Milwaukee has always been and will forever be a beer city, but there’s a distinct difference between our brewing history and our brewing future. Below we separate some stops in either direction, though you can easily mix and match on your visit.
The Beer Future
Milwaukee was once primarily a working class city, but as heavy industry left the Rust Belt the two downtown neighborhoods of the Menomonee Valley and Walker’s Point were hit especially hard. Decades later, infill is well underway, with many of the lucky buildings being converted into the city’s next crop of quality breweries.
While you wait for the first tap rooms to open up, grab brunch at the original Sobelman’s on St Paul in the Valley (opens at 10AM). Their “The Loser” and “The Sobelman” burgers are some of the best in town, but it’s their signature Bloody Marys (with a beer chaser, natch) that draw the morning crowds.
At high noon, head down St Paul to the recently-opened City Lights Brewing. Sitting at the base of one of the Valley’s most iconic structures (now sporting a giant City Lights Brewing sign), enjoy one of their classic-style brews.
Just back down the same street is Third Space Brewing, named Wisconsin’s Best New Brewer of 2016 by RateBeer. The large industrial warehouse and outdoor space make for perfect surroundings for a pint.
The next four breweries are all situated in the historic Walker’s Point neighborhood, bursting at the seams with artisan makers. While all four feature tours of their own, if you can only make one we recommend Milwaukee Brewing Company. Offered every half hour from 1-4PM on Saturdays ($10), this eponymous Milwaukee brewery is so popular that they’ll soon be expanding to a third location locally. Our personal favorite is the O-Gii, but be careful with the high ABV.
You’ll need a good food base to keep the beer-times rolling this afternoon. The nearby Camino or Steny’s both offer great pub food on the cheap; otherwise Fixture Pizza can solve most problems (located directly next door to MKE). Also surprisingly good are the gas station-based Gyro Palace and Cafe India directly across the street.
Park your car on 5th Street or walk over from MKE to start your 6-block, 3-brewery experience. Starting from south going north, we start with Urban Harvest Brewing Company. Housed in a former theater building, UHBC takes calculated risks with their beers, never over-reaching but often surprising. Go for the Black Puppy Pale Ale or Wicket Summer Wheat.
Walking north, you can grab a quick margarita at Botanas or a drag show at Hamburger Mary’s before coming upon Brenner Brewing. You’ll know you’ve arrived by the giant state of Wisconsin with a heart on Milwaukee. Founded by an avid artist with an impressive beer education, Brenner still tries to feature local art and hold gallery nights. Though we could drink their City Fox Pale Ale all night, don’t miss a sampler of the Bacon Bomb Rauchbier.
You need a pick-me-up in either coffee or food form, and the newly-opened Fuel Cafe 5th Street is a beautiful spot on the way to our final brewery of the day, MobCraft Beer. This innovative crowd-sourced brewery, which started in Madison before building out a brand new taproom in Milwaukee, was even featured on Shark Tank. We’re partial to the Hop Goes The Grapefruit and Don’t Fear The Foil, but because of their method of brewing there is always something new and unique on tap that begs to be tried.
That’s enough breweries for today (is it ever really enough?), but if you’re still looking for some liquid enjoyment, just around the same roundabout as MobCraft stand both Great Lakes Distillery and Lost Valley Cider Company. Make sure to leave some room for Sunday, though.
All photos by Joe Powell for The Squeaky Curd.