Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Lakefront Brewery - The Tour

I love touring a brewery; it really puts you in touch with the family and community aspect that most craft brewers seem to cultivate.

Milwaukee's Lakefront Brewery has all the elements that I would want to experience in a good brewery tour: it's in a nice old "brewery like" building; the employees are nice and definitely seem to love their jobs; the tour is easily accessible; and of course, there is a large amount of fresh beer to be had.

Although the brewery is in a "great place on a Great Lake," Lakefront's facility is not actually on a lakefront, but rather, near downtown Milwaukee on the Milwaukee River. The building is an old brick warehouse, surrounded on the street by a hill, an old rusty train bridge, and the "renewal" of Milwaukee's downtown, condos.

You enter through two large wooden doors and pay the very reasonable $5 fee and are then presented with some very cool wooden nickels which entitle you to free samples from the bar. The bar is in a very large room that is artificially divided in the center and filled with tables. The room doubles as a banquet hall where people hold weddings and other events, and has a nice old Milwaukee aesthetic, albeit sparse.

After you have quaffed a few of Lakefront's offerings, you head downstairs into the brewery itself. The passageways inside the brewery are narrow, so make sure you get to the front of the pack if you want to hear what is going on.

Besides walking past fresh bags of malted barley and giant vats, there is some visual candy of the unexpected sort, especially for baseball fans. Lakefront acquired some relics from Milwaukee's County Stadium and preserved them inside the brewery, a proper place to house relics of the Brewers if you ask me.

The Brewers mascot is a happy fellow who looks like a Swiss/German immigrant and is named "Bernie Brewer." Bernie used to reside in a chalet fitting to his teutonic appearance, and slide into a giant frothy mug of beer upon home team homers, but alas the chalet went the way of the "two-fisted slobber" when County Stadium was torn down. In the Brewer's new home of Miller park, Bernie does not have a chalet, nor does he slide into a large beer mug, which is all the more sad considering the namesake of the stadium.

I thought that I would never again be able to experience this glorious icon of my childhood and of Milwaukee's history, but the good people at Lakefront have preserved it for us. Within the brewery are not only the entire chalet, but also the beer mug, as well as the front of a giant faux-keg with "Go Brewers" on it. Ladies and gentlemen, let me assure you that I have been to the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field in Titletown, and actually standing in the chalet (that's right, it's open to the public) was an equally great sports moment in my life.

After the completion of a talk on the brewing process, an "in brewery" sample, and a discussion of kegging, including jokes about the bung and the bung hole, we were in for a real Milwaukee treat: we got to sing the Laverne & Shirley theme song while a bottle with a glove on it spun by. I must say to the beer lover and native Milwaukeean, it was epic.

After this you head back upstairs for some more sampling as well as nice surprise: a free glass pint with a proper Lakefront Brewery logo on it. All this for five dollars.

The information side of the tour is not lacking; however, it's not really overwhelming either. The spoken part of the tour is not the main reason to go here though: it's the total experience. This is an old warehouse, in brew city, with old baseball lore and TV sitcom kitsch built in! It really doesn't get a whole lot better than that. Try the "East Side Dark" and the "Riverwest Stein" while you are there: two beers that are named for two classic and dynamic Milwaukee neighborhoods, and have classic and dynamic tastes to match.

Thank you so much to the people at Lakefront Brewery for making this a totally unforgettable experience for Amber and me. Cheers!

Links of Interest:

Lakefront Brewery Tour

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Danny from Milwaukee said...

Next time you are down town touring breweries and things, I expect to be notified!

I used to live about 200 yards from the Lakefront Brewery, so I'm very familiar with the tour (I've taken it about 25 times) A few comments to add:

The quality of the spoken part of the tour is sort of "strikes and gutters." As of two or three years ago, it was all strikes because your choice for tour guide were the two owners, "Employee #1" who is basically just some old dude that hangs out there as far as I can tell, and this chubby frat guy type guy that really really loves beer and makes a lot of pot references. These guys all were in on the brewing process and did the tours on the side. In the last year or so I've run into a few new tour guides that aren't as good. I think they're hired as strictly tour guides so they're not as authentic. There's one girl in particular that's just unbearable.

Also, the slide down from the chalet used to be open but I guess big slides and mass amounts of beer didn't work as well as you'd think it would.

Also, the image depicted in the link you provided of the Two-fisted Slobber isn't the real Two-fisted Slobber... it's some horrible montser.

RyanSimatic said...

The Klish brothers I believe are the owner-tour guides you're refering too. You can still get a tour from Russ on Friday's, and as a bonus he'll tell you about the processes taken to "green" the brewery.

Also, yeah, the "real" two-fisted slobber cannot be easily located on the internet, probably since he existed on a scoreboard pre-world wide web; however, I just wanted readers to get the back-story on this creature of Milwaukee's past.

I'll make sure to hit you up next time I'm in MKE touring breweries.