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30 Bars for Beer Lovers

Sep. 20, 2012
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 The days of the German beer barons are long past, and yet the legacy they brewed lives on in modern Milwaukee. It’s still possible to spot a tavern on any given corner (and sometimes more than one). Instead of the meager selection of taps and imports of the past, however, today’s taverns, bars and brew-pubs frequently offer stellar choices. The following 30 bars have the right mix of selection and ambiance to have made their mark on Milwaukee.

Art Bar

722 E. Burleigh St.


Your favorite bottled beers are here, along with fantasy choices. “Three-quarters of our stock is Wisconsin beer,” says manager Zach. “We grab the best of what we like. We try not to get too crazy, but to stay interesting. If you don’t know what you want, maybe we do; we’ll get you the right beer.” These values—generosity, creativity, open-mindedness—are also reflected in the changing exhibits of sometimes-underrepresented area painters, the “one-week paintings” made each Sunday, and the good-hearted patrons of this relaxed cosmopolitan neighborhood bar. On Tuesdays, it’s two for the price of one all night. (John Schneider)

Benno’s Genuine Bar & Grill

7413 W. Greenfield Ave.


With 30-plus beers on draft at Benno’s Genuine Bar & Grill, no doubt every visitor will find something delicious to drink. The beer list has an ever-changing variety that includes local beers from Lakefront, Sprecher and New Glarus, as well as brews from around the country, including Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, Left Hand, Southern Tier and Three Floyds. Come on a Friday and experience the double-threat pairing of an excellent beer and a tasty fish fry. (Susan Harpt Grimes)


3007 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.


"Brewed by cheeseheads behind the cheddar curtain… Ya betcha," brags/warns Wisconsin’s Pangaea Beer Co. The tag line works equally well at this Bay View hipster hangout. Dangling owls and bird murals flavor the motif. Its pinball machines are renowned. But for beer lovers, it is the 75-plus ’Sconny-land brews that distinguish Blackbird. All the major players are represented: Amherst, Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire, Green Bay, Lake Mills, Madison, Stevens Point and, of course, Brew Town. Blackbird even boasts suds from Potosi (on the Mississippi, north of Dubuque), Dave's BrewFarm (a farmhouse between Eau Claire and St. Paul) and the occasional foreign concoction, imported from distant hinterlands in Canada and Minnesota. (Willy Thorn)


1850 N. Water St.


Pleasantly dark yet warmly lit inside, or sunny and breezy on the rooftop deck (in season), Brocach is an inviting place to sip some suds. Draft beers highlight popular Irish brews, but also include local favorites from Lakefront Brewery. Micro imports read like a tour of the British Isles, including Belhaven Scottish Ale, Fuller’s London Pride and Belhaven Twisted Thistle. See live Irish music several times a week and enjoy the satisfying all-you-can-eat fish fry nightly. (Susan Harpt Grimes)

Café Benelux and Market

346 N. Broadway


Specializing in Belgian biers, Café Benelux offers a staggering 30 taps and 150-200 bottles. Try Blanche de Brussels if you’re looking for a light, citrus-infused draft, Confession Grand Cru (brewed exclusively for Benelux) if sweet, flavorful brews strike your fancy or the Double IPA for a full-bodied and incredibly hoppy taste. Benelux also features authentic Belgian cuisine, including pannenkoeken, mussels and frites. The seating is spacious and comfortable, and the adjoining market sells specialty foods and gifts. (Selena Milewski)

Café Centraal

2306 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.


Belgians lead the beer list at Café Centraal, with 25-plus on tap. Select at will from the hefty “Bier Book” and you’d be hard-pressed to find a dud. Enjoy the Tripel Karmeliet while sitting at one of the longest bars in the city and chat with the knowledgeable bartenders for more recommendations. Appropriate glassware for all beer is a nice touch. Join Café Centraal’s beer club for discounts on beers and other benefits. (Susan Harpt Grimes)

Cafe Hollander

2608 N. Downer Ave.


7677 W. State St.


The Café Hollander chain (all two of them) is modeled after the Benelux grand cafés of Europe. These bicycle-themed cafés have plenty of food and gorgeous patios, but they’re really known for their rare and exclusive selection of beer—40 on tap alone. No need to worry: The Bier Book will guide you to the perfect taste from beers all over the world. European brews come from Bosteels, Huyghe and Dubuisson, just to name a few. (Danielle Stevens)

