One hundred and sixty years ago, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was the beer capital of America. Anyone remember Laverne & Shirley? They worked just down the street at the fictitious Shotz Brewery.
Miller Brewery is right around the corner. And little start-up breweries like Lakefront Brewing are popping up all over town. Today we are on a quest to see three beer tours, all within a few hours.
Pabst Brewery is where it all started. For us, this was the first brewery we ever toured while on our honeymoon 32 years ago. That’s right. We were passing through Milwaukee just a week after our wedding and took a tour of this massive brewery. We might have wanted to check in today because now it has been converted and renovated into luxury hotel suites.
Unfortunately we were not guests as we simply sneaked down into the lobby which used to be the basement of the brew house and snapped some photos. Apparently these brass brew kettles sprout up through the first floor.
What you are seeing here is the top of the kettle cut out through the floor. We didn’t have the $250 a night entrance fee so settled for the FREE basement self-guided tour.
Next we headed to Miller Valley. This is the geographical epicenter of what is today Miller-Coors. Coors has a bigger brewery back in Boulder but as the two breweries merged, this ” valley ” is the widest in all the mid-west.
Having been on dozens of brewery tours, this one seemed like a cheesy rendition of a Disney attraction. It started with an ID check and wristband. Then we were directed to a chained queue line. There were four of us on the tour! Us, and a father and son from Virginia. We all had our picture taken here by a “professional” and were offered to buy them later while we drank our FREE beer. We passed on the photo but took the guide up on another FREE beer.
We were then escorted by our two tour guides into a 100-seat auditorium for a short video. There were four of us on this tour! Trust me, it gets worse. The video is a huge advertisement for this beer company complete with their mascot Girl in the Moon and her Tinkerbell voice and the ghost of Fredrick Miller and his wurst German accent.
The best part of the tour was running into this guy down in the distribution center. Again, another advertising opportunity and photo op.
A few miles away, on the lake, is the tiny craft brewery with a clever name, Lakefront. Lakefront does several tours a day and this one was as packed as a case of beer, maybe a case and a half. AND yet, just one guide. This guy…
Mike was completely knowledgeable about the brewing process. He schooled everyone on the tour about the function of yeast in beer, “The yeast farts, then poops, then has sex with itself, then sleeps.” Translates to, “The yeast eats the sugars in the grain, expels CO 2, multiplies, then is spent.”
The raucous group then elected a queen, sang the theme song to Laverne & Shirley, and were led into the tasting room for some beer samples and cheese curds and further discussion on the purpose of yeast during the beer process.
This concludes our three hour tour of these totally different breweries. It was nice to see that Pabst has recycled its former glorious brewery into a high-end hotel. Miller Valley (Ha!) was a bit hokey pokey while Lakefront won us over.
It’s hard to imagine that the Miller/Coors tour and tasting was FREE yet there were only four people on the tour. There were more crossing guards than tourists.
Lakefront tour was $10 each person and there were about thirty people on that one. Makes me wonder where the direction of the beer industry is going. My thinking is that “crap” beer will cross over into the “craft” beer market.
I don’t want to wait another 160 years. Let’s cross!