The Greatest Brewery & Distillery Tours in Milwaukee
New breweries have been popping up like weeds in Milwaukee over the last couple years, and that's the way we like it; beer isn't just a drink, it's a way of life, and we're loyal to brands and brewers that are local. We love to hear about how beer is brewed, of course, but we also want to hear the story behind the brewery, the history of the building it's in, and why the brewmaster quit his day job to make beer and give us tours -- and the same goes for distilleries, too! With all the brewery and distillery tour options available now, it pays to know what you’re getting into before you show up; here are the deets on some of the best.
Menomonee River Valley
Fans of architecture will appreciate this tour just as much as beer fans. The brewery is housed in a renovated complex of 1902 Milwaukee Gas Light Company buildings designed by prolific local architect Alexander Eschweiler. They provided the coal gas used in street lights way back when, hence the name of the brewery today. Your tour guide will walk you through the brewing process using the usual state-of-the-art equipment, which makes for an interesting juxtaposition against the historic building backdrop.
Tour info: $10 gets you a logoed glass and one free beer. Tours are on Saturdays only, at 2pm, 4pm, and 6pm.
Lower East Side
Since opening in summer of 2016, the folks behind Good City have already expanded its taproom and doubled its production capacity, so they must be doing something right. They also just announced that they're going to open a two-story second location on the downtown entertainment block, adjacent to the new Bucks arena, that will focus on brewing sours. They've got a lot on their plate right now, but they're handling it in stride; tours are kept to a maximum of 10 people, and so they tend to be intimate and informative with lots of opportunity for question-asking.
Tour info: Saturdays only at 1pm and 2pm for $10. No reservations are taken, so get there early to ensure your spot.
A recent transplant from Madison, MobCraft brews all of its beer the crowdsourced way: by letting the public submit ideas for a beer, and then everyone gets to vote on the ones the brewery decides they can actually create (sorry, no squid ink beer for you). It makes sense, then, that a brewery for the people and by the people would offer tours where people can see other people’s beer being made. Tours are laid back and include history of the brewery, how the crowdsourcing model works, possibly some selfies with the tour guide, and probably educational content. Afterwards, stay and play some foosball in the taproom while you brainstorm your own beer idea.
Tour info: $12 for a 45-minute tour, pint glass and two beers in the taproom. Tours are Fridays at 6pm and 7pm, Saturdays 2pm, 3:15 and 4:30pm.
Menomonee River Valley
The two owners of Third Space met at summer camp, and maybe that's why one of their flagship beers is called Happy Place. That may also be why their outdoor beer garden welcomes pets, kids, food trucks, and general al fresco merriment. There are only two tours offered most weeks, but up to 25 people are allowed on each tour -- and if you're lucky, one of the owners will be your tour guide. With all the breweries in this city, you'll hear about what makes this one different from the rest, as well as the history of the building it's housed in. This brewery is just down the street from City Lights, too, so plan to make a day of it.
Tour info: $10 for a tour including a pint glass and 2 beers. Saturdays at 1pm and 3pm, with signups starting at noon.
You can totally learn a few things on this tour if you pay attention, but even your beer-hating mother-in-law will still have fun. Guides are casual, snarky, and generally bearded. You’ll get to smell (and sometimes taste) the different stages of brewing while you cozy up to the brew tanks. The tasting bar is right in the middle of the production room, so you never have to go without a sample for long. You’ll also get a free beer token that you can use at lots of local bars and keep the party going.
Tour info: $12 gets you a two-hour tour, unlimited samples, a coveted branded pint glass, and a free beer token for later. Fridays 4pm-7pm every half hour, Saturdays 1pm-4pm every half hour with open house 5pm-7pm, Sundays 2-2:30pm every half hour.
Everyone in MKE has to do the Miller tour at least once in their life. It’s free, so there’s really no excuse. You’ll catch a video on the beer titan's evolution and be guided through the running bottling and packaging lines, which is more mesmerizing than you’d expect. The tour winds down in the beer caves where the earliest brews were put on ice (clearly where beer masons hold their secret meetings), before heading to the beer garden for free samples.
Tour info: One-hour tour every half hour from 10:30am to 3:30pm daily. Free of charge. Three samples included.
The tour by which all other tours are measured. Guides are informative and genuinely funny -- though anyone talking about bungholes probably would be, especially after a few beers. The space itself isn’t very large, and there’s an immense demand for this tour, so prepare to make friends. If you’re nostalgic and a Brewers fan, Bernie’s chalet from County Stadium may be just as exciting as your free beer. Buy your tickets in advance or just wait your turn in the beer hall with some cheese curds. For the serious homebrewer, in-depth tours are available on Sundays at 11am for $30.
Tour info: $11 gets you a 45-minute tour, pint glass, and four samples. Monday-Friday 12-8pm every half hour, Saturday 10am-8pm every half hour, Sunday noon-4pm on the hour.
Though it’s technically just a tour of one big room, this one packs a punch. You get six samples of GLD’s various boozes at the end, from honey and citrus vodka to absinthe. A few shots worth of alcohol in about 20 minutes makes for a fantastic start to the night. Don’t forget to order a drink at the tasting room bar upstairs and bring it on the tour with you. Luckily, there are bowls of free pretzels on the tour, and popcorn at the bar. Tours on Saturday usually sell out so book ahead of time.
Tour info: $10 for a one-hour tour with six samples. Sunday-Thursday 1pm, 3pm and 5pm; Friday 1pm, 3pm, 5pm, and 6pm; Saturday 1pm-5pm on the hour.
Soda lovers, take note: you’ll love this tour. A pretty standard brewery tour of fermenting tanks, aging cellars, and bottling lines ends at an indoor beer tent where you’ll be able to use the four free beer sample stubs on your wristband. You’ll also be able to taste any of Sprecher’s gourmet sodas in unlimited quantities, though I would recommend against bringing a to-go cup and buying it in the gift shop instead. There’s 20 different beers to choose from, along with 10 sodas. Unlike most brewery tours, reservations here are required.
Tour info: $5 gets you a 30-minute tour and a sample glass, four beer samples, and unlimited soda. Saturdays and Sundays at noon, 12:45pm, 1:15pm, 2pm, 2:45pm, 3:15pm, and 4pm.
The tour here takes place at one end of the tasting room where the distillers are housed. It’s not much of a tour, since you essentially never leave the tasting room, but who cares when that just means you’ll be spending more time in a bar? You’ll get to sample all of their spirits, and learn about them all in the process. Bonus: it shares a building with Milwaukee Brewing, so you can go tour hopping if you’re one of those people who can handle mixing beer and liquor without a hangover the next day.
Tour info: $8 for a 45-minute tour, samples, and a branded rocks glass. Fridays at 6:30pm and 7:30pm, Saturdays 3pm-8pm on the hour.
This tour’s a little different. The brewery is no longer brewing, so while technically you’re touring what was once a brewery, it’s really more of a beer history tour. You do get to drink a free Pabst or Schlitz during the tour, and that’s enough to make up for the lack of actual brewing. The buildings and spaces are beautiful -- there’s a ton of weddings held here -- so if you’re into MKE history and architecture this is your tour. Photo ops with statues of Captain Pabst and King Gambrinus, the patron saint of beer, are way better than any bronze Fonz selfie.
Tour info: $10 for a one-hour tour with one free beer. Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays at noon, 1:30pm, 3pm, and 4:30pm; Fridays at 11am, noon, 1pm, 2pm, 3pm, and 4:30pm, and Saturdays at 11am, noon, 1pm, and 1:30pm.
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