since Louis Trayer opened his Zum Deuschen Little Tavern at State and
Water streets in 1837, Milwaukeeans have taken their beer drinking
seriously. As early as 1843, pioneer historian James Buck recorded 138
taverns in the city — an average of one per 40 residents. Covering
three full pages of the 1873 city directory were 501 drinking
establishments. Currently, there are around 300 licensees for
Milwaukee proper and its almost 600,000 residents.
Add that number
to the growing number of bars in outlying environs, including the new
Beer Snobs Ale and Eats in Hartland and Germantown’s Von Rothenburg
Bier Stube, and the thirsty can be accommodated just about anywhere in
the area. That is, except for River Hills, a beverage stand-alone with
remains among the top five states with the most consumption of suds
— state residents supposedly down about 36 gallons per person per
year, according to professional beer counters who know these sorts of
Over the past
few decades, the expanding craft beer and import business has
Milwaukee going gangbusters with good pours and hearty varieties. The
following are among the many great places to find beer, and lots of
The Sugar Maple,
441 E. Lincoln Ave., offers 60 American craft beers on draft. Call
(414) 481-2393 to get the latest staff picks.
World of Beer,
418 N. Mayfair Road, (262) 770-3902. What better place to down a
power-packed Fascist Pig amber ale from Finch’s Beer Co.?
Vessel, 4417 N. Oakland Ave., (414) 533-5599. Pick up a 32-ounce
growler of Capital Jobu Rum Barrel Aged Brown Ale for a mere $19.
2306 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., (414) 755-0378. More than 100
"biers" await here, from A (Achel 8 Blonde from Belgium’s
Brouwerij der Trappistenabdij De Achelse Kluis) to Y (Young’s Double
Chocolate Stout from Bedford, England).
3475 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., (414) 481-3396. Imbibe Magazine calls Roman’s
one of the best places in the country to drink beer. Of course, it was
the Metropolitan Heliostat Zwickel Lager and the Bells Consecrator
Doppelbock that helped Roman’s make the cut.
on preserving his heritage
take much for Milwaukee biermeister Hans Weissgerber III to talk about
his appreciation of malt and hops, enthusing, "Why wouldn’t one
love beer? It’s glorious."
scion of a proper Milwaukee German family, is managing director of HB
Milwaukee Inc., owner of the Old German Beer Hall and instrumental in
helping kick off Milwaukee County’s beer garden program.
As for history,
Weissgerber points out that the city firmly established its place in
the world as a brewing leader in the mid-1800s. Despite the demise of
many of the city’s legendary breweries a century later, he says,
"Our thirst for beer has kept Milwaukee in the forefront of the
Growing up in a
Teutonic clan that owned and operated local restaurants over several
generations, Weissgerber was 6 or 7 years old when he tasted his first
beer. "Beer and wine were always part of our dining and social
rituals. My sister and I had 2-ounce glasses for toasts at family
gatherings. It was never a big deal for us. It was just an everyday
thing," he explains.
Bavaria and the Munich Hofbräuhaus as a teenager, Weissgerber
realized that there was a universal element of fun and frivolity in
his heritage. "As I got older and to a point where I could do my
own thing, I wanted to share the Gemütlichkeit," he emphasizes.
"Yet it seemed like Milwaukee’s legendary German restaurants
and bars kept closing, and there was another Irish pub or Italian
restaurant opening all the time."
So he felt
compelled to create a snapshot of a modern day German beer hall with
traditions rooted in the history of both Bavaria and Milwaukee and
subsequently opened his popular Old German Beer Hall at 1009 N. Old
World Third St.
the beer, always the beer. "Milwaukee’s craft brewing scene is
very respectable," according to Weissgerber. "Sprecher,
Lakefront and Milwaukee Brewing Co. have shown that Milwaukee can
sustain actual stand-alone breweries and not just brewpubs," he
comes to social life in Milwaukee, the tavern is iconic. I have yet to
find another city in America that has the proliferation and diversity
of local drinking establishments that Milwaukee and Wisconsin
does," says Weissgerber. "And while we are known to love our
drinks, I really think it has more to do with our love of each
Anderson (left) and Natalie Coulthurst are two of the founders
of Barley’s Angels.
