Not too many years ago, you could pretty much do every Milwaukee brewery tour in a day, or at least a weekend. Things have changed. Now, there are more than a dozen to choose from, and tour goers are more savvy. Craft beer fans want more insights from brewers than learning just how beer is made.
1872 N. Commerce St.
The first brewery tour I went on as a legally drinking adult was in 1991 at Lakefront Brewery’s former location at 818 E. Chambers St. The brewery was basically one large room, but the tour stood out because I was given a freshly poured beer before the whole endeavor began and the guide (also with a beer) interjected a hefty dose of sarcasm. Lakefront realized more than 25 years ago that people didn’t really go to brewery tours to learn about the brewing process. They wanted to taste beer.
Lakefront’s tour at its existing location (1872 N. Commerce St.) is similar, but on a larger scale. The tone is jovial and at times sarcastic, the beer is plentiful and the entire hour is low-key. Because of this, and the fact that Bernie Brewer’s Chalet from County Stadium is part of the brewery, the tour at Lakefront has achieved legendary status. The Lakefront visit costs $11 and patrons receive four six-ounce beer pours and the ubiquitous Lakefront pint glass (doesn’t everyone have at least one of those in their cupboard?).
“I’ll give all credit to my brother [Jim],” said Lakefront co-founder Russ Klisch. “In the 80s we went to a talk at a beer conference about mead from a New Zealand mead maker. The presenter mixed his talk with humorous stories and comments for a fun hour. I forgot about this, and I started to do our brewery tours like a science teacher. I figured that the only reason that people wanted to take a tour was to learn how beer was made. My brother never forgot about the mead maker. Everyone took his tour and no one wanted mine.”
Largely because the Klisch brothers were clever, Lakefront’s tour has long been regarded as the best in Milwaukee. But there are plenty of other options to consider. Check with your favorite brewery to find out about the tours it offers, or start with one of these unique options.
Details: Several tours daily; $9 M-Th, $11 Fri-Sun, includes four samples and a pint glass.
701 W. Glendale Ave.
The standard Sprecher Brewery tour is another good one that’s been around for a while, and it includes plenty of samples at the end. But the brewery has also added the Reserve Tasting Tour, for serious craft beer drinkers, which includes the standard tour, followed by 10 samples of more limited Sprecher brews, paired with artisan cheeses.
Details: Reserve Tasting Tours are throughout the day on Saturday, call 414-964-2739 or book online; $20, includes 10 samples paired with artisan cheeses.
613 S. 2nd St. and 1128 N. 9th St.
What’s unique about MKE Brewing is that you can take tours at both locations. Start at the cozier 2nd Street location to see where the brewery hit its stride. Then venture to the gleaming, new 9th Street spot to see where they are now and what the future holds. It’s an interesting glimpse into the growth of a local brewery.
Details: Several tours daily on weekends; $12, includes a pint glass, samples and a token for a free beer.
7208 W. North Ave.
Co-founder Paul Hepp knows a lot about the history of brewing, and that’s a big part of the Stock House Brewing tour. Sure, you learn about the brewery’s process, but you also get a chance to hear from Hepp and peruse what he calls “the world’s smallest beer museum”
Details: Check Fun Beer Tours for days; $10, includes a pint glass and one beer.
909 E. Locust St.
Billed as “Milwaukee’s worst tour,” Black Husky Brewing promises a laid-back experience. Brewer Tim Eichinger has always had a sense of humor, and irreverent is the perfect ingredient for an entertaining beer tour at this Riverwest standout.
Details: Saturdays at 1 and 2 p.m.; $10, includes a pint glass and two beers.
Get a glimpse into what goes on in the massive brewing area at Third Space Brewing. Kevin Wright and Andy Gehl are affable owners who also happen to brew really good beer. The good news is that for the price of the tour, you get to sample two of them. This is ideal for the IPA fan, because Third Space makes some of the best in town.
Details: Most Saturdays at 2 p.m.; $10, includes a pint glass and two beers.
2108 N. Farwell Ave.
Combine a stop at Third Space with a tour of Good City Brewing to see two breweries that played big roles in Milwaukee’s craft beer boom. Good City’s brewing area doesn’t require a whole lot of walking, and it’s right behind the bar, so it’s ideal for those who don’t want to expend too much energy when they take a brewery tour.
Details: Saturdays at 1 and 2 p.m.; $10, includes a pint glass, one beer and either a token for a free beer at Good City’s downtown location or a 10 percent coupon for packaged beer at the brewery.
Raised Grain Brewing Company moved into its current massive 20,000-square foot brewery in late 2018. The space is a testament to the popularity of the Waukesha brewery’s creations. A tour of the place gives beer fans a chance to see how craft beer and technology work together. Raised Grain’s automated ProBrew system is state-of-the-art brewing set up.
Details: Saturdays at 3 and 4 p.m.; $10, includes a pint glass, three samples and a free beer at the end of the tour.
2200 W. Mt. Vernon Ave.
You don’t have to love beer to take the City Lights Brewing tour. Fans of history and architecture will be be wowed by visiting a brewery housed in a building built in 1902. The interior of the place is nothing short of amazing and the star of the show. Plus, they have beer there.
Details: Saturdays at 2, 4 and 6 p.m.; $10, includes a pint glass and a beer.