Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

The Clydesdales in California

By Jay Brooks
Sunday, January 30th, 2011 at 10:36 pm in On Beer.

The iconic Budweiser Clydesdales debuted on April 7, 1933 and have a big promotional part of Anheuser-Busch ever since. Most come from Grant’s Farm in St. Louis. Today there are six teams of Clydesdales. One is headquartered in St. Louis and the other five travel the country. On Saturday, one team — or “hitch” — visited the A-B brewery in Fairfield, which is the smallest of the twelve ABI breweries in the U.S.

Believe it or not, I’d never been to the Fairfield brewery (I have visited at least three others, however). But my six-year old daughter’s love of horses made this weekend the perfect time to finally correct that oversight. So I responded to the press release I got, and arranged to come a little early so I could still make the Brewing Network’s Winter Brews Festival in Berkeley the same day.

But back to the horses. Clydesdales are Scottish in origin. They’re large draft horses, often six-feet high (18 hands) at the shoulder, weighing as much as 2,000 or more pounds, and are thought to be at least 300 years old. After a quick tour of the facilities, Alice and I arrived in the parking lot just in time to watch the horses being taken off their tractor trailers and hitched up to the wagon.

Two at a time they are off-loaded

Each hitch consists of ten Clydesdales that travel in three tractor trailers, along with the ceremonial beer wagon. Horse-drawn wagons were quite common for beer deliveries before the invention of the automobile, and continue to be used for ceremonial purposes throughout the world. The Radeberger brewery near Dresden, Germany still makes local beer deliveries on a horse-drawn wagon. It was a cool sight when I visited the brewery several years ago.

My daughter Alice in front of the wagon
My daughter Alice, with her stuffed Clydesdale, in front of the Budweiser beer wagon.

The first two hitched to the wagon
The first two hitched to the wagon.

Eventually, eight Budweiser Clydesdales were hitched to the wagon. Then, for about an hour, they paraded around the parking lot to the delight of a few hundred people, who showed up even in the drizzling rain. And especially my daughter, who was thrilled to see the horses up close. You can see a short video of the parade’s start below.

Below is a slideshow of the Clydesdales’ visit. This Flickr gallery is best viewed in full screen. To view it that way, after clicking on the arrow in the center to start the slideshow, click on the button on the bottom right with the four arrows pointing outward on it, to see the photos in glorious full screen. Once in full screen slideshow mode, click on “Show Info” to identify each photo.

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