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The High Life tour

You don’t have to drink beer to appreciate getting the inside scoop on how beer is brewed, as I recently discovered during my 90-minute tour of the Miller Brewing Company in Cream City, aka Milwaukee, Wisc.

There’s tons of relevent stuff to take in during the insightful indoor and outdoor walkabout around this gigantic plant located nine minutes from downtown. You’ll hear the backstory on German immigrant Frederick Miller, who arrived in Milwaukee in 1855 and purchased the Plank Road Brewery, which later became Miller Brewing.

Of course you’ll see lots of brewing equipment including giant copper kettles that turn grain, hopps, yeast and water into that fluid golden delight. And yes, the water still comes from Lake Michigan. Packaging and logistics are a huge component of getting canned and bottled six packs to your grocer, so you’ll see and hear about those processes too.

And if you’re a beer lover, you’ll enjoy the beer tastings at the beginning, middle and end of this highly informative tour. The day of my visit, I sampled a new brew called 1919, which acknowledges the 100 anniversary of prohibition – the 21st ammendment repealed the drinking ban in 1933. Sadly, that special beer is available for a limited time and only in Wisconsin.

Brian and Hannah were the lively and fun guides for our group of 20 curiosity-seeking tourists. The walkabout is packed with factoides, historical insight and the latest industry developments. For example, the Miluakee plant has the capacity to produce 600,000 cases of beer every day, while 40 percent of its normal production is sold and drunk in the Chicagoland area. What I found personally interesting was the (somewhat dubious) story behind the “Girl in the Moon” icon that appears on Miller High Life bottles and cans. It was either an advertising gimic or dream vision. And from a sustainability standpoint it was of interest to hear the company reuses or recycles nearly 100 percent of its brewery waste.

One of the best things about the tour is it will only cost you a sawbuck. Plus, photography is unrestricted and the gift shop has a great selection of memorabilia. Beer snobs and connoisseurs who favor only craft beers enjoy thumbing their nose at macro brewers. But that shouldn’t be any reason to stay away from this very worthile visit of the Miller Brewery.