My husband and I love brewery tours, but they aren’t the most engaging for little kids. Add horses into the equation though, now we’re talking. Located in the heart of St. Louis, Missouri, no other brewery can compete with iconic Budweiser Clydesdales.
Anheuser-Busch Brewery’s VIP Clydesdale Tour
The Anheuser-Busch Brewery’s VIP Clydesdale Tour takes you to the original 1885 Clydesdale Horses’ stable built right onsite at the brewery and where the Busch family was living at the time. The immaculate stable was designed after a railroad roundhouse, which (in today’s money) ran about $900,000 to build.
Guests should book online in advance as tours sell-out early and often. We paid $30 per adult, kids 4 and under free. Our ticket included two beers during the tour. Funny how their beer tastes better on location.
Inside the Original Budweiser Clydesdales’ Stable
Sunlight colorfully paints the floor as it shines through the stained glass. Restored antique stage coach wagons are on display and the chandelier hanging in the center of the stable was acquired from the French Pavilion at the 1904 World’s Fair. It is made of solid brass and weighs over 650 pounds.
Tour the tack room where you’ll learn the harnesses, bridle, blinders, saddles, etcetera are custom fit to one horse and stay with that horse for its career. A set for an 8-horse hitch cost about $150,000.
The reins weigh about 40 pounds. When the men are driving the team, they have a constant 75 pounds of pressure on their hands. They keep two drivers so the reins can be passed back and forth.
When the stable was built in 1885 it was built with running water and electricity. Homes in the area at that time did not yet have indoor plumbing so these horses were living the good life.
After the tour of the stable, you’ll step outside to pet and take photos with one of the Clydesdales while you learn from a handler about their exceptional care routine.
Budweiser Clydesdale’s in the Public Eye
It was fascinating to hear the history of pomp and circumstance that these horses were part of.
For example, in 1933, after prohibition ended, the brewery sent a truckload of Budweiser to the airport to then fly it to New York where the horses and wagons had traveled by train a few days prior.
At the Newark Airport, the wagon was loaded with beer, was escorted by police through the Holland Tunnel, stopped in front of the Empire State Building and then delivered the first case of post-prohibition Budweiser to Governor Al Smith. (President Roosevelt got the second case.)
There are three traveling hitches, one on the east, one on the west, and one in St. Louis. They travel about 300 days of the year in parades, opening day for the Cardinals, and, of course, to film Super Bowl Commercials.
Fun Facts about the Budweiser Clydesdale Horses
Breeding of Budweiser Clydesdales
What’s in a Name
When a baby is born out at Warm Springs Ranch, Budweiser’s global breeding facility, its name will start with the same first letter that its mother’s so they can track the lineage of the horse. All of their names are short to allow them to easily follow commands.
There are some very specific requirements to qualify as a Budweiser Clydesdale. The horse must stand at least 6′ tall and weigh between 1,800-2,300 pounds. It must be a gelding, 4 years or older and have a brown coat, four white stockings, a white blaze on its nose, a black mane, and a black tail.
Budweiser Clydesdale Training
At about 6 months old they’re weened from their mothers and sent to Grant’s Farm where they learn the basics about working with handlers, standing for grooming and braiding, and being in the public eye.
At age 3, they got back to Warm Springs Ranch for “advanced training”, if you will. There, they are paired with experienced horses to learn how to work as part of a hitch. Then, they land with one of the three traveling teams.
Makeup of a 8-Horse Hitch
When a team is all hitched up, the two horses right in front of the wagon are called ‘wheel horses’. They’re the tallest and heaviest (about 2,200 pounds). They can pull about double their weight and do most of the work on the hitch. (A wagon weighs about 7,500 pounds.)
Next two are called body horses; their work kicks in if they need to pull uphill. The next two are called swing horses, they determine if they’re going right or left. The front two are lead horses, they have the best high step. They are also normally the lightest, about 1,800 pounds.
Dalmatians were added to the hitch back in the 1950s. Originally they were intended to act as guard dogs.
Grooming Ritual for Budweiser Clydesdales
The horses are scrubbed, vacuumed, brushed, and combed daily head to hoof. On event days, they braid the main with red fabric and add roses.
Their horse shoes are changed every 45 days which is how long it takes for their farrier to shoe 175 Clydesdales.