Erv’s Mug 

130 W. Ryan Road, Oak Creek


A family-owned bar and a fabulous microbrew list are part of the 30-year story at Erv’s Mug. Relaxing while sharing a brew is easy to do here. The staff is friendly and fast, and they know their micros. The taps stretch the length of the bar without a loser in the bunch. Choices like Hop Czar Imperial IPA, Three Floyds Apocalypse Cow and Oskar Blues’ G’Knight make this a hop-lovers heaven. (Danny Grimes)

Estabrook Park Beer Garden

Reviving Milwaukee’s tradition of public beer gardens, the Estabrook Park Beer Garden lets visitors take in the scenery with a frosty, German beer the way it was meant to be served: in a heavy glass stein, not a flimsy plastic cup. The garden offers three Hofbräu taps along with Miller Lite, Riesling and Pepsi, and a snack menu with brats, hot dogs and giant hot pretzels. It’s open every day through September and on the weekends through Nov. 24. (Evan Rytlewski)

Hooligan’s Super Bar

2017 E. North Ave.


Located in the heart of the East North Avenue neighborhood, Hooligan’s has a cozy sports bar feel with comfortable booths and a pleasant patio. The establishment serves yummy tavern fare and features a respectable selection of imports and local microbrews (including favorites like Spotted Cow and Riverwest Stein). There are specials every night at Hooligan’s. Of course, you just wouldn’t have the full experience without trying the impressive 72.8-ounce “boot of beer.” Bottoms up! (Selena Milewski)

Kochanski’s Concertina Beer Hall

1920 S. 37th St.


Check out Kochanski’s Concertina Beer Hall for a fun and unique place to bend your elbow. With the largest selection of Polish beer in Wisconsin, Kochanski’s offers lots of refreshing options to quench your thirst after dancing a polka or two. Polish Okocim and German Kostritzer top the list of draft beers, while other Polish standouts, including Zywiec, Tatra and Tyskie, lead the import bottles list. Visit on Wednesdays for the Polka Open Jam and $1 off all Polish beers. (Susan Harpt Grimes)

Landmark 1850 Inn

5905 S. Howell Ave.


With the granddaddy of badass beer selections, Milwaukee's oldest bar is well worth a trip (or many) to the deep South Side. The landmark (pun intended) venue has Cream City brick and atmospheric dark wood, along with tin ceilings, steam radiators, classic lighting, vintage antiques and a hand-crank cash register. And it was deep into a diverse, wide-reaching beer selection long before the microbrew revolution got started. More than 50 are on tap, from all over the map, served in proper glasses and sold at affordable prices. The local special is a big growler of III Dachshunds, the in-house beer. (Willy Thorn)

Landmark Lanes

2220 N. Farwell Ave.


Featuring a wide selection of domestics, microbrews and imports, Landmark Lanes certainly deserves a stop on your Milwaukee beer tour. There are drink specials every night of the week (including $3 import pints on Thursdays). Between the numerous pool tables, neon bowling alley, darts and arcade, you and your friends are bound to have a good time at this historic East North Avenue neighborhood bar. (Selena Milewski)

McBob’s Pub & Grill

4919 W. North Ave.


Appropriately dark and cozy for an Irish pub, McBob’s is a great place to kick back and enjoy a beer on a cool Wisconsin evening. Taps include the expected Guinness, Smithwick’s and Harp, but also some local favorites from Lakefront Brewery, Milwaukee Brewing Co. and Stevens Point Brewery. On a recent visit, the ever-expanding list of craft beers and microbrews included Bell’s Oberon, Dale’s Pale Ale and Southern Tier 2XIPA. (Susan Harpt Grimes)

Milwaukee Ale House

233 N. Water St.


1208 13th Ave., Grafton


With an enormous multi-room space, riverfront patio, live music stage and full-service restaurant, the original venue for the Milwaukee Ale House (a Grafton branch opened in 2008) is a fun and classy place to socialize. The house-brewed beer selection is respectable and varied. Try the Black Iron IBA for a full-bodied brew with the perfect combination of hops and malt, or—if you want to walk on the wild side—the Chai Polish Moon for a smooth, dark explosion of genuine chai flavor. (Selena Milewski)

