Milwaukee Brewing Company
On our last day in the city we had a tour with the Brewer arranged at Milwaukee Brewing Company (MKE) to the south of our hotel. We had purposely paid the extra for the $15 tickets as we knew by this stage of our trip we would be done with being informed that beer is made from Malted Barley, Hops, Water and Yeast and would be in need of a more technical tour – we were not to be disappointed!
We arrived early thinking we could wait in the Tasting Room but it turned out the MKE did not have one but a member of staff kindly grabbed us each a token and pointed us two blocks down the street where we could find their beers on tap at Steny’s Tavern & Grill so off we headed and grabbed some complimentary beers.
In addition to the MKE beers we also had a couple of other Craft Beers:
- O-Gii by MKE (Imperial Wit – 9.2% ABV, 24.5 IBU’s): golden in color, citrusy, thick mouth-feel – 4.0*
- Polish Moon by MKE (Sweet Stout – 4.5% ABV, 21 IBU’s): roasty, coffee and creamy – 3.5
- Boom Over Pow by Three Floyds Brewing (ESB – 6.7% ABV, 52 IBU’s): lemony and strong for an ESB – 3.0
- Shake Chocolate Porter by Boulder Beer (Robust Porter – 5.9% ABV, 39 IBU’s): smooth due to being on Nitro and plenty of chocolate – 4.0*
* denotes our favorites in the above beers.
Once we arrived at MKE for our tour we checked in to get our colored wristbands and then grabbed a beer in our complimentary pint glass. Our selection of beers during the tour were as follows:
- Increase Wheat (Berliner Weiss – 3.1% ABV, 5 IBUs) – 3.5
- Polish Moon (Sweet Stout – 4.5% ABV, 21 IBU’s): not sure why we thought this beer tasted better second time round – 4.0
- Doppelvision (Doppelbock – 7.0% ABV): vanilla from being oak-aged – 4.5*
- Colombian Saison: the coffee beans are steeped in the secondary and impart no roasted flavor into the beer, only the caffeine kick – 3.5
* denotes our favorite from the above beers.
Our tour was with Robert Morton (Bert) who is the Head Brewer at MKE and is clearly very knowledgeable plus immensely helpful showing us around the various equipment and answering all of our questions. Below are some of the key takeaway points that were made:
- MKE started at the Milwaukee Ale House and in 2005 the production brewery was opened.
- The brewery has a green philosophy which includes the use of 22 glycol-based solar panels to provide a boost to the hot water in addition to the use of gas. Water is reclaimed and reused as much as possible within the brewery.
- Breiss malts are used with the addition of some from Gambrinus.
- The average recipe uses 3500-4200 Lbs of base malt which means the brewery currently goes through a semi-truck of grain every two weeks.
- The Grain Mill shown in the above photo was obtained from Minnesota Brewing and various other equipment came from the old Pabst brewery including the mezzanine which provides access to the Boil Kettle and Mash Tun as well as housing the box assembly machine that is positioned above the Bottling Line.
- The brewhouse is 50 barrels (BBL) in size and the Mash Tun doubles as a Boil Kettle with a separate Lauter Tun that has a 93 Lb copper false bottom. These are used by first of all mashing then pumping the grain and liquid over into the Lauter Tun then sparging the sweet liquid back into the Boil Kettle.
- Bottles are unloaded from pallets onto the Accumulation Table which leads into the bottling room for cleaning, sanitizing, purging (with CO2) and filling.
- The Bottle Filler is a 34-head counter pressure filler that runs at 110 bottles per minute and takes a total of nine people to run the whole bottling process.
- Canning is carried out using a 4-head filler which takes six hours to fill 210 cases but only needs three people.
- There are two boilers which came from Indiana, the second of these is run on fryer oil that has been strained and purified to remove all the solids.
- On average 3-4 recipes are brewed per week and placed into 60, 80 and 120 BBL fermenters.
- The brewery operates two shifts for brewing and packaging.
- Mashing is generally done at 153 deg F with conversion time usually taking 60 minutes. In the case of the Doppelvision beer there is an extended boil of two hours to obtain the caramel flavors.
- Pellet hops are used in all the beers.
- After the boil is complete the water is chilled using a glycol cooled Plate Chiller and then oxygenation of the wort is carried out.
- For yeast the brewery mainly uses Wyeast 1272 (American Ale II) which is reused up to around 37 generations. Some beers use Wyeast 3711 (French Saison).
- Clarification of the beer is done by lowering the pH after cold crashing it to drop out the yeast. The beer is then force carbonated in 37 and 80 BBL Bright Tanks using a carbonation stone.
- 3-4 four brands of beer are usually packaged per week.
Below are some more photos of the MKE brewery:
After our tour we had a few more beers and also met Jim McCabe who is the owner of MKE.
We have been on many brewery tours and think this is probably the best one we have been on to date – we highly recommend the tour and their top quality beers. Next morning we stopped by to pick up 8 x 750ml bottles of their beer to take home!
Our final stop of the day was at the Milwaukee Ale House which is in the Third Ward part of the town. Here we had dinner and also enjoyed some more MKE beers courtesy of three more tokens from the brewery.
We found the city of Milwaukee to be a great city in general to visit with plenty of buildings from the 1800’s and if you are into Craft Beer then it is definitely amongst our top ten beer cities in the USA.
If you have any comments or questions on this article please leave them below. Our next article covers our return journey home via Chicago and Cleveland.