Disclosure: I received assistance with accommodations and attractions during my stay in Milwaukee in exchange for writing about my experience there. This assistance in no way affects the opinions expressed in my posts about the city. All opinions are my own.
About 5 miles west of Downtown Milwaukee, there are historic caves located 60 feet underground that the founder of Miller Brewing Company used to store some of his earliest brews. They’re called the Historic Miller Caves and they’re a fascinating sight to see on the Miller Brewery Tour in Milwaukee.
Miller Brewery offers free hour-long tours of its facility that involve sitting, outdoor and indoor walking, and of course beer samples. It’s an interactive way to delve into the history of Miller Brewery and MillerCoors.
The tour begins at the Miller Visitor Center where you’ll need to provide an ID to prove you’re 21. Otherwise, you won’t be able to get any beer at the end of the tour 🙁 After signing up, you’ll get your picture taken behind a Miller backdrop, and you can choose from a variety of props to spice up your shot. (At the end, you’ll have the option of purchasing your photo along with an insulated Miller glass holder and a beer opener for $20.)
Once it’s time to start, the first official stop is a small theater where everyone will watch a video about the history and evolution of Miller Brewery. The nice part about it is that there are subtitles – a considerate inclusion for those who may be hard of hearing. The video presents a number of facts including:
- Frederick J. Miller produced 300 barrels of beer in his first year
- He died in 1888 at the age of 63
- In 1959, Miller was sold to Phillip Morris
- In 2008, Miller entered into a joint venture with Coors, creating Miller Coors
- Of the beer it produces, 40 percent goes to Chicago
There’s also some PR weaved into the video that I couldn’t help but notice. It’s not too bad, but after having been on several brewery tours before that don’t really do that, it’s just something I wanted to point out.
After the quick little film, the tour moves on to other parts in the facility, including where the beer is packaged, where it gets prepared for distribution, the brewhouse, and my favorite and main reason for going here – the historic caves.
Another cool bit is that you get to “meet” Frederick Miller down in these caves when he’s projected against the wall.
Finally, the tour concludes at the Miller beer garden where all tour participants are given three small samples of beer, as well as some pretzels! The garden has a laid back vibe with generous space that has lots of tables and places to sit.
Overall, I thought the tour was okay. The guide we got was nice, but she didn’t seem to like giving tours very much and was a bit lackluster :/ I’d been to several other microbrewery tours before coming to Miller, and all of them had energetic and enthusiastic guides who seemed to genuinely like what they were doing, which I really think was an important reason I thoroughly enjoyed them.
Another note is that on this tour, you get to watch see the packaging facility through some clear windows on an upper floor rather than actually walking through them, whereas that’s something you get to do at other local breweries.
I’m not a big fan of Miller beer to begin with, so I wasn’t particularly impressed by the pilsner sample I had. But it wasn’t too bad.
Nonetheless, despite these critiques, which is more than I normally have about places, I don’t feel negatively about experiencing Miller Brewery or like I wasted any time because it was a learning opportunity, and I wouldn’t not recommend it unless you’re really looking for a more entertaining tour. (If that’s the case, check out Lakefront Brewery.) I’m also not complaining because the Miller Brewery tour is free, and what really saved the day were the awesome historic caves! Plus, this is a hands-on way to learn about an internationally famous brewing company that’s got more than 150 years of history.