This past weekend, the family and I took a trip to Milwaukee. In looking for things to do, we received a recommendation to visit the Sprecher Brewery for a tour. Since we go to Milwaukee a few times a year, I thought a root beer brewery tour would be fun; I was familiar with their root beer and have purchased if a few times up there. I found out before we went that they also brewed beer as well.
The tour is affordable; it’s $5 for adults and $3 for children. Those who are 21 and over received a tasting glass and get for samples; those under 21 receive a cup to get unlimited soda refills (but the people over 21 can also sample the soda).
Our tour guide was Andrew, and it was funny seeing him with a mug of soda for the tour; most brewery tours I’ve been on had the guide drinking beer, but those places didn’t normally have their own soda to drink.
The brewery was started in 1985 by Randal Sprecher; he had worked at Pabst for the previous 4 years. They moved into their current building in 1994; the 1-story building was an elevator factory prior to the current use, as Andrew noted ironically.
They started doing tours right off the bat; Sprecher heard from non-beer drinkers that they didn’t enjoy the tour as the beer part didn’t interest them. Sprecher went home that night and started to test root beer recipes. Root beer was introduced shortly there after as part of the tour only; when the demand for the root beer increased, they started to mass produce it for sale. Eventually they expanded to other sodas.
Today, their soda outsells their beer 3 to 1. They are know for using local ingredients for their sodas (like honey for root beer and ginger for their ginger ale).
Andrew also noted that it takes 4 hours to make their soda, while the beer takes weeks to complete; they are able to meet the demand for soda in the time the beer is fermenting.
The beer information of the tour was pretty standard if you’ve been on a few tours…ingredients, wort, fermentation, etc. The brewery has their normal beers, plus a nice selection of seasonal brews. They also contract out their facility to other breweries and offer their beers in the tasting room.
The biggest downside of the tour was the bottling area; since the brewery was in action, you couldn’t hear Andrew talk about bottling with the equipment running (and this was with him on a mic). It was interesting to watch, but not very informative.
After the tour, you go into their tasting room. The large room has 1 bar, so it can take a minute to get a drink after tour; everyone goes straight from the tour to the line for drinks. You get as much time as you need (at least, it appeared that way; we were on the first tour and were done before the next group showed up to drink). They also have soft pretzels and beer chips for sale.
Since my wife doesn’t drink much, I tasted 6 different beers (instead of the normal 4). I sampled the IPA2 (Double IPA), Oktoberfest, Hard Root Beer, Abbey Triple, and Special Amber from Sprecher and Ryediculous IPA from Chameleon Brewing. There were a total of 12-15 beers available to taste.
Like most breweries with tours, they had an extensive gift shop. To go with the typical bar wares, they also had “experienced” tap handles, cooking items like sauces, and clothing. They also had build your own six packs of beer and four packs of soda.
Overall, it was a solid tour. There was great drinks to taste afterwards and it was definitely family friendly; in fact, my kids want to go back on our next trip up there.