Friday, October 28, 2011

Budweiser Brewery: Jacksonville Beermaster Tour

So, I feel the need to preface this post with a small disclaimer. Brian and I are not huge drinkers, although we do enjoy a beer or glass of wine every now and then. We are more the kind of people who love unique experiences, knowing how things are made, and seeing "behind the scenes." A couple of years ago while Brian was at West Point, we were given the opportunity to take a private tour of the Sikorsky factory where Black Hawk helicopters are made; it was so neat!

So, when we found out that you can tour the Budweiser factory in Jacksonville, we knew it would be right up our alley.

The Jacksonville Brewery has a complimentary tour that allows you to see certain parts of the factory from a distance and a Brewmaster tour that, for a small fee, takes you into the factory to see the process of how beer is made. We took the latter, knowing that if we were going to go out of our way to do it, we should do it right!

After stopping to pose with a Clydesdale, we headed into the factory and met up with our tour at the gift shop. We were given some hats (that we got to keep) and super cute safety glasses that we were required to wear for the duration of the tour. We heard a little bit of history about the brand and then set off for the Brew Hall!

This very warm room is where the hops simmer with barley, rice, and other ingredients (depending on the specific beer) in large tanks in the first step of the process. We tasted a couple different types of barley to understand the difference in taste and smelled several different varieties of hops.

All of the brewing beers are closely monitored by computer, and the operators can tell you what type of beer is in each tank at any time. There were surprisingly few people actually working in the factory because so much is done electronically!

A sharp contrast to the warmth of the Brew Hall was the Hops Room. The hops are stored in large trashcans in this chilly room before they set off to become beer. Someone at Budweiser has my sense of organization, because the different varieties of hops are all color-coded. Also, hops smell pretty terrible.

An important part of the beer-making process is the fermentation; it's what creates the alcohol! The mixture created in the Brew Hall sits in these tanks in the Fermentation Cellar for a couple of days before it's ready. These green ones are actually emergency tanks to deal with the additional volume needed during the summer and football season. There are floors and floors of these tanks, and they are huge!

Most of the rooms (with the exception of the Brew Hall) had been pretty cold, but the Finishing Room was (literally) almost freezing at 38 degrees! This is where the beer sits while Budweiser's Beermasters taste the finished product to ensure the quality.

This was definitely the coolest part of the tour; we got to taste fresh Bud Light and Budweiser right from the finishing tanks!

The rest of the tour took us through the (very loud) part of the factory that fills bottles, cans, and kegs and then labels and packages them. All of the lines moved so quickly! There's also a small quality control room where they pull random samples and make sure everything looks (and tastes) good.

It's kind of unbelievable to think about how much beer the factory produces and ships out. They also only distribute to Florida and a handful of surrounding states!

At the end of the tour, we got to hang out in the Tasting Room and try some samples of Budweiser's products that are produced in the factory. I think my favorite was their new wheat ale called Shock Top (which is kind of like Blue Moon); the pumpkin Shock Top was pretty good as well.

It was definitely a fun experience, and this is probably the longest blog post ever written solely about beer. :)


Corinne said...

I've heard the brewery tours are fun - although I've never been on one. And from the looks of yours it looks like you learned a bit, too! I can't imagine what hops taste/smell raw like when I know that I already don't like the taste of them in beer!

Lisa said...

I love brewery tours! I've been on the Leinenkugel's tour in Chippewa Falls, WI and New Glarus beer in New Glarus, WI (see a trend?) and I love learning about them. I do really enjoy beer, so learning how it is made is fun for me.

Kelsey @ Seattle Smith's said...

How awesome is that! We have a Redhook Brewery in Seattle, which is always a fun event with groups!

Crazy Shenanigans-JMO said...

That's so cool that you could just walk through the place!!! It seems huge!

Ambs said...

Shock Top is my fave! It's always my first choice at a bar!!

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