Seeing the Sights in America’s Beer Capital
Fun Beer Tours Milwaukee offers trips for brewing enthusiasts
Lauren Topor, Flickr CC
“What’s in a name?” Juliet famously asked that question and quickly came to the conclusion that names don’t matter. But after taking a trip with Fun Beer Tours, I’d beg to differ: I had a lot of fun on that beer tour.
Begun in May by Paul Hepp, Fun Beer Tours Milwaukee offers a handful of unique options for beer enthusiasts. There’s the Craft Beer Combo Series ($39), which begins at Brenner Brewing Co. and shuttles to two other local breweries, with samples at all three businesses. The Combo Series also comes in a more palatable, shorter two-brewery version ($30). They also offer the Road Rally, which Hepp described to me as “a scavenger hunt on steroids.” Hepp puts together a packet of clues and teams of three to five folks have to divine the answers (spoiler alert: Many of them involve beer and its consumption). The Road Rally sounds like a blast, combining the en vogue time-sensitive teamwork aspect of places like Escape MKE with locally crafted beers.
The tour I went on—the Beer Capital of the World History Plus Beer Tour ($56, includes lunch and four drink tickets)—took us from Best Place at the Historic Pabst Brewery to the Brown Bottle by way of Miller Valley and Brenner Brewing. It’s a jam-packed four-plus-hour tour that could easily run off the rails at any minute; most people may not immediately equate thorough education of the history of Milwaukee’s beer scene with having a few brews and a good time with their friends, but Hepp’s easygoing presence and remarkably comprehensive knowledge of the subjects at hand keep the tourgoers engaged.
And, man, does Hepp know his stuff. In my notes, I have small observations like “He knows about the floors!” and “How did he learn so much about these chairs?” from the Best Place at the Historic Pabst Brewery. When I inquired about how he gained so much knowledge about Milwaukee’s convoluted brewing history, Hepp grinned and said, “I’m one of those guys who walks around buildings until someone kicks me out.”
Hepp’s passion is contagious, and he finds a way to make just staring at a house that was once a mansion for a beer magnate legitimately interesting. A 24-year veteran of teaching economics and American history, Hepp has a great teacherly instinct for when to lecture, when to ask questions, and when to just let people hang out and have fun. He’s paced the tour well: You walk around Best Place for a bit, then stroll around the Pabst Complex, have a relaxed lunch at Jackson’s, hop on the shuttle for a tour of famous houses and Miller Valley, drink a beer at Brenner, and wind up at the Brown Bottle, which houses memorabilia from the Schlitz brewery. It’s a great balance between walking and sitting, listening and conversing, imbibing and abstaining.
One of my favorite parts of the B.C.O.T.W.H.P.B. Tour—for short—was the ways in which our group of 14 legitimately bonded over the course of our time together. (The couple-three drinks we’d had by then didn’t hurt our growing sense of camaraderie, I’m sure.) By our final stop, we’d all gathered as a group at one large table, and when I left, goodbyes rang out through the Brown Bottle and followed me out into the bright summer day.
For more information about Fun Beer Tours Milwaukee, visit funbeertoursmke.com.