In 1855, German immigrant Fredrick Miller purchased the Plank Road Brewery. Surrounded by woods, the small brewing operation was no bigger than a Victorian house. Today, a replica of the Plank Road Brewery is just one of the historic highlights in Milwaukee’s Miller Valley—the home of the nation’s second largest brewer, Miller Brewing Company.
Walk outdoors and upstairs to Miller’s packaging-center balcony. A blur of cans roars along conveyor belts that wind through wet machinery, packing up to 200,000 cases of beer daily.
The next stop is Miller’s mammoth distribution center that covers the equivalent of five football fields. Typically, you can see half a million cases of beer.
In the brew house, Miller makes its beer, up to 8.5 million barrels annually in Milwaukee alone. Climb 56 stairs to look down on a row of towering, shiny brew kettles where “wort,” a grain extract, is boiled and combined with hops. Stroll through Miller’s historic Caves, a restored portion of the original brewery where beer was stored before the invention of mechanical refrigeration.
Finish your tour at the Bavarian-style Miller Inn and sample a Miller beer or soft drink. Be sure also to take a few minutes to inspect the impressive collection of antique steins. In the summer, you can enjoy your beverage in an adjoining beer garden enlivened by music.
Freebies: Beer (for those 21 years of age and older with proper ID), soda, peanuts, and postcards (Miller will cover postage to any world destination).
Video/DVD Shown: 15-minute video shows brewing process and overview of Miller’s history, information about their present operation, and the future of the company.
Reservations Needed: No, but recommended for groups of 15 or more.
Days and Hours: Mon–Sat 10:30 am–3:30 pm. Closed holidays and week between Christmas and New Year’s.
Plan to Stay: 1 hour for video and tour, plus time for product sampling and gift shop.
Minimum Age: No
Disabled Access: Plant tour: no. Visitor Center (includes video), Miller Inn, and Caves: yes.
Group Requirements: Groups of 15 or more should call at least 1 day ahead for reservations. Maximum group size is 105. Limited reservations on Saturdays.
Special Information: Best time to see production is weekdays. Miller Brewing Company also gives tours and has a gift shop in Tumwater, WA (call 360-754-5217), and the Miller Marketplace and Brew Kettle Museum in Ft. Worth, TX (call 817-568-BEER).
Gift Shop: Girl in the Moon Brewery Shop sells clothing, caps, glassware, steins, mirrors, tap handles, and other Miller-logoed items. Open Mon–Sat: summer 10:00 am– 5:30 pm; winter 10:00 am–5:00 pm.
Directions: From Chicago, take I-94 West to 35th St. Turn right (north) on 35th St. Turn left (west) onto State St. Pass through “Miller Valley” (well marked) to last building on left, Miller Visitor Center and Gift Shop. From Madison, take I-94 East to Hwy. 41 North to the State St. exit. Follow signs to right, down hill to traffic light. Turn left onto State St. Visitor Center is 1 block ahead on right.
Nearby Attractions: Quality Candy/Buddy Squirrel factory tour (see page 215); Miller Park (home of Milwaukee Brewers); Milwaukee County Zoo; Mitchell Park Horticulture (“The Domes”); Milwaukee County Museum; Milwaukee Art Museum; Boerner Botanical Gardens; Cedar Creek Winery. Miller Visitor Center front desk has information on and directions to many local attractions.