Brewery Tours Reviews
Over the last few years I have visited several breweries in America and Canada and felt the need to do a Witkowski style review of them. There are several obvious categories to review a brewery on: beers brewed, tasting room, service, and facilities. Today after going to the Brooklyn Brewery I left knowing I had to write this article for the friends and fiends of institutionalized!
Over the last nine years I have visited the following breweries: Moosehead Brewery, New Brunswick, Canada (1994); Pabst Brewery, Milwaukee, WI (1996); Miller Brewery, Milwaukee, WI (2002); Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn, NY (1997, 2002).
While beers brewed are clearly the most important part of a brewery, it is probably the least important part of the brewery tour. Therefore I choose to pass on reviewing the beers a brewer makes but on the other aspects of the brewery tour in this rant. Not to bias the readers I will review each brewery in the order I visited them.
Moosehead Brewery: Saint John, New Brunswick Canada
On a trip through Canada in 1994 on my way to Nova Scotia, I stopped for a brief sojourn at the Moosehead Brewery in New Brunswick. There I experienced an extremely friendly and attentive staff at the company store as well as the tour guides. I would have left happily with out even going on the brewery tour. I should have bought some memorabilia at the company store given how nice they were. The tour was your standard beer tour with nothing standing out in my mind, except that Canada has a law that limits brewers to selling beer only in the provinces in which they brew beer. Therefore, Molson which doesn't have a brewery in New Brunswick cannot sell beer in the Canadian province of New Brunswick. To get around this legality, Canadian brewers brew beer for each other. Moosehead brews Molson beers' on their premises so that Molson can sell their brand in New Brunswick, in exchange Molson brews Moosehead beer in other Canadian provinces where Moosehead doesn't have a brewery. While it may seem an odd law to Americans' it actually proved to be a great asset to the brewery tour. While the Moosehead brewery was nothing worth noting down, the tasting room was one of the best. They spared no expense for the participants at the end of the tour. Moosehead offered the best tour end tasting room I have yet to experience. You could drink as much Moosehead and Molson beer products as you could consume. Additionally, they provided all the snacks you could devour while in the tasting room filled with steins from all periods of Mooseheads existence. And if you so chose they had a variety of soda products available too. Clearly the Moosehead brewery is worthy of a stop or detour if you are in the southern parts of New Brunswick, Canada.
Pabst Brewery: Milwaukee, WI
The Pabst Brewery will always be my favorite brewery as you will soon realize. Located in one of the few great American cities left, The Pabst brewery is an architectural wonder and generous brewery. Unfortunately Pabst closed their Milwaukee brewery in October 1996, only two months after my memorable trip to their facility. The Pabst brewery had everything you wanted in a brewery and tour. The brewery was a very old school "gotham-esque" architecture which I could never do just in words. While the brewing capabilities may have been shut down, the buildings are still standing and merit a visit to Milwaukee on their own. I only hope to see another brewery that has such a memorable presence and architecture. While the Pabst facilities are clearly the best of the bunch, they also stocked the company store with the best products of any of the company stores and a pleasant staff which added to the whole experience. Time was of the essence on my visit since I had a wedding to attend afterwards, but it seemed that Pabst was more than willing to let the taps flow for the people who came out to see them. The choices were limited to Pabst products. My blue ribbon winner in the brewery competition. (Full disclosure requirements: I purchased an Olde English 800 baseball cap as well as a Pabst Blue Ribbon key chain bottle.)
Miller Brewery: Milwaukee, WI
The Miller Brewery was some what of a disappointment for me. We arrived and had to wait at least ½ hour before our tour, which was spent in the company store. The tour was tedious at best, however we did get to see the caves that The Miller brewery used decades ago to store the beer barrels, something I have never seen at another brewery. The company store was quite large and stocked with a large variety of merchandise, but the feeling was kind of like going to Wal-Mart. The product is great, but the experience similar to shopping at Old Navy on a Saturday afternoon. The staff on the tour and at the store was dismal. The Miller brewery also limited tour participants to three beers, and even then it wasn't even the full selection of Miller products. The highlights of the tour were that you could write post cards on the Miller post cards and they would mail them for you and the company store has great product. (Full disclosure requirements: I purchased a Mickey's Malt Liquor baseball cap as well as a Mickey's pint glass.)
Brooklyn Brewery: Brooklyn, NY
I went out the Brooklyn Brewery today for my second time. My last trip was many years ago when I went to see a punk rock show there. Brooklyn Brewery is hands down the best of the four breweries I have visited for encouraging the arts. They sponsor and support various underground cultural events such as punk rock shows, art shows, food tasting events, …
Unfortunately my trip to the Brooklyn Brewery was in vain. They didn't have tours today; however, typically they have tours on Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons. While the Brooklyn Brewery has many pluses such as the great beers they brew, the pool table in the tasting room, the art on display in the tasting room, the only tasting room that played Funkadelic on the sound system, and a decent company store it has as many drawbacks. The drawbacks include they actually charge for the beer in the tasting room, which was the complete in season catalog of Brooklyn Brewery beers, they charged for the pool table, they didn't play the Funkadelic songs loud enough to actually enjoy them, and the lack of personality in the company store. The highlight for me was getting one of those 15" diameter metal signs from the company store for one of my favorite beers, Brooklyn Brown Ale. I should reserve further judgment until I have experienced the entire tour and the after tour tasting experience, but the idea of paying for beer after the tour will always leave a cheap beer after-taste in my mouth. (Full disclosure requirements: I purchased a Brooklyn Brown Ale round metal sign and three beers.)
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