rachel: so, i’m sure you’ve noticed that we’ve been on quite a few brewery tours since we have moved to illinois. and we just want to address really quickly what makes a good tour to us.

let it be known that we have looked into and without success tried very hard to go on several tours of breweries in texas before we left. for some reason, though, they never seemed to work out (one exception: rahr brewery in fw).

truth be told, rahr brewery tour isn’t really a tour. it is a gathering of people to consume rahr beer in the brewery. you stand in line on saturday afternoon, show your id, pay your $7 (which we recently heard is now $10), grab your glass, get your three tickets and find a spot to sit or stand. the tour does exist, but you have to have extremely good hearing to a) know when it is leaving and b) hear the guide above every other noise in the brewery. now, this is really a good if you’re just wanting to casually hang out with friends, receive a cool pint glass, and try their beers. but, it isn’t really that great if you’re wanting to know the process and history of the company. don’t get me wrong, we love rahr brewery, but it isn’t the most informative “tour”.

so, with that out in the open to some of our previous “tour” experiences, let us sojourn onward.

after having the experience of rahr, two brothers, and the four breweries we visited in milwaukee, we’ve come up with a list of things that makes a good tour.

1. a non-obnoxious tour guide. this is essential. they are telling you about the history of the company, the brewing process, answering questions and they usually have their little script that they follow. please no stupid immature jokes about names of equipment used, or innuendos; leave that at home. we appreciate someone who is dynamic, informed, and excited about their work. (best: two brothers, worst: lakefront)

2. a small tour. more than 30 people and things get out of control. “out of control” means people chatting, me feeling claustrophobic, other tour takers making additional obnoxious comments, or feeling that they are more knowledgeable about beer than the guide (ok, that may be so, but don’t flaunt it). (best: pabst, worst: milwaukee brewing co.)

3. limit the number of small children and/or make sure the kids are behaved. this was super annoying to us at one of the tours in milwaukee, so we feel it needs to be added on here. i don’t mind if you bring your kid, but don’t let them run around, be loud, or get in the way or the tour. yes, i know that’s what kids do, but a brewery tour is not the place…that’s what a playground is for. breweries might consider making their tours 21 and over. (best: two brothers, worst: sprecher)

4. pint glasses. a wonderful way to commemorate the tour experience is to provide pint glasses to the attendees. we understand this can’t happen if the tour is free, but we greatly enjoy collecting pint glasses and love when we are able to take them home to remember the experience. (best: lakefront, rahr, milwaukee brewing co, worst: pabst)

5. a space that is conducive to having tours. part of the reason rahr might not hold well-known tours is because the space to hold them is limited. please don’t try to cram 50 people in a small space. ensure that tours provide adequate space such that it doesn’t not feel like you’re in a club and/or you are a herd of cows. (best: two brothers, worst: milwaukee brewing co.)

6. not being solely focused on drinking. yes, part of tours is usually to sample the products, but when it comes to that being the only focus, you lose sight of the process, time, and effort that it took for the brewmasters to produce a good quality beer. and in some ways, you might as well be drinking keystone if your intent is only drink the alcohol and not learn about and savor the product. (best: two brothers, worst: lakefront, milwaukee brewing co.)

yes, as i re-read our thoughts, we have high standards. but, we’ve also been on quite a few tours and have some experience and now know what our preferences are. this post, funny as it may seem, might also be a good way to understand what we deem to be a “good” tour. notice, that two brothers had four “bests” on our six requirements.

Matt: One of the best things about Rahr is that it is big enough that you can get away from the other obnoxious crowd if you want. There are kids there but it isn’t a setting where they can interrupt a tour guide or crying or constantly complaining about something. There is also a band that plays but if you don’t want to listen to it, you can go outside or into another room. Also, they have a local independent food establishment come out and serve food each time. So sometimes that is good and sometimes it is more of an inconvenience.

2. Not only a small tour but also a tour that acts with class. To go on a tour and chat the whole time to your friend Rhoda about what Dolores is doing and be completely disrespectful to the tour guide has no place. There is plenty of time for you to gossip about the latest Bachelor show or whatever. Guys this also pertains to you. Just because you are drinking beer doesn’t allow you to talk or be a tool or make this guy’s day more miserable than it is because he has to give a tour to a bunch of people who don’t listen. Simply, have respect.

3. I willingly admit I was a rotten obnoxious kid and it is biting me in the butt now. But if you bring your child on a tour, don’t let it run around and mess with people or let the child cut people off in line. Have some respect for others. To let your child run around and mess with strangers is completely inappropriate. If you want to bring your kid, I am all for it. Maybe the brewery should have a tour that is families only. (note: i know this sounds harsh and i am not a parent, so i freely admit i don’t know what it is like to be in a parents shoes with 4 obnoxious kids on sugar highs)

4. Pint glasses are super important. It is free marketing. Brewery memorabilia is becoming a business and what better way to lure people to your brewery than a pint glass. It is like recurring advertising. Anytime someone comes over, they may get a brewery glass. I may not always remember what brewery I went to during my trip to Milwaukee, but if I have a glass, I will remember.

5. Space is very important. Not only that but so is flow. You can have all the space in the world but if you have tour groups keep bumping into each other or trying to go from station to station while there is another (previous) group at that station is stupid. I’m looking at you Milwaukee brewing company. It makes things very hard to get a beer, plus there isn’t enough space for 60 people in that small area with another tour group behind and in front. Think about traffic flow. Put yourself in the tour group. Do you really want to be fighting not only the 30 people in your group for a crappy beer but 60 people because you have them “waiting around” to finish their samples. I realize not all breweries have a lot of space, but if you are going to have a tour, think about the flow of it. It is okay to change things up if it isn’t working. Also, having a staging area where not only tour guest but also restaurant guest are on a busy night, is not the best idea. If you have a bar, then you have it for a reason. Don’t have any Joe blow come in and start messing things up for tour patrons. Lakefront was horrible at this. It was like being packed in a can of tuna. 60-70 people in the space the size of a small office cubicle is not a good idea and then that doesn’t create a good attitude for your patrons.

what makes a good tour? you tell us!

One Comment

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  1. I love this post. You should take a weekend trip to Minnesota to visit our breweries. They are usually FREE or ask that you bring a canned food item to donate. I can’t believe they are charging you 10 dollars!

    I just wrote a post about them check it out here:

    Also, why are there children on these tours????

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