“Wait, without Budweiser, that means I’ll have to drink a better beer, which is literally any other beer.”
~America in 1976
Even when we’re screeching harpies hating on everything you love (which, apparently, solely consists of fucking ALDI, you goddamn lunatics of the internet) we are at least aware of the hatred we’re spewing. For example—many Americans like Budweiser. Like, they buy it, and drink it, and describe the flavor as something better than “remember that kid who would always sit alone and chew grass during recess? We’re pretty sure he’s now the brewmaster for Anheuser-Busch” and that’s fine. Let your freak flag fly, enjoy getting full before getting drunk and, we don’t know, unironically wearing trucker hats, it’s your life and do what makes you happy. We’re putting that out there because, invariably, every time we talk about Budweiser (which fucking sucks) an army of mouth breathers flock to the comments section to respond to our (correct) point (that Budweiser is trash). They say things like “Hey! Asshole! I like Budweiser!” (literally the only valid argument you have) or “Listen Mr. Fancy Beers, go back to your IPAs and your porters or whatever” (which inevitably is brought up in the articles where we never once mention IPAs or porters).
So, we know two things here. First of all, we know that we have a fun fact that most of you are unaware of. And secondly, we know that many of you will be absolutely fucking livid at the tone we take to tell you about it (that tone being “Budweiser is like if someone drank gutter water and thought ‘if only this could get me a slight buzz’”) (which is the correct tone). And we say bring it on. Budweiser is trash, no one should drink it, and for a brief moment in 1976, a group of Teamsters actually managed to make that happen. This is their story.
Unsung Heroes: The Budweiser Beer Strike of 1976
There isn’t much to this story other than giving us a forum to badmouth Budweiser (which is bad) (deal with it) but here goes. On March 1st, 1976, 8,000 workers at nine Budweiser breweries went on strike, effectively shutting off production of Budweiser (a bad beer), Busch (a cheaper but worse beer) and Michelob (which pretends to be fancy and “premium” but is, in fact, bad and dumb).
Specifically, the Teamsters who bottle the beer went on strike, and another 4,000 workers honored the picket line they set up. In the original reporting of this strike, the New York Times stated that there would be no immediate shortage of beer, since they had built up their inventories recently, but that didn’t last long. By April of that year, bars in St. Louis were rationing, or straight up running out of, the bad beer, forcing tavern owners to stock beers that are “better than Budweiser” such as Coors in the West, Pabst in the Midwest, and Yuengling in the East.
The success of this strike actually changed some regional beer practices—this in depth article on the history of Old Style in Chicago that is much better than the article you’re reading now, though it has 100% fewer dick jokes and snide remarks, posits that Old Style’s reputation as a “Chicago beer” was aided by the Budweiser shortage of 1976.
Pictured: cheaper and better tasting than Budweiser
By May Budweiser and the Teamsters started making progress, and the Teamsters eventually ended the strike in June after 14 glorious weeks where no Budweiser was being brewed in the entire world. Think about that. What a time to be alive. For their heroic efforts, the bottlers saw wage increases of $2.25 an hour, with 40 cents an hour added to their fringe benefits, which is actually one hell of a raise—accounting for inflation, that increase was the equivalent of about a $10 an hour raise, which means, if they worked 40 hours a week for 52 weeks a year, bottlers were being paid an extra $20,000 a year. On a karmic level, this seems right—if you single-handedly managed to get people to stop drinking Budweiser for three months so that they can try other, better beers, then you are a goddamn hero and you deserve your $20K reward.
There have been other strikes against Budweiser in the years that have followed, most notably in 1998, but none that managed to actually stop production. At this point, Budweiser is so big that it’s practically unfathomable to see that happening again. But in 1976, a few thousand brave souls decided that they wanted more money (and the requisite more problems that invariably come with it) and were determined to ensure that bars ran out of Budweiser beer (which is bad) to achieve that goal. Which, really, is America at its finest.