Monday, I went on a tour of the Miller brewery. Not much of a Miller drinker myself, but I kinda wanted to see what a big brewery does, even though there are, apparently, better brewery tours in Milwaukee; simply because I tend to drink more beer that comes from bigger breweries. As has often been the case on my travels, I totally underestimated the distance on the map from downtown Milwaukee to the brewery. Rather than getting a bus, I walked. There was a point, too, about halfway, that I kinda got the feeling I might have found myself in a bit of a shady neighbourhood. It turned out to be not too bad, a bit scruffier around the edges, but nothing to get too worried about.
By about the time I saw the big sign for “Miller Valley,” I’d already realised that I was close to the brewery. The area stank of yeast. Around a corner were a bunch of big factory/warehouse-type buildings and one cutesy little wooden place that is, apparently, a replica of Mr. Miller’s original brewery back in the day.
The visitors centre was full of Miller-related crap to buy, but the tour itself was free. A quick flash of my driver’s licence to prove I wasn’t under 21 years old, and we’re off. First, there’s a film which told me and the three other people taking the tour how wonderful Miller is. I didn’t add up while it was going on, but I’m fairly sure that the phrase “It’s Miller Time!” was mentioned somewhere in the region of 750,000 times during the ten minute film.
A quick summary of the film: German dude who likes making beer somehow manages to find himself in Milwaukee. He makes some beer. People drink it. He makes more. More people drink it. Bigger and bigger. Introduction of new types of beer. Still more people drink it. They help the children in the community cos they care. It’s Miller Time! But drink responsibly.
Actually, they defined “Miller Time” as the point in an evening where good things get great. At that point in the film, a guy with a beer in his hand looks across the bar and sees a foxy chick with a Miller, too. Who’da thought it? It’s kismet. He drinks Miller, she drinks Miller! I’d imagine that evening ended with some drunken fumbling, a quick bang in an alley, and the realisation that at some point during proceedings the condom came off inside her vagina, and now she’s either pregnant or riddled with diseases. And then she’ll go to a clinic to get tested and she’ll be up the duff, and she’ll call him, and he’ll be like, “Who the fuck are you?” And then she’ll go and get an abortion, but the clinic will be being protested by Christians, and she won’t go in, and she’ll end up deciding to keep the baby, but complications will occur, and they’re gonna have to deliver it early. But things go from bad to worse, and she’ll die during childbirth, and the hospital will try to find the father, but he’ll be in a bar somewhere, eyeing up a foxy chick who’s drinking a Miller Lite. It’s Miller Time!
The tour, including that introduction film, lasted all of 40 minutes. We saw where they put beer in cans and where the cans go around the factory thingy. Oooh! And then to the shipping area, which, as you may imagine, was just a big warehouse full of pallets of beer. And then to the place where the beer is brewed. Our tour guide Danny told us lots of facts, all of which passed through my ears without pausing. That was it, the tour was over.
Then we go across the street to the Miller Inn, where we get three free beers a piece (I tried Miller Lite, Miller High Life, and Miller Genuine Draft) and some pretzels. From our tour group, the young couple from Chicago sat on their own, leaving me and the older fella to chatter. He was Gary from Chattanooga, Tennessee. He drinks Miller Lite for pleasure. He was one of those people who over-estimates one’s interest in his career. He works for a flour production company and told me about the different types of grain produced in different parts of the country, and what that grain was good for, and even how much protein each type had. My interest perked up a touch, though, when he told me that his son used to play baseball in the minor leagues for one of the Cincinnati Reds’ farm teams. He pitched for two years, then got tendonitis and was forced to give it up. While telling me about the life of his pitching son, he began one sentence in a way that never ends well: “I don’t wanna sound prejudiced or nuthin’…” He carried on to tell me that all the players from the Dominican Republic had it easier. Whatever that means. We sank our booze, said our goodbyes, and I went and spent a lovely evening at a barbecue with some of Rebecca’s friends. And after a few hours sleep, I got on a plane to Denver, Colorado.