If my recent posts seem anachronistic, there’s good reason: they are. Rand and I are on the road for a while, so I’ve been scouring my Flickr stream and the Drafts folder of my blog for old photos and stories I haven’t yet shared with you. This is a post I never got around to finishing from our Milwaukee trip in October, 2012.
I’m not a big drinker.
I’m sure some of you reading that are thinking, “Yeah, right.” But it’s true. The cursing and the brutal honesty and the divulging of way, waaay too much personal information to an audience of strangers? That’s me sober. (I once had a waitress cut me off. When I told her I was drinking water, she just stared at me blankly.)
That’s part of the reason why I don’t drink. I can’t imagine all the horrible things I would say if I had a bit of alcohol in my system.
Besides, I can think of waaay better things to do with all that yeast. Cinnamon rolls. Doughnuts. Danishes. (Wait, do danishes require yeast? Whatever. Now I want one.)
My vice is sweets. It always has been. But Rand? Rand loves a drink now and then. Especially if it’s a really good beer. So, when he had to leave Milwaukee a few hours before me, and I was left with the option of joining some of his colleagues at the Miller Brewery, I went. I was sort of Rand’s beer ambassador. And while I’ve never known him to drink a Miller, I’m certain he’d have loved the tour.
Here are some snapshots I took of our visit (which, by the way, was entirely free, and included drinks at the end).
Here we are approaching Miller Valley, and the Miller Brewery … We were there in October, so all the trees were a lovely sort of orange-yellow.
When we reached the Visitors Center, we found High Life Cruiser parked just outside. I think it’s permanently there, as it doesn’t seem like the best idea to be driving around in a vehicle, advertising booze.
We arrived a little late for the tour, but fortunately we were allowed to join one that had already started. After a brief intro talk, we headed out to one of the brewery buildings, just across the street.
On the way, we passed by this sign. Our guide explained that it was one of the largest hand-painted signs in the U.S. It’s basically just a huge mural.
I know that this is probably a no-brainer for everyone else, but I’m always sort of fascinated by the idea that beer is something that is cooked. It’s just hard to think of it in that way. But if you visit the Miller Brewery, you’ll find all sorts of massive vats and fermentation canisters that make it clear it: beer doesn’t just come pouring out of some stream up in the mountains. Oh, and miniature Vikings don’t barrel it up and drag it to a factory, where it is bottled for our convenience. TV has lied to me once again.
I’m fairly sure the vents at the top of these huge containers were so all the fermenting gasses could escape (without losing any beery goodness).
This was, I kid you not, one of my favorite parts – the bottle filler. Almost immediately after seeing this, I had the theme song to Laverne & Shirley stuck in my head (incidentally, the show was set in Milwaukee).
We watched them whir through for a while – it was exactly like one of those “How it’s made” videos they used to have on Mr. Rogers when I was a kid. Naturally, I was transfixed.
We concluded with a stop at the Miller Caves. In the years before refrigeration, beer was stored here to keep it cold (aided with ice that had been brought in from a nearby lake in the wintertime). The caves extended down some 600 feet, but they’ve since been sealed off. Now only the entrances are open to visitors. Even so, it was quite chilly inside.
The tour concluded in the tasting room, where we got to try three of Miller’s best selling beers. As usual, I passed on that offer.
But I did take a minute to send Rand a postcard, which the brewery will mail for you. I needed a bit of inspiration, so I just copied the text of the postcard Homer mails Marge from the Duff Brewery.
When Rand and I finally met back up (I can’t remember where … Seattle? San Francisco?), I told him about my visit.
“You’d have loved it,” I told him.
“Well, we’ll have to go back to Milwaukee,” he said. And I, for the record, am totally okay with that.