Watch It Made Blog

The Beer Necessities
Thursday, August 2, 2007 | Posted By Karen Axelrod in Factory Tours

Among the trades that European immigrants brought to the United States in the 19th century was the craft of brewing beer. Spurred by the energy and innovation of American business, this heritage has made U.S. beer companies some of the biggest and best in the world. You can tour brewing facilities in various parts of the country.

One out of every two beers sipped in America is made by Anheuser-Busch—the world's largest brewer. Among the many brewery tours we have taken for Watch It Made, we have visited two of the company's sites: the brewery at the headquarters in St. Louis, MO, and the smaller brewery in Merrimack, NH. Tours are also available at the facilities in Fairfield, CA, Fort Collins, CO, and Jacksonville, FL.

A tour of the brewery in St. Louis (est. 1852) gives you the best feel for the history of the company and its most famous product, Budweiser. As your guide leads you through the Clydesdale paddock and stable, lager cellar, Brew House, Lyon’s Schoolhouse, and packaging plant, a feeling of this history, along with the smell of fresh hops, surrounds you. In the lager cellar, stainless-steel tanks each hold enough for 200,000 sixpacks. The tanks are lined with a layer of beechwood chips, providing additional surface area to attract and retain yeast. Anheuser-Busch is the only major brewer that still uses this beechwood technique to age and naturally carbonate beer.

Another major American beer-maker with a long history is Miller Brewing. Bought by the company's founder in 1855, the Plank Road Brewery in Milwaukee, WI, now produces up to 8.5 million barrels of beer every year. Lager beer needs a chilled climate to age; now replaced by mechanical refrigeration, the historic underground "caves" of the original brewery kept beer cold in the company's early days.

Many smaller beer companies offer tours as well. In Boston, MA, the Boston Beer Company, the maker of the Samuel Adams brand, lets visitors tour its facility for developing new beers. Along with seeing the brewing operation, here you can taste the barley malt and hops that, along with yeast and water, are the only ingredients of Samuel Adams beer. The use of just these ingredients allows Samuel Adams to compete in the most demanding beer market in the world: Germany, which has strict laws governing the purity of beer that can be sold there.

The enjoyment of ice-cold beer is a long-standing tradition in the stands at baseball games. Though it doesn't make the kind of beer you are likely to find on tap at a baseball park, Brewery Ommegang crafts beer on a small scale in the Belgian tradition not far from the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. The rural setting alone makes Ommegang a lovely day out. Tucked in pastoral grounds of 136 acres that are perfect for picnics, the barnlike microbrewery resembles a Belgian farmhouse. Inside, your tour shows how the company brews beer with the peculiar organic chemistry of the old Belgian masters.

In Pottsville, PA, Yuengling runs the oldest brewery in the U.S. Built in 1831, the brewery (like that of Miller) has a historic "cave" where lager was originally kept cool as it aged. On the Pacific coast, you can also tour Redhook Ale Brewery in Woodinville, WA, and Alaskan Brewing in Juneau, AK.



Posted By Karen Axelrod at 3:39 PM in Category:Factory Tours


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