Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Anheuser-Busch sinks $100 million in brewery building revamp

This renovation's for you ...

May 2, 2004

Company sinks $100 million in brewery building revamp

By Mary Lynch/Staff Writer

Two trails of steam rising from Fairfield's Budweiser brewery tell Anheuser-Busch Brewmaster Michael Poley that one beer brewing kettle is on the boil, while another is cooling.

That steam announces, too, that it's beer business as usual at the 700,000 square-foot plant even as it is undergoing a $100 million modernization that will upgrade the brewing and packaging operations of the 27-year old facility.

Though not an expansion, the re-furbishing project signals that the company is committed to the prosperity and longevity of the Fairfield plant that brews more than 4 million barrels of beer annually, employs some 450 people and attracts upwards of 40,000 visitors per year.

"We believe in being a very stable employer," said Kevin Finger, plant manager. "We believe in the future of the Fairfield plant. We're happy with the sales results and the productivity in this area, and in the overall performance of the plant."

Improvements to the brewing operations and to the packaging and warehousing operations that sit on 170 of the sprawling 318-acre Anheuser-Busch campus comprise the two phases of the project expected to reach completion in mid-2005.

Upgrades to the brewing center of the plant, which began last August, are in full swing, proceeding from the inside out, it seems.

Two enormous brewing kettles are already in place - each with a capacity for 800 barrels, or 24,800 gallons, of beer.

A new lauter tub will also be installed, which separates the fermentable liquid from the barley malt grains used in the brewing process, according to Brewmaster Poley.

To the right of the cherry-red Budweiser sign whose glow falls over nearby Interstate 80, a new 85-foot brewhouse is under construction.

The word "Brewhouse" will top the addition and share the front of the plant once construction is complete early next year.

Late this summer, the company will begin improvement to its packaging and warehousing operations. High-speed bottling and canning equipment will be installed, and warehousing facilities will be upgraded.

This, the more expensive phase of the modernization project, is expected to be complete and operational by March 2005, the plant manager said.

"We're always looking for ways to improve the quality and efficiency of our operations," he said.

The equipment switch-over has been carefully planned not to disrupt production or affect quality in any way, Finger assured.

The changes, he added, will not affect employment opportunities at the plant.

"We are extremely proud of our accomplishments here in Fairfield," Finger said. "The modernization project represents a real commitment to the city, to Northern California, and to our employees. It offers increased opportunities for our employees, and it reflects their accomplishments of the past 27 years."

With 450 employees, Anheuser-Busch is one of Fairfield's largest employers.

The Fairfield plant, which began brewing beer in 1976, is one of 12 Anheuser-Busch breweries in the United States, and one of two in California. Daily, 90 trucks leave the plant to deliver beer to Alaska, Northern Nevada, Northern California, Oregon and Washington.

As for possible additional upgrades and expansions in the future, Finger said the focus now is on the current modernization project.

"As a company we always look at our sales and production patterns to look for the right area to expand. We have no plans now for this facility."

Mary Lynch can be reached at business@thereporter.com.

Anheuser-Busch at a Glance

Fairfield Brewery Address: 3101 Busch Drive

Plant Manager: Kevin Finger

Resident Brewmaster: Michael Poley

Employees: 475

Facility Size: 700,000 square feet on 170 acres of 318 total acres

Brands Produced: Budweiser, Bud Light, Natural Light, Busch, Busch Light

Corporate Headquarters: St. Louis, Mo.

Sales: Anheuser-Busch reported 2003 gross sales of $16.3 billion and net sales of $14 billion.

Rank: Anheuser-Busch is the world's largest brewer.

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