Even though the A-B beer isn't really that great I thought this tour was interesting just to see the scale that they brew at. Considering the breweries I usually visit this was like a completely different type of operation. Tour and some samples were free and I remember the souvinirs being pretty cheap as well. Plus it is right next door to the Jelly Belly Jelly Bean factory, so if you are out there anyway it is worth a bit of time to see.
I first toured an AB brewery when there was a Busch Gardens in the LA area back in the 70s, but wasn't old enough to taste (by a year). I toured another AB house at the Busch Gardens in Williamsburg back in the 90s and remember quite an informative tour, along with an equally informative tasting at the end. Imagine my surprise when the (then) largest brewery in the world gave me a quick video, a walk to see bottles coursing through the line, and then to actually stand next to storage tanks... and then to walk right back up to the visitors center through the gift shop and back out in the parking lot. AB Fairfield gives a short tasting, but even that was so abbreviated it made me appreciate the fact that I never made my 40-mile trip to the brewery since it first opened in the decades it's been open. To AB's credit, there is now a "brewmasters" tour available (at a price) which actually gets the guest into more of the brewery operations. I may try that someday, but for now there is little to note of the brewery for visitors other than to say, "been there -- had a chance to buy the t-shirt".
Limited. That’s the best way to describe the tour and tasting provided here. I’ve visited several other big production breweries and this visit was by far the least enjoyable. You enter from a side parking lot and are ushered through a couple double doors to a stairway leading to a gift shop and “lunch room style’ tasting area. The tastes offered on my visit were limited to two samples selected from among 10 bottles and 2 taps. The styles available were generally light in character but I did take the opportunity to try my first American Ale on tap and a DunkleWeisse from a bottle. The tour consisted of a video introduction and a walk down the balcony overlooking the bottle lines, then another video and a trip down to the floor of the two story aging room where the highlight was sniffing samples of the beechwood chips. That’s about it, except for the climb back upstairs to the gift shop where a few of the brews were availble for purchase (warm). No real brewing facilities at all. The guide did mention that later in the spring, they were going to offer an longer, “brewers’, tour but by reservation rather than drop in.