Nessun Dorma

2778 N. Weil St.


The warm red brick and a softly lit barroom recall an earlier Riverwest era, but the nostalgia ends at the beer list. Others may have more tappers, but Nessun Dorma’s list has no misses: Great Lakes Oktoberfest, Ommegang Hennepin and Victory’s HopDevil nicely cover the spectrum. Hops-lovers can opt for the rare but wonderful Dogfish Head 90 Minute in a bottle. This is a quiet oasis with a substantial, well-rounded selection. (Danny Grimes)

Nomad World Pub

1401 E. Brady St.


Serving a huge array of local microbrews and hard-to-find imports, Nomad World Pub is one of the most popular bars on Brady Street. The bar and its adjoining patio fill up fast, so be sure to arrive early to catch some of the best drink specials. During every live soccer game, patrons can enjoy a $3.50 pint of Carlsberg. Nomad is also known for its $1 Happy Hour from 4-4:15 p.m. (yes, it’s really only 15 minutes) Monday through Thursday; almost every drink is $1. (Selena Milewski)

Old German Beer Hall

1009 N. Old World Third St.


If you believe golden goodness is best measured in liters (not pints) and served in giant frosty glass mugs (or 2-liter boots) and speak and understand "gemütlichkeit, Hefeweizen" and "eins, zwei, drei...Prost," then this is the place for you. "The most authentic Bavarian beer hall this side of the Atlantic" boasts wait staff in lederhosen, backless-bench long-tables, polka bands, a club soccer team, giant pretzels and endless sausages (delivered from across the street). You’ll also find "hammerschlagen," which combines the best of drinking games with the best of hammering nails. For brews, look no further than the trademark HB emblazoned everywhere. Hofbrauhaus Munchen is a German institution, and the Old German Beer Hall is its premier American satellite. (Willy Thorn)

Paddy's Pub

2339 N. Murray Ave.


Paddy's has nine beers and one cider on tap. Not surprisingly, Guinness is the most popular tapper at this Irish pub. Owner Orlen "Woody" Wood's secret to a good tap is the various nitrous blends he uses in the dispensing of the beer. The proper blend results in less head and a beer that's going to keep from going flat longer. For those who aren't fans of Guinness, Woody recommends Smithwick’s (but pronounce it Smit-icks, or risk ridicule from the regulars). (Rob Hausknecht)

The Palm Tavern

2989 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.


Those who enter this outwardly nondescript bar may think they have landed in beer heaven, with 25 brews on tap and more than 150 other beers available in bottles. The Palm specializes in craft beers, with the current most popular choice being Staropramen Czech pilsner. Other notable taps include Smuttynose Homunculus and Lion Stout. The $12 "Beer Flight" gets you four 6-ounce samples of the various taps—the only problem is deciding which four to choose. (Rob Hausknecht)

Romans’ Pub 

3475 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.


Its colorful history, rich décor of antiques and jaw-dropping microbrew selection support Romans’ past as a bootleggers’ stop during Prohibition. The beer list, however, is chock full of modern masterpieces. Great Lakes Lake Erie Monster and Goose Island Imperial both deliver a hoppy mouthful. Rodenbach Grand Cru hits upon the current fascination with Belgians, but the standouts are U.S.-bred IPAs. All this hoppy hullabaloo can be enjoyed on the petite (but perfect) beer garden. (Danny Grimes)

The Rumpus Room

1030 N. Water St.


The Rumpus Room’s 24 draft beers rotate regularly, but they are always excellent, including local Lakefront’s Riverwest Stein and Weihenstephaner’s Hefe Weissbier from Germany. The selection of some 150 bottles includes rarities, including Brasserie Cantillon (Belgium), Founders Better Half (Michigan) and a Mikkeller and Three Floyds collaboration called Boogoop. Perhaps the most interesting feature of the Rumpus Room is the Beer Engine, which allows naturally carbonated cask ales to be served in the traditional way, without added carbonation and at the correct temperature. (Susan Harpt Grimes)

Stone Bank Pub

N67 W33395 County Trunk K, Oconomowoc


Offering one of the largest selections of draft and bottled beer in Lake Country, the Irish-pub-inspired Stone Bank Pub is a comfortable place to pass an evening. Patrons will likely find a favorite or two among the 18 beers on tap and some 40 varieties in bottles. Taps include Franziskaner Hefeweißen, Tyranena Bitter Woman IPA, Shiner Bock, Bass Ale and several Irish beers. Catch live music on Thursdays and most Saturdays. (Susan Harpt Grimes)

Stonefly Brewing Co.

