Here we are, 1 day before the 12th annual Great Brew Tour. I was thinking this morning about another Great Brew Tour Eve that led to one of our best days ever.
It was back in 2004, the day before we leave for LaCrosse, Wisconsin and kick off the 4th annual tour. I had dropped off my kids out at the farm to stay with their grandparents for the week. I was driving back, about 30 minutes from home, when my cell phone rang. It was Randy Hughes, the brewmaster at City Brewery in LaCrosse. He asked me if we still planned at touring at 11am on Wednesday morning. I said yes, and he asked if we’d be interested in a behind-the-scenes tour led by him. I was floored. I couldn’t say yes fast enough. He said to be there by 10 and make sure that the crew all had hats and closed-toe shoes.
I was so pumped. What a great way to start the tour; with the brewmaster himself showing us around one of the largest breweries in the country. I had no idea what Randy had in store for us.
We had been on the tour at City before and knew the drill. We’d seen the beer traffic control room, and the brew kettles, and the bottling and canning lines, and the warehouse, and the World’s largest 6-pack. Randy brought us places in that brewery that we never knew existed.
We also got a crash course in energy drink and clear malt production. We saw rail cars filled with corn syrup, 55 gallon drums of anhydrous caffeine, and cases of Mike’s Hard Lemonade coming down the line. There are lots of different products in addition to beer keeping the facility going.
We traveled to the roof of the brewhouse where we got an incredible view of the surrounding area and the layout of the brewery buildings. I couldn’t help but think that very few people have ever been on that roof to take in the sights. You can see Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota from that rooftop.
We also traveled to the depths of the brewery. Down to the Government Cellar, and down to the brite tanks. Randy even brought out a pigtail so we could be some of the first people to try the 2004 vintage of City Fest Bier. As the first beer we tasted on that brew tour, it was the best beers I’ve ever had.
One of the highlights for me was seeing the giant fermenters and lagering tanks. The hype over there is to see the World’s largest 6-Pack, but the tanks inside the buildings are more than twice as big. Impressive to say the least. Randy showed us one tank that had been drained years ago without the venting being properly set. The force of the vacuum in the tank collapsed it onto itself. The tank still sit there because it’s too big to remove and replace. Talk about having a bad day at work!
Randy brought us everywhere in the City brewery that day. All in all, we spent over 2 hours on our tour before we headed back to the gift shop and the hospitality room for a little more visiting and some autographs.
Even though this tour happened almost 10 years ago, it’s still fresh in my memory. It stands as one of my top 3 moments in Great Brew Tour history, and we have our good friend, Randy to thank for it all. Randy, thanks for giving us your time and a fantastic tour that day, and thanks for the time and the friendship all these years we’ve been visiting you, your brewery, and your state.