Beer Book War! Updated Anheuser-Busch Biography Available as E-Edition

Nov 5, 2012 at 12:00 pm
Last week Riverfront Times told you about Bitter Brew, the new biography of the Busch family that comes out this month from publisher HaperCollins. But Bitter Brew isn't the first book to examine St. Louis' first family of beer, nor is it the only book about the brewer to go on sale this fall.

Under the Influence: The Unauthorized Story of the Anheuser-Busch Dynasty spent eight weeks on the New York Times' bestseller list when it first debuted in 1991. Now, 21 years later, co-authors Terry Ganey and Peter Hernon (former Post-Dispatch reporters) are out with an updated e-edition of their book available at and other online outlets. On Friday, RFT contacted Ganey at his home in Columbia to discuss the revised tome and ask whether dueling beer books could possibly eclipse the great Anheuser-Busch/Miller beer wars of the 1980s.

Daily RFT: Why come out with an updated version of your book now?

Ganey: A number of things. Over the years material continued to come my way and I'd collect it. For example, we put out a Freedom of Information Request to the federal government when we were working on the first edition of the book, and some of those results didn't come in until after the book published. Then, in 2008, I got a request from the now-defunct Portfolio magazine to write an article about the InBev takeover of Anheuser-Busch. They didn't use the story because I didn't quote August Busch III or August Busch IV, but I had all the reporting on the end of the saga. Then I got a call from the author of this most recent book [Bitter Brew] in September of 2010 about a new book coming out, and I said to myself, "Shoot I can update this and get it out there."

Author Terry Ganey
Author Terry Ganey
William Knoedelseder, the author of Bitter Brew, had an advantage over you in that he had some cooperation from the Busch family. What were some obstacles you faced in writing the "unauthorized" account of the dynasty?

When we were reporting our book, the Busch family and the company and people connected to them carried a lot more gravitas than they do now. I remember meeting with a guy from Fleishman [public relations firms Fleishman-Hillard] when we were trying to get cooperation from the family. He asked us, "Aren't you afraid?" There was this aura of power. In fact, the brewery sent out a memo to family members, employers and distributors warning them not to cooperate with Ganey and Hernon on this project. This has never been brought out before, but even Michael Pulitzer [at time the president and chief executive of the Post-Dispatch's parent company, Pulitzer Inc.] wrote a letter to Simon & Schuster when he saw promotional material for the book. He didn't want the book to say we were Post-Dispatch reporters.

You say the book has new evidence to dismiss the rumor that Cardinals' sportscaster Harry Caray was having an affair with Susan Busch, the wife of August Busch III?

There's a file in the Al Fleishman papers that were donated to the St. Louis Public Library after his death. It's in box No. 78. It's full of people's complaints about Caray from listeners. For example, there something about him calling pitcher Sandy Koufax a member of the Jewish race. And there's a letter from Fleishman to Rick Meyer, the brewery's GM at the time, that suggests "immediate corrective steps" be taken to address Caray's "highly judgmental descriptions of the games" before a blowup occurs. So, it seems the Cardinals [then owned by Anheuser-Busch] had a lot of reasons to get rid of Caray.

Why was the federal government leery of Gussie Busch's loyalty during World War II?

Gussie joined the Army and worked in Washington D.C. during the war. But there was a complaint that one of his cousin's in Germany was associated with the Nazis. This was something we learned about through our FOIA request. The federal government assigned it to an investigator, who interviewed Gussie's coworkers and family members. The report came back that he was a loyal American.

This holiday season, which book makes a better stocking stuffer? The updated version of Under the Influence or Bitter Brew? I assume you've read your competition.

I have. I'm not going to be critical of someone who goes to all the trouble to write a book. But you know what the new book weighs compared to ours. I take great pride in the fact that people such as Dan Okrent, the author of Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, has called Under the Influence "unquestionably the finest book on the American beer industry." And our e-book is available for less than $4.99. I should mention that.