Sprecher Brewery Tour

This past week­end, Veron­ica and I took a quick overnight trip to Mil­wau­kee. We went for a vari­ety of rea­sons: to visit her fam­ily, to see some of her friends, and to go to the big annual book sale at All Saints’ Cathe­dral down­town. Those plans left us some free time on Sat­ur­day, so we decided to take a tour of the Sprecher Brew­ing Com­pany in Glen­dale, a Mil­wau­kee sub­urb. Sprecher is best known for their root beer and seven other vari­eties of soda. And with good rea­son — the New York Times rated Sprecher root beer the best out of 25 brands from around the coun­try. Indeed, soda was the only prod­uct I asso­ci­ated with them until last week. But Ran­dall Sprecher started the com­pany as a beer brew­ery, and they brew a wide vari­ety of beers.

The tour was short (due to the small size of the brew­ery, but pretty good. Since it was the week­end, no one was there actu­ally brew­ing or bot­tling, but our guide gave detailed descrip­tions of both processes, along with some of the company’s his­tory. At the end of the tour of course comes the req­ui­site tast­ing ses­sion — four sam­ples of your choice from a selec­tion of ten beers on tap. But we, along with about ten other peo­ple, bypassed the nor­mal tast­ing in favor of a spe­cial Reserve Tast­ing. This tast­ing included sam­ples of ten dif­fer­ent Sprecher beers (includ­ing some pre­mium vari­eties not avail­able in the reg­u­lar tast­ing), each paired with a dif­fer­ent cheese.

We tried, in order, their Hefe Weiss, Extra Pale Ale, Mai Bock, Pub Brown Ale, IPA², Abbey Triple, Pipers Scotch Ale, Black Bavar­ian, Bar­ley Wine, and Bour­bon Scotch Ale. The var­i­ous cheeses came mostly from Wis­con­sin cheese mak­ers, includ­ing Sar­tori, Maple Leaf, Carr Val­ley, and oth­ers. The only cheese from out­side the state was the deli­cious Ker­ry­gold Dubliner, which was paired with Sprecher’s oak bour­bon barrel-aged Bour­bon Scotch Ale. Matt, the guy run­ning the tast­ing, did a great job telling us about each cheese and each beer as we went along, and we were pro­vided with tast­ing sheets with more detailed infor­ma­tion (IBUs, degrees Plato, types of hops, etc.) and space for tak­ing notes as we went.

It was nice to sam­ple so many beers at once; the process gave not only an overview of Sprecher’s beers, but a good side-by-side com­par­i­son of dif­fer­ent beer styles. I think Veron­ica and I agreed that the Abbey Triple was our favorite, fol­lowed closely by the Hefe Weiss. From there our indi­vid­ual rank­ings diverged some­what. The cheeses were all quite deli­cious. Who­ever selected the pair­ings knew what they were doing; some cheeses com­ple­mented their respec­tive beers, other pro­vided delight­ful con­trasts. This sort of thing seems to be catch­ing on — the New Glarus Brew­ing Com­pany (which I’ve now toured three times) near Madi­son just announced their own Hard Hat Tours, which are behind-the-scenes guided tours cul­mi­nat­ing in a beer and cheese tast­ing ses­sion. Per­haps it’s time for a fourth trip to New Glarus…

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