Saying ‘Ja!’ to Milwaukee’s German History
Bavarian Bierhaus serves authentically brewed beer and satisfying food
Upon entering Bavarian Bierhaus (700 W. Lexington Blvd., Glendale), one is greeted with sensory overload: live accordion music, the commingling of the malty smell of a brewery with the savory smell of a German restaurant, tables loaded with people stretching as far as the eye can see, and servers in traditional-ish German garb. Whoa, you may think. This place is cool.
And you’d be right. In fact, you may be all in on the place before you even step foot inside, either because you enjoyed the spacious beer garden just west of the building itself or admired the fun kitsch of the rotating beer mug atop a huge pole in the parking lot. (I use “spacious” to describe the beer garden as an understatement; it’s the largest beer garden in the state, with a capacity approaching 5,000 people.)
The Bavarian Bierhaus has quite a history to live up to, given the Bavarian Inn’s presence at that spot for 44 years and that area’s long history with several German Societies. Fortunately, they do German food, beer and atmosphere right.
Let’s talk about the beer first: Their head brewer, Lakefront Brewery alumnus Nate Bahr, has a knack for working within the Reinheitsgebot, the German purity law celebrating its 500th year in 2016, which demands a beer’s ingredients consist solely of hops, yeast, malt and water. Their zwickle—a light, easy-drinking unfiltered lager—was very well constructed: crisp and clean, with a very light bit of hop character adding a slight bitter note in the finish. Their hefeweizen, a bit heavier and rounder than the zwickle, but still very drinkable, was pleasant as well. Among four other house-brewed beers on tap that day, they offered an IPA that was more European than American style, with a more muted hop presence. In addition to their house-brewed beer, they also offer a solid variety of German classics on tap and a mixture of German and American beers in a nice bottle list.
A good general rule for visiting the Bierhaus is to go hungry, especially if you’re attending for dinner; the portions are huge. The Schnitzel Cordon Bleu ($18.95) comes with a schnitzel the size of your head beneath a pile of shaved ham and their house bier cheese alongside fried potatoes and fried cabbage. It’s savory and delicious, but the serving size itself is a bit overwhelming. The Münchner Würstplatte ($15.95) is comprised of three sausages—Bierwurst, Mettwurst and Bratwurst—served alongside mashed potatoes, sauerkraut and a traditional German mustard. Again, it’s a ton of food, but the plate has enough different flavors and textures to hold together well.
The Bavarian Bierhaus does right by the history of the land on which it sits. The ambiance is excellent: long tables with benches; a very accomplished and entertaining accordionist, Nick, playing all the classic beer hall hits; the congenial and excited chatter of people enjoying their beer, their meal and one another.