Milwaukee earned its nickname “Brew City” starting back in the 19th Century when brewing giants Schlitz, Pabst, Blatz and Miller made the city their home. What drew the brewers to Milwaukee was not just the abundance of fresh water or the fertile land to grow grains and hops needed for producing beer; it was people thirsty for beer. And they still are.
Gone are the days of the saloon with one tap handle drawing locally brewed Pabst Blue Ribbon. Sure, you’ll still find PBR, now surrounded by dozens of other selections on draught, as well as a cooler filled with hundreds of bottles and cans.
Here are a few of my favorite beer bars to belly up to in Milwaukee:
You may have to drive by twice before you find this unassuming tavern south of downtown Milwaukee in the Bay View neighborhood. No frills. No TVs. The relaxed atmosphere and dim lighting makes it feel more of a lounge than a bar. The music is at low volume allowing for good conversation. The true focus here is on the 25 beers on tap, 100+ bottled beers as well as an incredible whiskey and bourbon selection. Rotating and new beers are listed on a chalkboard, while the full selection is listed in a binder with a very nice selection of Belgian beers. Bartenders are friendly and knowledgeable making your beer choice a bit less overwhelming The owners of Palm Tavern also own another popular beer bar in the neighborhood, Sugar Maple, which features 60+ American Beers on draft.
2989 S Kinnickinnic Ave
Milwaukee, WI 53207
Hours: Monday – Saturday 5:00pm-2:00am
Drafts – Average $6
Bottles – $4.50-$30.00
Burnhearts is a great corner tavern in a building that has a long history of being a neighborhood bar predating Prohibition. It’s a little hipster, a little divey and pure Milwaukee. Burnhearts continually rotates its beer selection, which includes 24 taps, 2 casks, and 100 bottles/cans, so there is always something new and interesting to try. Current beers are listed on a chalkboard behind the bar. You’ll also find some rare selections, cask ales and an amazing collection of aging beers that you’ll be lucky to find on the Private Stash list. Drink specials include $2 Pabst and Thursday night Shitty Beer Night, defined as $1 off all fizzy, yellow corporate beer product. Burnhearts hosts Mitten Fest in the winter and a Pabst Street Party in the summer closing off the street and raising money for local charities.
2599 S Logan Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53207
Named after the Benelux region in Europe – Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg, Café Benelux is on one of the most popular corners in Milwaukee for dining and imbibing. A modern spacious restaurant with a roof top patio and sidewalk seating in the warm weather, the bar area offers a cozy, warm feel in the chillier days. The owners travel extensively throughout Belgium and Holland to choose the beer they serve in the café. The “Bier List” has over 250 unique beers, predominantly Belgian and Belgian-inspired, and includes three selections brewed by the Lowlands Brewing Company at Brouwerji Van Steenberge in Ertvelde, Belgium exclusively for the ownership of the restaurant. The best way to try a variety of beer is with the suggested Bier Palettes that provide four tap selections. A Kwak Carousel, or one of the 750ml Table Bottles, is a good choice for a group. The beer list also includes many craft brews from throughout the US. With such a wide variety, the bartenders are well-trained in beer knowledge as well as knowing the proper glass to serve it in.
346 N Broadway
Milwaukee, WI 53202
Stubby’s Gastrogrub & Beer Bar is part restaurant, part beer bar including a spacious patio overlooking the Milwaukee River. The bar area has a sports bar vibe and features an oval bar with 53 beers on tap, mainly focusing on regional craft beers. It’s a pretty active area with a pool table, dart boards, giant Jenga game and Pop-a-Shot. The Stub Club Membership ($20 one-time fee) provides the member with an incentive to try a variety of tap beer or Cellar Reserve bottles as well as VIP Tappings, Beer Dinners and Sunday Funday Specials. The bartenders are very knowledgeable and encourage you to sample a few different beers making sure you get something you like – they call it their “No Waste Policy”. Beer Flights are a good way to go and include categories such as Hop, Belgian, Deep n’ Dark and Whatever.
2060 N Humboldt Blvd
Tuesday – Wednesday 11:00am-10:00pmt
Thursday – Friday 11:00am-Midnight
Cellar Reserve Bottles: $15-$30
Located in the heart of one of Milwaukee’s most happening entertainment districts, Von Trier has been a local favorite since 1949 when the streetcar went around the bend. Originally Rieder’s, the name was changed in 1978 with an ownership change. The atmosphere is that of an upscale cocktail lounge with a European flair. The décor is Old World German with wood carvings, roebuck antlers, stained glass windows and murals on the walls and ceilings. An enclosed beer garden is just outside the bar. And a great bar it is. You can easily get lost in the charm of the back bar. Von Trier offers a fine selection of beer with 31 draft lines and 100+ bottled beers, primarily German or Belgian in origin, as well as a good variety of regional craft beer. Von Trier hosts a Stein Club where members receive a numbered stein, enjoy a rewards program and may attend the Wednesday Night Stein Club meetings with drink specials, conversations with brewery representatives and lively beer discussion. There is always free hot fresh popcorn at Von Trier – bonus!
2235 N. Farwell Ave
Milwaukee, WI 53202