5 Questions With Kräftig President and CEO Billy Busch

By Heather Riske
In Food

Billy Busch knows what’s in a name. The William K Busch Brewing Company President and CEO had a lot to live up to in the city synonymous with his family’s historic brewery. What’s more, he named his company’s beers, Kräftig Lager and Kräftig Lager Light, for the German word for strength.

On the heels of Kräftig’s third straight win at the U.S. Open Beer Championship earlier this month, we caught up with Busch to talk about the beers’ unusual brewing method, the company’s expansion and his future plans in St. Louis.

Billy Busch with Kräftig Lager and Kräftig Light.

Billy Busch with Kräftig Lager and Kräftig Light. Photo courtesy of Kräftig

ALIVE: Kräftig Lager and Kräftig Lager Light both picked up gold medals at the U.S. Open Beer Championship. What do these honors mean for the company?

Billy Busch: It’s a huge accomplishment for our company. These are very prestigious awards because they have some of the giants of the industry entered into them, as well as thousands of other breweries from around the world. To be able to win this really makes me proud. It validates what we’re doing, how great our beers are and it makes me very proud to be able to bring these two gold medals back to St. Louis.

ALIVE: Kräftig and Kräftig Light are brewed according to Reinheitsgebot. How does this set the lagers apart from other beers?

BB: It’s probably the reason we’re winning these competitions—the way we brew our beer. It’s an all-natural brewing process where we only use four ingredients: Water, barley malt, yeast and hops. Reinheitsgebot is the German Purity Law that dates back to 1516. It gives our beer more flavor than our competitors, yet it’s still very smooth, balanced and refreshing. Our beers have more flavor and that’s what the consumers are turning to—more flavor.

ALIVE: How did you decide to follow the German Purity Law?

BB: At the outset, when I started this company, I knew I had a lot to live up to with the Busch name. We were lucky enough to work with some of the finest brewmasters over in Germany who decided the best way to brew lagers is to follow the German Purity Law. By following that law, we wouldn’t dilute our beer down with any other adjuncts, and therefore make it incredibly great-tasting.

ALIVE: What was the biggest challenge in building the Kräftig name in St. Louis, outside of living up to the Busch name?

BB: Introducing a new beer into a marketplace that is already incredibly competitive. We happen to be in the category of the industry with the other premium lagers like Budweiser, Bud Light, Miller, Coors—the giants of the industry. To compete against those companies that have been around so long, and that have a lot of money to spend on marketing brands, is truly a challenge. That’s pretty much what we’ve been dealing with. We’re kind of the David going against the Goliath, if you will. We have to work extra hard and we have to make sure our beer is always of the highest quality and always fresh, always consistently good.

ALIVE: What’s next for the company?

BB: We’re always discussing expansion and looking at continuing growth. It’s getting easier to expand into growing markets because the word is getting out about how good our beer is. We want to continue the expansion and the goal is, ultimately, to build a brewery in St. Louis in the next few years. We look to give back to St. Louis by helping the economy and adding jobs.

We’re always looking at what other brands come out with. Kräftig Lager and Kräftig Light are two very good beers, but at the same time there are a lot of other great beer types out there. Right now, our focus is on Kräftig Lager and Kräftig Light, but we’re looking at potentially adding new beers, expansion and building a brewery.

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