Want to hear something strange? I didn’t know Miller and Coors had combined forces and became one. Sure they’re still kicking out their own brews respectively… but get this – they merged back in 2008. Are you shocked? Because I still am. Most embarrassingly for me, it’s been 6 years and I consider myself somewhat up on the beer scene. Granted neither of these beers are ones that I rush to the store to buy, but seriously what the hell was I doing back in 2008 that I missed this? We’ll never know what I was doing, I wasn’t blogging then and my memory is somewhat bad… OK it’s not somewhat – it is one of the reasons I started blogging, so I could write down my adventures and then read them later in life.
So back to my MillerCoors tour. Like I said I am not a huge fan of their beers (although I will drink the High Life, it is the champagne of beers after all), but what I did want to see was a macrobrewery. I tour a lot of microbreweries while I travel, but rarely do I tour a macro. Most of the tours I take get a quick look at their mash tuns, fermenting room and bottling… sometimes these are all in the same room. You can safely assume that MillerCoors does not have all of these processes in one room. These guys are kicking out 500,000 bottles per day and 10 million barrels per year. Holy crap right? If you don’t know if that’s holy crap or not, that’s a lot of beer – take my word for it! Granted I’m comparing a microbrewery, a producer of no more than 15,000 barrels a year to a macrobrewery, one who produces 6 million or more barrels per year. But still you get the point, right? MillerCoors is making a lot of beer!
Our tour started out with a movie about the brewery. I felt the movie focused more on what the brewery is doing to become more green and efficient, where as I was hoping to get more back history about the brewery. Who doesn’t love to hear about a home brewer who grew a hobby into a huge producing beer manufacturer? I was also dying to know what the deal was with the girl in the moon that you see on the Miller High Life logo. I was disheartened to find out there was not much history about her, other than she had come to the founder, Fredrick Miller, in a vision when he had become lost. The girl in the moon supposedly led him to safety.
Once the movie was over we were led out to the brewery’s campus for the remaining part of our tour. The layout of the tour was a little jumbled based on actual brewing procedures. Meaning we visited the bottling room first, which is generally the last thing you see. I guess you can consider me anal as I like my tours to go in process order… Do I have OCD problems? Yes, yes I do.
I think the most impressive part of the tour was the shipping warehouse where the beer was “stored” prior to being loaded on a truck. I say “stored” because it the beer wasn’t there very long in a room that could make 5 combined Costcos look like a dollhouse. The beer inventory is completely turned every 24 to 36 hours. It looked somewhat like what I would imagine Santa’s workshop on December 23rd to look like with the busy elves loading up the sleigh. Except these elves were on forklifts and loading beer. In my opinion beer is a much better gift than a wooden trinket from Santa!
My tour guide was very informative, even explaining something that I had been wondering for awhile. The MillerCoors logo. Like what the hell it was. My guide ironically asked me if I knew what it was and when I said no, he proceeded to explain it to me. As seen above, it has a gray circle with a yellow filled in circle and then a darker yellow circle… mystery solved (and we didn’t even need Shaggy and Scooby to figure it out for us)…. It is suppose to represent looking down a beer glass, the gray line represents the top of the glass, the yellow filled circle is the beer and the dark yellow circle is the bottom of the glass.
The tour then ventured into the famous Miller Caves where Fredrick Miller “came to life” and told us some history about the brewery and how the caves were used to keep his beer cold. Unfortunately I was not able to ask Miller what the deal was with the Girl in the Moon as quickly as he had come back to life he was gone again. So sad…
As we departed the caves, perched on the hillside was a replica of Plank Road Brewery, a brewery started by two of the four sons of the Best Brewing Company. Plank Road Brewing was later bought by Miller Brewing, hence why it was now located on the Miller Valley Campus. Best Brewing also changed hands and later became Pabst Brewing.
The last stop of the tour was the tasting room where I got a few tastings of old familiar beers, Miller Light and High Life. I was also treated to an interesting last taste of the Batch 19. It is a Coors beer and based on a recipe from pre-prohibition days. Although this is a considered a lager, it was darker in color and much more my speed in flavor.
The 1.5 hour tour is free and photography is allowed. The visitor center is located at 4251 W State Street Milwaukee Wisconsin. Tours run M-Sat 10:30 am to 3:30pm on the ½ hour.