For female brew
aficionados wanting to better understand beer, for those who simply
love homebrewing or for women learning to pair craft beer with food,
the Greater Milwaukee Area chapter of Barley’s Angels is the be-all
The Angels is a
national club encouraging women to enjoy great beer of all varieties.
Local meetings are held on the first Thursday of every month at
beer-related locations, including Brenner Brewing, Whole Foods and The
Historic Miller Caves. Gatherings kick off around 6 p.m., with an
official meeting off and running around 7 p.m. These sessions usually
involve tastings, brewing lessons and other malt-related topics. A
small fee is collected at each meeting, which averages 20 to 35
The local branch
came together at the World of Beer festival in June 2012, when
confirmed beer fans and longtime pals Erin Anderson, Natalie
Coulthurst and Meagan O’Brien shared phone numbers. They met at
Roman’s Pub to plan a women-only group.
Anderson, self-described as Chief Angel Wrangler, about beer is the
amount of varieties available. "I can always find something new
to try to expand my palate or dive deeper into a specific style. There’s
so much to learn," she says, suggesting pairing beer and
co-founder/treasurer and skilled homebrewer Coulthurst, the best thing
she learned at an Angels meeting was the expanding number of fantastic
food/beer pairings and cooking options.
Barley’s Angels is a great opportunity to get out with others who
have the same interest as you, and the requirement to join isn’t
predicated on specific knowledge or industry work," Coulthurst
indicates. "You love drinking craft beer? Join the fun!"
Beer has been a
passion for O’Brien since her university years working at a craft
beer bar. "I realized there was a lot more out there than the
domestics I would see at parties and college bars. This led to
homebrewing, going to craft beer events and on to my job as Upper
Midwest beer ambassador for New Holland Brewing Co.
beer industry is such an amazing way to bring people together,"
statuesque, often hilarious beer pulls are standard issue at every
tavern. They are functional objects, albeit often overlooked. Yet
among the best displays in Greater Milwaukee for admiring fancy
tappers are the hundreds showcased at Stubby’s Pub & Grub, 2060
N. Humboldt Ave., and those at the Rumpus Room, 1030 N. Water St.
Mark Hargarten’s job to design and create an eye-catching tapper
that results in a beer sale. Hargarten, who owns Replica Masters
Studios, has tapped into a fun, fulfilling a business adventure that
still satisfies his creativity. The fact that his entrepreneurship
also allows him to sample beer is a value-added perk.
Some six years
ago, Hargarten and Sprecher Brewing Co. President Jeff Hamilton met at
a social gathering. When Hamilton learned that Hargarten was a
sculptor, he asked if the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design grad
could make tappers for each Sprecher variety. And there have been
doodles up a look on paper, shows it to Hamilton and gets a go-ahead
or request for a redo. He then crafts the design in clay in his
Cedarburg art studio, makes a mold and casts the tapper in a resin.
Each piece is hand painted.
run out of ideas," Hargarten enthuses, happy to be constantly
playing around with shapes, sizes and the look of each new tapper.
"I’m glad I found this job."
Beer Festival Comes to Milwaukee
Get set! All together now! Ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit!
beverage lovers will have much to rejoice about while attending
the inaugural Wisconsin Craft Beer Festival at the
Harley-Davidson Museum Oct. 23 and 24. It promises to be a grand
weekend celebration of barrels, kegs, growlers, pints and mugs
Randy Mosher, John Palmer, Stan Hieronymus and Dr. Brad Smith
will lead tasting sessions, as well as host workshops ranging
from how to design great beer recipes to maximizing hops’
flavor. Discounted accommodations are available at the nearby
Iron Horse Hotel and the Potawatomi Hotel & Casino.
attending from around the country include Perennial Artisan Ales
of St. Louis, Mo., Jester King Brewery from Austin, Texas, and
Boulder’s Avery Brewing Company. Locals need not worry —
plenty of pours will be available from Wisconsin’s top
crafters like the Delafield Brewhaus and the ever-tasty
offerings from Sand Creek Brewing Company of Black River Falls.