For the first time in 10 years, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine toured the Anheuser-Busch brewery in James City County on Wednesday, visiting with employees and taking questions in a short town hall-style talk.
“This is a really important part of the Peninsula economy, and they obviously make a product that is consumed all over the world,” said Kaine, a Democrat. “They provide jobs for people that will stay for decades, and I want to come to understand the new reality of the Williamsburg brewery.”
The brewery, which opened in 1972, employs about 540 people with an annual payroll of $60 million, Kaine said. Anheuser-Busch produces about 70 brands of beer at its Williamsburg plant, including Budweiser, Shock Top, Landshark Lager, Michelob, Busch and Hurricane High Gravity
Kaine’s tour took him through the brewery’s control room, lager room, quality assurance room and other areas that affect its production. As about 70 employees worked on the brewery’s seven production lines, the senator spoke to a few to hear about their long-term commitment to the company, including one who is about to celebrate his his 40th year with Anheuser-Busch.
“It’s interesting to hear the pride in their work but also the challenges they face,” Kaine said. “I learned a lot and took away a lot about the workforce transportation and other needs that would help them be more successful here.”
During a town hall meeting, Kaine addressed questions that spanned subjects from aluminum tariffs to road tolls. But much of his focus was on providing technical education for younger students who would eventually enter careers similar to those offered by Anheuser-Busch.
“When I was a kid it kind of struck me: I was in high school, and I was working in my dad’s shop with these iron workers who were really artisans, and I was going to a high school where they were saying a career in technical education was only if you aren’t college material,” he said. “The people who were enabling my family to do well were not really getting the credit.”
With a workforce that produces 2,000 cans of beer per minute, the technical careers at Anheuser-Busch are directly affected by steel and aluminum tariffs enacted by President Donald Trump in June, the senator said.
As a member of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, Kaine said he views the tariffs as a worrisome subject. He said that while he understands we need to be tough on countries like China, alienating our neighbors and allies might backfire and hurt the U.S. economy.
“Because you guys use so much aluminum, it’s a big deal. And you’re not alone; [the tariffs] are affecting Virginians from a variety of industries,” Kaine said.
Kaine, who is running for re-election against Republican Corey Stewart, chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, said he was interested in how the Anheuser-Busch’s complexity has grown with the variety of products now produced in Williamsburg.
But even with all of the new beers available, Kaine said his favorite is still Devil’s Backbone.