When travelling as a family we love to take time to explore local attractions and really get a feel for what makes the place we are visiting special.
We recently spent the day in Milwaukee, Wisconsin visiting my sister’s family and decided to venture out and explore something local in the area. Given that at one time Wisconsin had a brewery in every communityy, and Pabst Brewing Co. is headquartered there, taking a tour of a local brewery seemed like a perfect local excursion. And no, we were not just in search of finding beer. We had kids in tow and wanted to do something educational, interesting and fun for everyone. Perfect solution: Sprecher Brewery, Milwaukee’s first craft brewery since Prohibition.
Sprecher Brewery is located in the suburb of Glendale, smack dab in the middle of a neighborhood full of charming houses. While Sprecher Brewery brews craft beer, it is more well known for its root beer and flavored sodas, giving everyone in the family something of interest to taste. In fact, it sells more root beer than all of its alcoholic beverages combined.
Sprecher Brewery looks like it has been around forever. A former elevator car company, it was purchased by the founder in 1994 and converted into a brewery and bottling factory.
Tours of the Brewery
Tours of the facility are given at 4:00 pm on weekdays and at various times on the weekend. The tour includes a walk through the production/brew facility, indoor refrigerated cellar, bottling line and warehouse. In addition the location houses an indoor beer garden for tastings, 2 gift shops and offices. We started our visit with a tour, ending with tastings in the beer garden. Tours cost $8 for adults and $5 for children, an excellent price given the tastings available in the beer garden at the end of the tour. Click here for information on tours.
The tour starts with a “tasting” of a flavored soda, or if you are over 21, one of the craft beers. We tried the Strawberry Soda. It is far from a tasting – every adult gets these very nice glasses for tasting and filled to the top, it is more a drink, not a taste. The Strawberry Soda has a nice strawberry flavor, but it is very sweet. Probably more for my kids’ taste.
Kids get these cute glasses. We kept ours and use them now at home.
First up in the tour was the production/brew area. As a culinary professional I found this fascinating. Anyone who brews beer would love this part of the tour. Our tour guide gave us the real life explanation of how they brew their beer from hops to fermentation, passing around barley and hops for visitors to smell. The guide also explained the difference in fermentation for ales or heavier lagers, taking us through the refrigerated cooler where lagers are stored. Production of the sodas and hard ciders was also explained. I especially appreciate the fact that Sprecher Brewery uses local raw honey and ginger in its root beer and ginger ale.
The most interesting part of the tour? The bottling area. I’ve seen large scale manufacturing facilities before but I LOVED this bottling facility. Charming is the only word I can think of to describe this area.
Interesting fact: Sprecher Brewery purchased a 16-oz. bottling machine years ago from Coca-Cola and uses this to bottle its sodas. These soda bottles are slightly bigger than most glass soda bottles.
Not surprising, the federal government was not too happy about the larger bottles for Sprecher Brewery beer and hard ciders/sodas. These are bottled in 12-oz. bottles, requiring a refiguring of the line each month to accommodate bottling alcoholic beverages.
Indoor Beer Garden
While I loved the tour of the facility, I would say without doubt the kids loved the indoor beer garden the most. Decorated to resemble a European biergarten with tables, music and a television, here visitors can sample whatever beers, hard ciders and sodas are on tap for the day. Alcoholic drinks are limited to 4 tastings for adults. Soda tastings are unlimited. I am fairly sure the kids attempted to taste every single soda available.
Limited food is available, most notably this one-pound pretzel, complete with a souvenir beer glass filled with beer.
I must confess, I am not a beer drinker but my sister and her husband praised the beers they tasted. My kids loved the root beer, cream soda and cherry cola. My favorites were the Hard Apple Pie Cider and the Cidre de Pomme, a hard apple cider with a bubbly champagne feeling.
Visiting Sprecher Brewery was an excellent way to spend the afternoon in Milwaukee. Taking a tour of the actual processing and bottling facilities, and learning about the history of Sprecher was educational and something off the beaten path for my family to experience. After the tour we spent quite a while hanging out in the beer garden visiting with my sister and her family while we tasted familiar and not so familiar sodas.
There is a gift shop to pass through on the way out of the building, allowing visitors a chance to buy many of the beers, hard ciders and sodas in mix-and-match containers. Other items such as shirts, glassware and themed food items are available.
If you are ever in Milwaukee, Wisconsin I highly suggest a visit to Sprecher Brewery. Where else can you try Pineapple Soda or Blueberry Soda? It’s truly a unique local experience that our entire family enjoyed.
For more information on Sprecher Brewery, click here.