After stopping regular tours 20 years ago, the Anheuser-Busch Williamsburg-area brewery plans to re-open its doors to the public for limited pop-up tours this summer.
"Although not regularly open for tours, our Williamsburg brewery is the location that receives the most requests for tours," Williamsburg brewery general manager Jeffrey Scott said.
Six of Anheuser-Busch's 12 breweries across the country have been hosting tours year-round. Part of the decision to open up the Williamsburg brewery was the success of its Budweiser open house last summer, Scott said.
The company anticipates about 900 or more visitors will visit the brewery in pop-up tours on June 1 and select Saturdays and Sundays June 2 through Sept. 2, Scott said. Tours can be booked in advance and are on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Tours last 60 to 90 minutes and are limited to 15 people per tour so visitors can see the brewing process up close, Scott said. Participants also will see the lagering and finishing cellars, the packaging line in action and will conclude the tour with a sample of Budweiser directly from a finishing tank for those at least 21 years old.
Tour-goers also can purchase merchandise and beer from a pop-up gift shop, he said.
Additionally, the brewery is hosting an open house for the public with tours, live music, local food trucks and the Budweiser Clydesdales 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. July 7, Scott said.
The Williamsburg area brewery in James City County near Busch Gardens stopped regular brewery tours when it closed its hospitality center in late 1998 because it wasn't cost-effective, according to a past Daily Press story. There was a monorail that ran between Busch Gardens and the hospitality center. The center opened in 1974 a couple years after the brewery began operations in 1972. Busch Gardens Williamsburg, now owned by SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, opened in 1975.
In 2008, Anheuser-Busch was acquired by Belgian brewer InBev to create a global brewing giant called Anheuser-Busch InBev, keeping its North American headquarters in St. Louis.
Over the past several years, Virginia — like the rest of the country — has seen a renaissance in smaller, craft brewing with evolving tastes and demand. In particular, a Virginia law passed in 2012 allowing micro-breweries to sell beers by the glass at on-site tasting rooms fueled the growth of craft breweries across the Peninsula and state.
Local ordinances and rules adapted to allow craft breweries to host live entertainment, music and food trucks and the proliferation of breweries in the region has created a destination attracting visitors seeking out local breweries, tourism officials have said.
Anheuser-Busch caught on to the trend and has acquired multiple craft brewers, including Virginia's Devil's Backbone in Roseland in 2016.
The Williamsburg-area brewery at 7801 Pocahontas Trail employs about 600 full-time and part-time workers, the company said.
Tours are available 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m,. and 4 p.m. June 1 and 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. June 2-3, July 7-8, Aug. 4-5 and Sept. 1-2. The cost is $25 for ages 21 and older and $10 for ages 13-20. Those younger than 13 will be allowed on a tour, the company said. Book tours online at budweisertours.com.