Long live the king!
Swansea-born Paul Castro has taken his rightful place on the throne as lord and ruler of Budweiser, winning the beer maker’s ‘King of Bud’ competition – along with a cash prize of $50,000 in ransom from the king and bragging rights as king of the king of beers.
The contest, which took place last fall, asked Bud drinkers to share photos on social media showing their love for Budweiser.
Castro doesn’t just love Budweiser — he Lives this. He posted photos of himself dressed in a stunning handmade royal costume made from hundreds of glittering red bottle caps and a chainmail shirt, standing in front of a colossal castle made of Bud crates. It was enough to get the attention of Bud’s bigwigs.
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How the Beer King Built His Bespoke Suit
To gaze upon Castro’s royal persona is to be amazed at the level of attention he gave to his beer king costume – and the commitment it took to create it.
“I just wanted to do something cool that I loved doing,” Castro says. “It just took off on its own.”
It’s not the kind of project you start together in an afternoon to win a single contest. Castro started designing this outfit in 2012.
“There are over 1,000 hats in the coat,” Castro says. “I had been saving bottle caps and I was like, ‘I want to do something with them.’ I don’t like wasting stuff.
Friends suggested he build a table with them – but it was too small. Kings don’t think small.
“I’m like, everybody make a table. It would be cool if I made a coat or something,” he says. “So I started thinking.”
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It started with a wrapper, made from red Bud bottle caps, each carefully pierced by hand with an awl four times and threaded with 60-pound test fishing line to form a sometimes sharp drape of metal. As you run your hand over it, it feels both heavy and incredibly delicate. Folding it back emits a sort of soft, rasping rattle.
A few years later, Castro came up with the idea of adding a chain mail shirt to the ensemble – and his project took on a medieval flavor.
The chain mail shirt is made up of hundreds of shiny beer can tabs. Castro cuts each one and threads them together by hand, weaving them into a metallic mesh fabric. On the chest is the pattern of a Budweiser logo in red, using special red can tabs. It’s an incredibly time-consuming, finger-intensive process.
“Reds are a bit more difficult,” he says. “They have the crown stamped on them. So I would have to fold each of these tabs in there, bend it and cut it.”
Over the years, Castro has added pieces to the costume, like a crown adorned with bottle caps and a scepter made of flattened Bud cans capable of holding — and pouring — a beer. And since every king must be ready to defend his kingdom, Castro recently built himself a sword, complete with a Bud tap hilt as a hilt.
“This year, a friend bought me a Budweiser faucet,” he says. “I wanted to make a sword. I asked a friend to weld some steel together.”
The sword is heavy, easily measuring three feet long, with a glowing red hilt – a noble blade.
“It’s not sharp,” he says. “I thought just in case I wanted to try and let it be known in public.”
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Win the Keys to the Kingdom
Castro had previously worn the costume for fun, but when he saw Budweiser promoting their King of Bud photo contest, he felt it was his moment — his chance to rise to power.
He had kept empty Bud crates for some time, and together with his brother had made four trips to transport them from his home in Warren, Rhode Island, to his mother’s house in Swansea. There, in his driveway, he and his father built a castle fit for a king, stacking Budweiser crates 14 boxes high, with battlements and torches constructed from Bud bottles. His sister helped him compose “An Ode to Bud,” a poem he included in his Instagram post.
“I took the photo shoot the day before the contest ended, just in case someone saw it and had an idea. There was a strategy,” Castro says. “The build took about four hours. consumption took much longer – about seven years.
The work he put into this photo shoot spanned a decade.
“Ten years and 10,000 beers,” he said.
After the contest closed for entries, there was an agonizing period where he wasn’t sure what was next. But deep down, he felt he had won the contest.
“I almost feel like I manifested it, in a way,” he says. “Everybody was like, ‘Oh, you’re gonna win, you’re gonna win.’ I kind of felt like I was going to win – I felt like I should win, because I knew the time and effort I put into it. But I didn’t want to give myself false hopes.
Budweiser contacted him privately just before New Years to tell him he had won, that he was the King of Bud. The spoils of his victory: $50,000 and the “keys to the kingdom”—a getaway for him and a guest to St. Louis, Missouri, home of the Anheuser-Busch brewery. He will receive a VIP brewery tour and experience with the Budweiser Clydesdale horses, photo shoot, travel expenses and a $500 gift card to the brewery gift shop. It will also be featured on a plaque at the St. Louis Brewery for a year.
Just before Budweiser officially went public with his ascension to the throne on Facebook, they primed him to expect a royal announcement.
“I was starting to get all excited,” he said. “I go to Yankee Spirits in Swansea for beer. Just as they’re about to announce it, I look at my phone and see they’ve posted it. I hop and jump, I dance in the store. I have my headphones on and I’m listening to a podcast, and in the background they’re playing music – and the music, as I grab the crate of beer, I swear to God, it says “I was supposed to be king’ in the song. It was a coincidence. I get chills. Just talking to you about it gives me chills.
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“It makes others happy”
When he’s not ruling the Bud Empire, Castro continues to add to his regal attire, having fun recycling his voids into art. In his apartment in Warren, working alongside his cat Buddy (short for Budweiser, naturally), Castro has a room devoted to his artwork. Her garment hangs neatly from a mannequin in the corner, and a cardboard box filled with dividers holds hundreds of bottle caps organized by color. Boxes and buckets contain more spare parts. All of these raw materials weren’t generated solely by him, of course – friends share his love for Bud and have contributed a lot over the years.
On a workbench, surrounded by discarded tools and pieces of fishing line, is a kilt he is creating, constructed from bottle caps. Castro points out that some of the caps are aluminum and taller than others, and it soon becomes clear that they are in the Budweiser crown logo pattern. Again, watching it rewards you with smarter details.
In his living room stands a bobblehead – of himself, in his King of Beers attire. It was a Christmas present from his mother, Libby.
“It was recording me when I opened it,” he says. “I see the crown and I started crying. I couldn’t help it. I just started laughing and crying – so happy. My mum is great. I couldn’t have it done without it.
He is thrilled to have won the contest and the prize money, and excited to represent Budweiser in this one.
“I don’t know what’s going to be in it, but I have a lot of ideas for ads and a lot of marketing ideas that I hope I get a chance to share,” he says.
But building the outfit was part of a bigger project than any competition can measure, one that has given him, his friends and everyone he meets a lot of fun. Castro smiles and laughs easily – when you meet him you are an instant friend. He wears the costume a few times a year, sometimes to ComicCons, and whenever the costume makes others smile. People rush in, bow to him and ask for selfies. Sometimes they kneel before him, and he knights them with his scepter.
“When I wear this in public, I can’t walk 10 feet without people swarming. ‘Can I take your picture?’ he says. “And I’m delighted. I’m having a good time. I love meeting people – I’m a people king. I love praise. It brings joy to others and I appreciate that too.
Dan Medeiros can be reached at [email protected] Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Herald News today.