this fascinating and colorful portrait of the bright side and dark side of success, and its consequences. A thought-provoking, well-researched and engrossing story about success, power, and tragedy.This saga portrays the legendary status of the family behind 'The King Of Beers.' As the famous Busch family goes down the tubes, it brings America down, and after reading this heartfelt story, one will never drink a bud and feel the same way again. The author delivers a detailed analysis about American progress and decline over the last 150 years in this amazing tale of loss. Although Knoedelseder describes the history of a powerful company in a heartwarming and hilarious ode to beer and business, he also includes concise information as to where it all began, and the sadness for its decline. An intriguing and interesting tale of how the 'King Of Beer' lost its crown! Interesting, powerfully moving, and Highly Recommended!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 11, 2014
Excellent book, with far more sources than the earlier DETHRONING THE KING (see my review), which better covered the financial aspects. Say what you want about the arrogance of the Busch family. August III accomplished pretty much everything he set out to do when he took control from his aging and out-or-touch father, August Bush, Jr., in 1974; fighting off the Phillip-Morris/Miller challenge, and achieving a U.S. market-share-growth from the low 20% to over 50%.
August III didn't take prisoners. We all knew success was richly-rewarded, but one screw-up and we were out. Anyone who didn't know Anheuser-Busch Co. was dominated by a locker-room mentality simply wasn't paying attention. For all his bullying, August demanded as much of himself as any of his executives. In doing so his unrelenting focus on the U.S. market blinded him to the worldwide changes, just as August. Jr., "Gussie," had lost touch with changes in his time.
What August III did to Denny Long and Jetty Ritter was unforgivable. Denny's story alone would be far more interesting.
August IV was a self-indulgent, drug-abusing, world-class screw-up - a Midas in reverse. I believe August III came to appreciate both his son's shortcomings and his company's vulnerabilities far too late to do anything about it, held out for the highest price, and cashed in his chips.
The greater story is one of arrogance; arrogance of wealth, arrogance from political-power. The Founders hoped in their drafting of a Constitution and Bill of Rights to place limits on excessive political power. While the record of the U.S. is far from perfect, we haven't experiences many of the excesses of the larger world; in which government-genocides murdered over 165-million unarmed civilians in the 20th century alone - 5-times more than the deaths of all armed-combatants in all the wars of that century. As for the power of wealth, the free market as defined by Adam Smith, et al, to the extent we permit it to fairly function, does not eliminate excessive power. But at least it limits excesses in the long run. The Busch family ran a great game for five generations. But they abused their power and it brought U.S. ownership to an end. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 8, 2014
This is an entertaining, almost page-turning, look at the Anheuser Busch beer company, its history, and the Busch family members who ran the company, dealt with prohibition and the return from prohibition. Also touched on were the impact of Anheuser Busch on the city of St Louis and even a bit about the company's ownership of the St Louis Cardinals baseball team.

The Busch family members who ran the brewing company were quite colorful, particularly Gussie Busch, making this quite an interesting book. Not dry at all. Loved it!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 10, 2014
The connections to the rest of the world's event, the people and their understanding of their place in the world and the company, and the building of a world class brand is wonderfully revealed - it would be a great book for anyone loving history, business, and how easily it all crumbles.

It flowed easily and was an easy read, without so much data or detail to be cumbersome, but with enough to help demonstrate the "why?" behind the "what happened?"
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 5, 2012
Some families live by the rules and others believe they are above because of their fortunes. Yes they work hard for the largess, but that isn't license to lie cheat and kill. Ultimately the house collapses. Very sad accounting of what could have been.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on December 11, 2012
After reading Dethroning the King, there wasn't much new in this book. Dethroning the King was mostly about rise and fall of the company, but had plenty about the family, too. Bitter Brew was mostly about the family, but had plenty about the company, too. Dethroning the King had more meat to it than Bitter Brew....also less repetition throughout the book.
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