Brewing is in the blood of AB InBev Chief Supply Chain Officer Pete Kraemer. He’s a fifth-generation brewer, whose father and great-uncle were also brewmasters for Anheuser-Busch. A native of St. Louis, Missouri – the birthplace of Budweiser – Pete's held many roles at our company over the last 34 years, most recently overseeing 150+ breweries and facilities, and leading all brewery operations, quality assurance, raw materials and product innovation responsibilities worldwide.
As he readies to transition to a new role as beer and brewing quality advisor to our CEO Michel Doukeris in January 2024, we sat down with Pete for a conversation about his lifelong passion and why he will always be here for the beer.
You come from a long line of brewers. How did that influence your approach to beermaking?
I had the good fortune of working alongside my father at Anheuser-Busch for many years and he taught me that the most important thing is the quality of the beer.
For me, you confirm it’s a quality beer by tasting it. It takes years to learn, but if you’re trained properly as a taster, you can connect what you taste back to what did or didn’t happen during the brewing process. Even today, with all of our advanced technology, analysis tools and process controls, we still rely on expert tasting panels to gauge quality.
We loved seeing your skills in action in the Kings of Beer documentary, which went behind the scenes of the monthly Global Budweiser Tasting Panel.
It really captured our teams’ intense commitment to quality and competitiveness. What you saw in that film is what happens every day in our breweries around the world. Our people are always assessing, standardizing and improving our processes so we can consistently deliver the freshest, best-tasting beers that people love.
Do you have other secrets to making better beers?
I don’t know if it’s a secret, but one of the most valuable things I’ve learned is the importance of empowering our front-line brewery colleagues. We’ve invested in training, technology and skills development so our front-line can truly own all aspects of their jobs. We learned a lot about how it’s done from our brewery teams in Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa and Colombia, and it’s been a huge transformation to bring that insight to all of our operations and standardize within our management systems.
One of the first times I saw the vast capabilities of our front-line was when one of our brewers in St Louis was troubleshooting an issue in the brewhouse. Without hesitation she took the lead, coordinating mechanics, electricians and the plant engineer to find a solution that led to bigger improvements in the brewery. It’s very rewarding to see our colleagues’ pride in making great beer.
You often talk about putting consumers at the heart of all we do. What have you learned from them?
I've been part of many focus groups and traveled a lot with our marketing teams to get closer to beer drinkers. If you take the time to ask people their opinion, they will be honest in these situations and will give you great insights. You quickly realize everyone has a different perspective on what’s good or what signals quality. It can be anything, from taste, to aroma or how a bottle sounds or feels when it’s opened. So if you ask the right questions, your chances will be much greater that you can develop recipes and packaging that people will want and will buy.
You’ve been a mentor to many in our industry. What’s your advice for someone starting a career in beer?
First, have high standards. August Busch III taught me that first. I remember people bringing things to August that they thought were perfect - ready to go to market - and he almost always wanted more. He set the bar very high for everyone. Since then, our CEOs Carlos Brito and now Michel Doukeris have reinforced that same commitment to high standards.
And from my first brewery director, Paul Anderson, I learned how important it is to fully understand a business. Running a brewery is about more than just brewing beer. You have to learn how to connect the dots, from the farms where we source our ingredients, to the brewery, to the retailer and consumer. Later, when Anheuser-Busch and InBev combined, our leaders Claudio Ferro and Carlos Brito taught me the importance of savvy financial decision-making to deliver solid, profitable performance, in addition to creating high-quality products and strong operations.
Do you have any predictions for the future of beer?
I think AB InBev has a lot of momentum and we’re firing on all cylinders. We have an extremely capable leadership team with big dreams to expand beer into more occasions and to bring great products to more people in new and existing markets.
I also think we do a great job of tapping into what people want. We have more than 500 brands and choices for anyone’s taste, preference or budget. And there’s always more to come. Our innovation teams in every region are intensely focused on local consumer trends and growing the category. I’m excited for my successor, Ricardo Moreira, and to see what’s next under his leadership.
Looking ahead to your next chapter as an advisor, what does an ideal day look like? And what beer will you be drinking at the end of it?
When my father retired from Anheuser-Busch he never lost his passion for beer. Yes, he relaxed and spent more time with family, but he also would come down to the brewery to talk about and taste beer. He wanted to pass along his knowledge and make sure standards stayed high.
If I can do the same, keep tasting our products and new innovations and sharing what I know with our incredibly talented teams, that would be a great day. And you know I’ll be ending it with a Budweiser, no question.
And last, can we expect a sixth generation of Kraemer brewers anytime soon?
(laughing) I have five children and one of my sons is studying chemical engineering. He’s very interested in brewing and he worked at our research pilot brewery here in St. Louis last summer. If he decides to become a brewmaster too that would make me very happy.