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Beer tourism is on the rise, and VISIT Milwaukee is sending a few experts to the country's biggest beer festival to spread the word about Brew City.

The Milwaukee craft beer scene is sending a few ambassadors to the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) in Denver on Thursday (Sept. 20). The crew of Claire Koenig from VISIT Milwaukee, Andy Gehl of Third Space Brewing and Jim Haertel from Best Place (901 W. Juneau Ave.) is a formidable one, and plans to spread the news about Brew City beer tourism from a VISIT Milwaukee booth at the massive event.

Why Does This Matter?

GABF is the big daddy of beer fests, and Milwaukee gets a chance to strut its stuff to 60,000 attendees. It’s not like the beer fans coming to Denver haven’t heard of Milwaukee (they can’t really call themselves beer aficionados if they haven’t), but it’s a great chance to remind them of the burgeoning scene here. If GABF-goers need extra incentive, they can try pours of Third Space’s Happy Place at the booth.

Brewery owners Andy Gehl and Kevin Wright at the bar

Third Space Brewing owners Andy Gehl and Kevin Wright (photo courtesy of Third Space)

“Milwaukee is absolutely underrated nationally and even regionally as a beer destination,” said Gehl. “The craft drinkers in Milwaukee know that it is quickly becoming an amazing place for craft beer, but the development of our craft scene has happened so recently and so quickly that people who haven’t been paying close attention to it have no idea the wealth of craft beer riches we now have in this town. Everyone outside of Milwaukee knows of our beer history, but they don’t know that we are in the middle of a craft beer renaissance as well.”

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The Growth of Beer Tourism

Beer tourism in Milwaukee is very real. VISIT Milwaukee provided stats from Longwoods International, a leading travel and tourism research firm, to back that up. The research shows that breweries were among the top five activities by travelers on overnight trips to Milwaukee. Among day trips and overnights combined, breweries ranked as the top reason to visit. Approximately 11 percent of total overnight trips are due to beer tourism, compared to the national average of 5 percent.

The Milwaukee delegates at GABF are highlighting the local options by also sharing the Original Brew City Beer Map, a comprehensive guide to everything beer-related in the city.

“The launch of the Original Brew City Beer Map took this to the next level, and we are excited to promote both Milwaukee and the map at the Great American Beer Festival along with Jim Haertel and Andy Gehl,” said Megan Saurdini, vice president of marketing and communications at VISIT Milwaukee. “We’re confident that our pitch to attendees – that Milwaukee combines amazing craft beer with tons of beer history – will stand out among the handful of other destinations at the festival.”

Added Gehl: “We are the only city in the country where you can experience the three pillars of beer as I would call it. First, we have a richer beer heritage than any city in America, with locations like Best Place where people can dive into the history of beer. Second, we have two pioneering craft breweries, Lakefront and Sprecher, that were leaders in the rise of craft beer in the ’80s and ’90s. And finally, we have one of the fastest-growing new craft beer scenes. Milwaukee is a unique beer tourism destination because you can do it all here. That wasn’t necessarily true just a few years ago.”

Photo courtesy of Lakefront Brewery

Beer Tourism In Milwaukee

Brewery tours abound in Milwaukee, and there are too many beer-related activities to list them all. But here are a few to get tourists started.

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Kimpton Journeyman Hotel (310 E. Chicago St.)
Room with a Brew Package
Includes a selection of local beers in the room, a tour of Lakefront Brewery (including transportation there) and a map of local breweries.
Cost: Varies

Brewhouse Inn & Suites (1215 N. 10th St.)
Lakefront Brewery Package
The package at the hotel housed in the former Pabst brewery includes a six-pack of Lakefront beer, two tickets to the tour at Lakefront Brewery (1872 N. Commerce St.) and valet parking at the hotel.
Cost: Varies

Untapped Brewery Tour
A Saturday tour that begins at Company Brewing (735 E. Center St.) and visits Lakefront Brewery, Gathering Place Brewing (811 E Vienna Ave.) and Black Husky Brewing (909 E. Locust St.).
Cost: $55

Fun Beer Tours
A wide range of walking beer tours, pub crawls and brewery tours. Many focus on the history of Milwaukee’s brewing scene.
Cost: $20 and up

Craft Breweries and Cocktails Tour
A bus tour put on by the experts at Milwaukee Food & City Tours that offers informative stops at four or five breweries and distilleries over a four-hour tour.
Cost: $70

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