What I Do: Marc Gottfried of William K. Busch Brewing Co.

Marc Gottfried was 14 when he started brewing beer at home. Five years later, he joined Morgan Street Brewery, where he worked for 16 years and rose to become brewmaster before he departed in 2011 for William K. Busch Brewing Co., maker of Kräftig lager and Kräftig light. Here, its vice president of brewing and chief brewmaster – and the most decorated brewer in St. Louis history – gives a behind-the-scenes look at his craft.

Why did you leave Morgan Street?
I knew if I didn’t take the risk I would think about it for the rest of my life. While (Kräftig) had a high probability of failure, there was a chance of extreme success. It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make. In retrospect, it was the right decision. I’m more of a complete brewer.

In what way?
When I left Morgan Street, I thought I was resigning myself to a boring lifetime of brewing the same damn beer over and over. The chasing (of) consistency and quality that I have to do with this company is equally as challenging and fun as the ability to brew whatever the heck I wanted at Morgan Street.

How did you develop the Kräftig recipes?
We were trying to develop one beer, (and) we were just going at it two different ways. One of the guys we work with says, “Guys, stop trying to decide. We’ve got two beers: a light and a regular.” We kind of shot ourselves in the foot. The most efficient way to do it would have been to develop a regular and add water and that’s your light. We didn’t develop it like that. Those recipes are completely different, so I have to brew Kräftig light and lager as totally separate beers.

Kräftig beers are brewed in La Crosse, Wisconsin at City Brewing Co. How often do you travel there?
I drive to Wisconsin every other week. The day when I can go to work in St. Louis and brew beer, I’ll be a happy guy.

What does the term “craft beer” mean to you?
Craft, by definition, is a volume-related thing. It’s annual capacity. But craft is more than that. It’s a movement, a rebirth of beer styles gone by the wayside and a birth of thousands of beer styles that never existed before. The craft brewing movement was small breweries brewing beer styles that were less common because they were from other countries. And then those people started experimenting. What if we put it in a barrel? What if we put whiskey in it? What if we put raspberries in it? That was the beginning.

Apart from your own beer, what do you drink at home?
What I had the other day that was awesome was a Samuel Adams Escape Route. It was a Kölsch. Also, I love Bitburger. It’s a Bohemian Pilsner. I drink a lot of Schlafly, too.

Which brewers inspire you?
I probably would never have become a professional brewer if it were not for Phil Colombatto. He was brewmaster at Anheuser-Busch. (I was) 15 or 16. We go to Anheuser-Busch, meet with him. He spends hours with me. At the end, he gives me a book, The Practical Brewer. It’s looked upon as the bible of the professional brewer. He signs it: “To Marc, I hope your experiences in brewing will be as fulfilling for you as they have been for me.” It inspired me.