I don’t drink beer, much to the disappointment of many, and I don’t own a motorcycle, much to the disappointment of myself. But I do like factory tours. So while in Milwaukee it seemed incumbent upon us to go to at least two famous production facilities: Harley-Davidson, and Miller Beer. Wednesday was designated Miller day (or as they repeatedly told us through the tour, “Miller Time”).
The tour was fairly amusing because it started with the usual over-the-top propaganda film that has become the hallmark of factory tours everywhere. Whether Coca-Cola, Tabasco, Celestial Seasonings (tea), Tillamook cheese, Corvette, Nissan, or any other we’ve done, there’s always that introductory bit where they try to convince you that their product is not only a major part of American history, but an nearly spiritual experience. Just to be near it is to become a part of something much larger than oneself.
In the case of Miller, the thing that really got us going was the reiteration of the phrase “Miller Time,” which (since I am an admitted beer cynic) particularly struck me as comical after about the 30th or 40th time I heard it. But the tour was admittedly well done, and I would recommend it to anyone who likes factory tours, or who likes beer. Like other factory tours, there is free product to be had at the end, and Miller’s samples currently take the form of three tall glasses. No skimpy paper cups here.
The sheer numbers of production are staggering. This is only one of several plants across the US, and they ship massive quantities of beer to ten states. Imagine 2.25 million cases per week, going out on 250 trucks a day and something like 18 rail cars, too. Interestingly, they say that Chicago takes a large share of the production, equaling as much as five other states. Draw your own conclusions.
If you take the tour, you’ll see the movie, a filling and capping facility, a warehouse, the kettles, the historic “beer caves,” the Miller Inn, and of course the gift shop. For the price (free), it’s a heck of a deal.
Harley-Davidson will be another day. We have one more day in Milwaukee, and I’m still working frantically on the magazine, so the current balance is about six hours of work and a few hours in the afternoon for exploration. We’ll probably catch the tour on Friday. On Saturday we’ll return to Madison for just the day, so we can participate in the WBCCI flea market, and then we’ll be on the road again.