735 E. Center St.


Stonefly offers up to 12 handcrafted brews on tap (with seasonal selections) and a fun, relaxed atmosphere. Try the 53212 Amber Lager for sweet and sour effervescence, the Pierce Street Porter for a smooth, smoky aroma and texture or the Simon Bagley Stout for a rich, heavy brew with coffee and dark chocolate undertones. With two pool tables, a $3 taps happy hour (Monday-Friday) and kitchen open from 5-10 p.m., this Riverwest gem is perfect for solitude or socializing. (Selena Milewski)

Sugar Maple

441 E. Lincoln Ave.


"The Best of the Midwest" is Sugar Maple's beer-slinging claim to fame. The menu touts 60 selections from across our great region. More impressively, they're on tap. What most venues only dream about, and the best of the rest do with bottles piled deep into refrigerators, Sugar Maple does with good old-fashioned hoses and brass. Sugar Maple is a Bay View hipster staple, and its staff is, accordingly, very knowledgeable. The staff is also great with recommendations and generous with taster samples, so everybody wins. (Willy Thorn)

Three Lions Pub

4515 N. Oakland Ave.


Looking for a place to “pop in for a pint”? Go no farther than Three Lions Pub in Shorewood. In tribute to the English pubs that inspired it, Three Lions Pub encourages its patrons to watch European football matches, sip a Boddingtons and order up some fish and chips. The import list also includes Tetley’s, Fuller’s London Porter and Young’s Double Chocolate Stout. For those with a more “American” taste, Three Lions offers plenty of local micros and domestics, too. (Susan Harpt Grimes)

Von Trier

2235 N. Farwell Ave.


Von Trier exudes rustic Bavarian hunting lodge charm with antler chandeliers, stained-glass windows and panoramic murals in low candlelight. Strong, hearty classic beers befit this stone fortress guarding a prominent corner of the city's hottest college district. The brews are nothing to play with: Start by ordering a majestic stein of German Hoegaarden, Spaten, Bitburger or Schwarzbier at 5% ABV. There are 8% doppelbocks and Belgians and IPAs at 10%-plus. Only the strongest local beers need apply: Schlitz's Gusto (4.7%), Capital's Weizen (5.4%), Lakefront's Riverwest Stein (6%) and Sprecher's Abbey Triple BA (8.4%). And that's just on tap… (Willy Thorn)

Walters’ on North

6930 W. North Ave., Wauwatosa


Wauwatosa’s Walters’ on North is the consummate good-times neighborhood bar. They have an extensive range of bar food, but they’re best known for their Taco Thursday. On tap, they carry selections from Miller, Lakefront, Sprecher, Foster’s, Leinie’s and New Castle. You can wash down your Friday fish fry with plenty of popular bottle beers, as well. Stay for the patio, TVs, pool table and video games. (Danielle Stevens)

Wolski's Tavern

1836 N. Pulaski St.


If you ask bartender P.J. about the most popular beer at this iconic neighborhood tavern, he'll tell you it's one of the many brews from Lakefront Brewery. Wolski's and Lakefront have a mutually beneficial relationship; a coupon from the brewery tour is worth a free beer at the tavern. Equally popular among the college kid/hipster crowd are the cheap pitchers of Blatz. Remember to stay until close for a special prize. (Rob Hausknecht)

World of Beer

1300 E. Brady St.


Sure it's a chain, but the name is no misnomer. And after much anticipation, Brady Street's busiest pedestrian intersection has a new heavyweight player. In fact, World of Beer is the heaviest of heavyweights—500 different bottles, 40 rotating taps, 30-plus Wisconsin brews and countless more from Europe, Asia and Oceania. Prices are high (topping out at $20-plus), but beer is available in takeout six packs and management promises both discounts and happy hours every night—plus no cover, ever. All that—plus live music and a menu of area restaurant offerings—is delivered straight to your table. Heavyweight, indeed. (Willy Thorn)



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