We checked Miller’s website for tour offerings, and saw information only about a free guided tour. We called to check on a more private, in-depth tour similar to Anheuser-Busch’s. Unfortunately, they only offer the one tour for all, unless you have a large group, which would be the same tour, with your group exclusively.
Since we were apparently quite spoiled by the Anheuser-Busch tour with our fancy private lounge, sexy headsets, delicious finishing-tank beers and fully-stocked mini-fridge, we’re not sure it’s fair to compare the two tours, but we were sure that Miller didn’t stand a chance.
Miller did have two important things going for them. One, we have always personally preferred Miller to Bud, and two, we were promised three free beer samples at the end and this tour cost us nothing.
We arrived very early on a very hot Sunday morning for the first tour of the day hoping it wouldn’t be crowded. No such luck. We pull up at 10 for the 10:30 tour and people were already waiting, so we joined the crowd and registered once the doors finally opened.
After registering, we had our picture taken by a very nice photographer. Kimmer later talked to him about photography and received a few tips about muting our flash for cleaner images. We also perused the gift shop, but couldn’t decide what to buy, so THAT would have to wait until after.
Finally our tour was called. Nate, our tour guide, would start the tour with what seemingly begins EVERY well-planned tour – a short branded movie that espouses the storied history of the tour leader’s employer.
And the story goes as follows. A poor German immigrant named Frederick Miller arrives in the United States with his unique and highly secret strain of hops hidden in his coat pocket and a dream of tasty beer in his heart. He explores many different cities before settling on the fresh water shores of Milwaukee, where his family purchases the Plank-Road Brewery and starts Miller Brewery. We can only hope that the cheesy actor playing Frederick Miller, was nothing like the original.
Our first stop ironically was the canning/bottling factory, which is one of the final phases of the brewing process. We went to the south bottling floor which was closed, but from our air-conditioned perch in the enclosed viewing catwalk, could see all the stationary machines below. TV screens came down from the ceiling to show us videos of the canning and bottling process. Honestly, we could’ve bought a DVD to watch at home – we want to see it up close and personal.
The tour then progressed to the warehouse full of finished beer known as “beer heaven.” Five football fields long and featuring many types of Miller beer – as far as the eye could see! Okay interesting but we still don’t know much about their brewing process or what makes Miller beer Miller (again, maybe we were spoiled by the AB tour). They do keep mentioning their focus on being a green company – reusing waste, using less water in their process and other efforts – which is awesome, but what about the beer?
Finally we were led to the brewing tanks. Miller’s tanks are all located in one building and finally Nate got down to business spending all of five minutes sharing the most basic information about the brewing process. As quickly as we came, we left and we were moving on to the Miller Caves.
Frederick Miller didn’t have refrigeration at the time of founding Miller Brewing, so he found these natural caves, which he would fill with ice to keep his beer cool before it was shipped.
Once inside the caves, the lights dimmed and from the painting at the end of the main corridor, a life-sized Frederick Miller hologram popped. He explained a little about the caves and the brew garden where we were headed next. The presentation was full of special effects (crashing ice, flashing lights, a life-sized Frederick Miller) and it was at that moment Kimmer and I realized “Miller is the Disneyland of beer tours.” It was well produced, entertaining but artificial and lacking substance.
Finally, we were taken to the brew garden for our three free beers! The first one was automatically Miller Lite and the next two were our choice. Kimmer had Miller 64 and Honey Weiss. I had the High Life and Honey Weiss. While drinking our beer, we were able to write out postcards and Miller would pay for the postage. So we wrote postcards to everyone we had an address for – about 14 postcards. Did I mention we are on a budget?
If you didn’t get one, get on our list by sending us an email !
The Miller tour was a must-see while in Milwaukee and the price was definitely right.