“It was a party of sorts when eight shiny giant horses brought a whole wagon load of beer to celebrate.”
That’s fact, even though there are a fair number across the state not so pleased with reason for the festivities.
Hundreds gathered Thursday afternoon as the Budweiser Clydesdales pulled up to the Kansas Capitol recognizing a new beer sales law.
Anheuser-Busch brought the iconic team acknowledging that grocery and convenience stores can now sell beer containing 6 percent alcohol.
“It’s a good thing for beer. It’s a great thing for the consumers, and we’re happy to be here,” said Simon Wuestenberg, Anheuser-Busch official.
“With Kansas’ transition April 1, there are only two states, Utah and Minnesota, where we sell 3.2 beers,” Wuestenberg added.
Kansas House Speaker Ron Ryckman (R-Olathe) was presented a plaque with a Clydesdale horseshoe by the Anheuser-Busch official.
“Ron did an outstanding job in making sure that we didn’t just make a decision,” Wuestenberg credited. “He talked to everybody in the industry, liquor stores, grocery stores, the breweries and wholesalers.
“End result was a great solution for beer in Kansas and it’s going to make a lot of consumers happy,” Wuestenberg declared.
Ryckman spoke to the crowd on the south steps of the Capitol. He said his parents taught him the best solutions to challenges could be resolved by people hashing things out.
“I commend the business industry for taking that same approach with this legislation. We need more of that in our state,” Ryckman said. “Just like the Clydesdales work together as a team to move things forward.
“Kansas is better when we all work together as a team to find solutions. Here’s to teamwork. Here’s to the future of Kansas,” said Ryckman, offering a dry toast.
Last week’s beer delivery to the state Capitol was reminiscent of 1933. Budweiser Clydesdales were used to deliver beer to President Franklin Roosevelt recognizing repeal of Prohibition.
Kansas never rushed to judgment whenever contemplating liberalization of liquor laws and held tight to the liquor ban until 1946.
R.E. “Tuck” Duncan, who lobbies for the Kansas Wine and Spirits Wholesaler Association, spent a decade fighting legislative challenges. Dillons, Walmart and other companies were insistent in pursuit of more liberal beer sales laws.
Duncan said making convenience and grocery stores into liquor stores would drive out many of Kansas’ 750 independent liquor retailers.
Ryckman then joined the Clydesdales for symbolic deliveries to downtown Topeka spots like The Celtic Fox.
The Clydesdales made an appearance in Overland Park Friday afternoon as well as in Lawrence Saturday afternoon.
Anheuser-Busch has 15 distributors in the state that employ approximately 500 Kansans.
Clydesdales came from near the company’s brewing facilities in St. Louis, Missouri, to Topeka in three 50-foot semis. Horses were in two, and the third had the red, white and gold beer wagon, harness, and a four-wheeler.
A pen for the Dalmatian Bud who rode on the seat of the beer wagon was in one of the horse semis.
At least a dozen handlers and grooms accompanied and worked with the horses.
Horses’ comfort is said to be enhanced with “air-cushioned suspension and thick rubber flooring.” Cameras are in the trailers to enable the drivers to watch the horses during transport.
One of the handlers who helped hook the team has worked with horses of all of his life. He said many of the Clydesdales owned by Anheuser-Busch are raised near St. Louis.
The Budweiser Clydesdale Stable at Grant’s Farm is a historic brick and stained-glass facility built in 1885. It has about 35 mares, stallions and foals. About 15 foals are produced there each year.
There are eight horses driven at a time, but additional horses are on each team to provide alternates when needed. The handler said there were six more horses in St. Louis that could work on the hitch when needed.
Anheuser-Busch owns a total of about 250 Clydesdales, kept at various locations throughout the United States. Their operation is one of the largest herds of Clydesdale horses in the world.
About half of the Anheuser-Busch herd is kept in a state-of-the-art breeding facility at Warm Springs Ranch near Boonville.
Last year, the brewing company’s horse training facility at the Merrimack, New Hampshire, brewery was relocated to Boonville. This allows the training team to be closer to young Clydesdales and begin training earlier.
In addition to the Clydesdale teams in St. Louis and Merrimack, Anheuser-Busch has a team at Fort Collins, Colorado. Each Budweiser team travels for public presentations, such as the one at Topeka last Thursday, about 10 months a year.
The Budweiser Clydesdales were actually first introduced to the public on April 7, 1933, in that repeal of Prohibition celebration.
August A. Busch, Jr., presented the hitch pulling a beer wagon as a gift to his father, August Anheuser Busch, Sr. The wagon carried the first case of post-Prohibition beer from the St. Louis brewery down Pestalozzi Street in St. Louis.
To qualify for one of the Budweiser hitches, an even-tempered Clydesdale must be at least a four-year-old, 18-hands-tall gelding. Weighing about 2,000 pounds, the geldings are bay, with black mane and tail, four white stocking legs and blaze face.
The handler at Topeka said, “Only about 20 percent of the Clydesdales geldings qualify to work on the hitch.”
An obedience-trained Dalmatian has traveled with each Budweiser hitch, since the 1950s. Historically, the dog’s role was to guard the wagon and protect the team while the driver was making inside deliveries.