William K. “Billy” Busch (second from right) spoke to UMSL advertising students about how he built his Kräftig brand from the ground up, and his plan to take the brand national. In the photo: (from left) Kräftig brewmaster Marc Gottfried; Kristy Tucciarone, assistant teaching professor of media studies at UMSL; Busch; and Gary Prindiville Jr., Kräftig chief operating officer. (Photo by Myra Lopez)

A year after it hit the St. Louis beer scene, the word Kräftig has become part of the area lexicon.

That’s quite a remarkable feat for a new beer company. So, how did it happen?

William K. “Billy” Busch shed some light on his fast-growing company during a recent speech to advertising students at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. He talked about how he built his Kräftig brand from the ground up and his plan to take the brand nationally.

Students also heard from brewmaster Marc Gottfried and Gary Prindiville Jr., chief operating officer.

The all-star speaking lineup was engineered by Kristy Tucciarone, assistant teaching professor of media studies at UMSL. She said the trio shared valuable advice with students.

“Busch’s brand Kräftig offered evidence to students that an idea for a product or a service can become a reality with passion, determination and lots of hard work,” Tucciarone said.

Billy Busch is the son of the late Anheuser-Busch Chief Executive Officer August A. “Gussie” Busch Jr. Billy Busch started in the beer business in 1984 as an independent beer wholesaler. He never actually worked for Anheuser-Busch.

Prior to starting his beer company in the summer of 2011, he and several colleagues worked on building a business plan for almost three years. The result? They came up with two brands – Kräftig Lager and Kräftig Light.

Last November, the company rolled out the beer to metro St. Louis and the metro east portion of Illinois.

“After the first year of being in business, I’m very happy with our company’s performance,” Busch said. “Sales have exceeded expectations, and I’m really happy with that.”

Ben Steinman, editor of Beer Marketer’s Insights, praised Kräftig’s marketing campaign in an interview with St. Louis Public Radio | 90.7 KWMU.

“It is very ambitious and well capitalized,” Steinman told St. Louis Public Radio, adding, “They are aiming right at the heart of the marketplace.”

Currently, Kräftig is brewed by Billy Busch’s team in LaCrosse, Wis., but Busch hopes to eventually bring the entire process to St. Louis.

“I do plan on building a brewery here in St. Louis one day,” he said to applause. Though, he added, “It’s not as easy as it sounds.”

From day one, he always planned on building a brewery. But it takes big bucks to build a brewery big enough to make Kräftig. “We need to build our brands up first, then we’ll be ready to invest in a brewery,” Busch said.

That is exactly what the company is doing. The plan right now is to keep the company local and continue to grow sales, gain market share and get a footprint in the local market. Ultimately, the company wants to expand into other markets, and eventually become a national brewery.

In 2008 Anheuser-Busch was sold to InBev, bringing an end to five generations of a Busch running the company.

“It was a great run,” he said of his family’s business, but also added that the realization that a Busch was no longer brewing beer was something he wanted to rectify. That resurrected the Busch brewing legacy in St. Louis, and brought the William K Busch Brewing Company into existence.

Busch said he’s often asked what his father would think of Kräftig, and he believes the reviews would be positive.

“Son, you’ve got a winner here,” is what he thinks his dad would have said.

Myra Lopez

Myra Lopez