Milwaukee Brewing Co. tour offers a tall drink of fun
As a person who has spent more time on brewery tours than at the dentist – and as a resident of Walker's Point – I found it surprising that it took me so long to go on the Milwaukee Brewing Co. brewery tour. But it finally happened yesterday – and it will definitely happen again soon.
For anyone looking for a fun, intimate, informational and generous tour of a Milwaukee craft brewery, the Milwaukee Brewing Co. is a solid choice and a great deal. For $7, the tour experience lasts between one and two hours and offers up tastings of most – if not all – of their beers, which include Louie's Demise, Love Rock (formerly Flaming Damsel), Polish Moon, Pull Chain, Booyah and Hop Happy along with various seasonal beers depending on, well, the season.
"We don't cut you off here. We want you to find something that you really like and will pick up the next time you're at the liquor store," says Milwaukee Brewing Co. employee Chris Ruidl.
Now don't grab your Mardi Gras beads or your crazy party hat and run down to the freshly-painted-orange brewery expecting to get lit up like the flame atop the Wisconsin Gas Light Building on a clear night. The tour is designed to be an educational affair as much as it is a sampling soiree.
Our tour guide Sean Sarich did a really great job balancing the brew imbibing with the food for thought. Sarich spoke easily and authoritatively throughout the tour. He clearly knows his subject matter and infused the techno talk with humor and anecdotes.
The fact Sarich works in the brewery and gives the tours sets the tour experience a part from corporate brewery tours.
"My goal is not to bore people," says Sarich. "I'm pretty sure boredom while drinking is a sin."
Sarich's love for the company and the product shines through. He even has a drum kit set up on an elevated space in the warehouse where he and another employee occasionally jam on their lunch breaks.
"This is a fun industry," he says.
It was helpful that Sarich had a microphone throughout the majority of the tour so those of us who wanted to absorb information were able to do so despite the many tour goers (tours can include 40-45 people at times).
The tour opens with grabbing a pint of choice – the pint glass is a souvenir of the tour. Then, the group starts at one of four stations.
The first station features a very short, visually appealing video about the company, featuring owner Jim McCabe. Milwaukee Brewing Co. started in 1996 as the Milwaukee Ale House's onsite brewery and later moved to its current location in 2005.
"We're a small, passionate group," says McCabe. "Our tours vary from week to week. We want you to learn about beer and want to learn from you."
After the video, Sarich did a short "science guy" demo that provided the basics on mash-making via a fondue pot and the necessary ingredients. This aspect added an interesting and different dynamic to the tour.
Sarich gave a shout out to Briess malt and ingredients company – a Chilton, Wis.-based company whose products are used to make Milwaukee Brewing Co. beers.
There's a quick second beer stop before going up a flight of stairs to check out some of the large brewing machinery up close and personal. Throughout the tour, Sarich did a good job involving the group and frequently asked if anyone had any questions.
The third station of the tour took place in the 36-degree aging cellar, with massive, re-purposed fermentation vessels. The final stop was in the bottling section where I had a "Laverne & Shirley" moment and Sarich expressed the importance of quality control.
"We have a very hands-on bottling process. There's three of us literally lifting up every bottle and physically examining it before we put it in a six pack," he says.
Sarich also talked about the company's decision to package some of their beers in cans. He said contrary to popular belief, not only crappy beer comes in cans and that it does not leave a tinny taste in your mouth. He also pointed out that cans are very recyclable.
Sarich ended by saying, "In conclusion, please drink at least two good beers before you switch to Pabst" and then, it was time for informal chatting and another round for anyone who was still thirsty.
Jim Grazio traveled from Green Bay with a coworker to go on the tour. McCabe says there are often people from outside the Milwaukee area on the tour, particularly people from Chicago.
"This trip was a year in the making. The casual atmosphere here is phenomenal," says Grazio. "It feels very one-on-one."
Tours are every Friday at 4, 5 and 6 p.m. and Saturdays at 2, 3 and 4 with an open house from 5 to 7 p.m.
Definitely my favorite Milwaukee brewery and tour! I tend to go often because they are always experimenting with different delicious brews.
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