Let’s start at the beginning: German immigrant Adolphus Busch arrived in the United States in 1857. A few years later, he married Lilly Anheuser and began working at his father-in-law’s brewery. The brewery, renamed Anheuser-Busch in 1879, pioneered pasteurization technology that allowed Budweiser to be shipped across the United States without spoiling, according to its website.
Budweiser, named after the town of Budweis in the Czech Republic, became the first nationally distributed beer. During this period, pressure kegs and glass bottles were the only packaging formats available to brewers. Budweiser was primarily sold in bottles, so the original slogan was actually “King of Bottled Beer”.
“By specifically mentioning the bottles in the ‘King of Bottled Beer’ tagline, Budweiser communicated the overall strength of the brand as well as a defining characteristic that separates Budweiser from some of its competitors,” a spokesperson for Budweiser said. Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD) told CNN Business.
The slogan was changed to “King of all bottled beers” as competition increased. Then came Prohibition, prohibiting the production, import, sale, and transportation of alcohol in the United States from 1920 to 1933.
The company survived by making alternative products, such as soft drinks and “almost beer”, which had very low (and legal) alcohol content. After the ban was lifted, the “King of Bottled Beer” slogan returned and Anheuser-Busch resumed brewing its iconic brand.
The slogan was changed to “King of Beers” in the mid-20th century, as aluminum cans became a more popular form of packaging. It is still used today and appears primarily on Budweiser labels.
However, the tagline hasn’t technically been true for a while. Budweiser was the nation’s best-selling beer until 2001, when it ceded that crown to its sister brand, Bud Light. Shifting consumer tastes towards lower-calorie options, such as fortified seltzer water, as well as the growing popularity of high-end liquors, have also hurt Bud’s popularity.