After a week of diverse natural sights, good restaurants, great beer at cool bars and breweries, our week in Wisconsin was drawing to a close. We left Sister Bay in Door County on Lake Michigan and headed back for a final day in Milwaukee before catching a flight back to Portland out of O’Hare Airport.
A 90-minute boat tour on the Milwaukee River and Lake Michigan was touristy, but a good way to see the some of the city and the shoreline. The River is bordered by old industrial buildings which have either been converted or torn down to make way for toney condominiums in a city which is a great place for millennials.
Our tour guide on the boat was a young graduate student from the University of Wisconsin campus near the city who read a script. Janet asked her the average market price of a condo in one of the buildings lining the river. Without hesitation, she responded, “$300 million,” which resulted in no additional questions and her sticking to the prepared script. (I checked and one of units in a newer condo building ranged from $175,000 to $1.1 million for the penthouse!)
The Milwaukee Brewers were in town that weekend and the city was just rocking. We “Sought Asylum” for dinner with a good view of the river at the Ale Asylum River House, where we each enjoyed a great burger and one of their own beers – the Velveteen Habit-India Pale Ale, (7.5% ABV) and the Demento-Session Pale Ale (4.7% ABV).
Since we were on foot, we dropped into several nearby bars all on the same block of N. Water Street that were jammed with people enjoying the weekend.
BarNone is a very small bar which advertises, “Slip into the tightest hole in Milwaukee.” According to its website, “It opened for business October 30, 2009. With an entirely remodeled interior and soon to be exterior, BarNone attracts an attractive young college crowd. Located on the corner of Water Street and Juneau Avenue, we are close to campus and the beat of everything that is happening nearby.” It was so crowded and with two other options next door, we passed on having a beer.
The second bar in which we did have a beer was Pourman’s which is in a 125-year-old building and opened in 2012. It has great old photos and impressive woodwork for the bar and tables and the top of the bar is filled with pennies. Evidently they don’t have an equivalent to Oregon’s OLCC (Liquor Control) because at Pourman’s you could also pour your own beer if you sat in one of the booths. Janet said that she would not tip me so we sat at the bar and our friendly bartender, John, poured the draft we split:
“……..there are four tappers on each of three tables. Customers give the bartender an ID in exchange for a glass – one customer per group must provide a credit card – and can tap up to 32 ounces of beer per person right from their table.
If he or she wants to drink more after the 32 ounces, they check in with the bartender who assesses the patron’s sobriety and, if they’re not drunk, will program the tappers to dispense more beer.” https://onmilwaukee.com/bars/articles/pourmansmilwaukee.html
Right next door was McGillycuddy’s Bar & Grill. It is spacious and impressive and according to Thrill List “is an East Town watering hole that’s popular with Milwaukians for its cheap brews, generous pours, and low-key, locals-only attitude. The space features a long, oak bar and outdoor beer garden.”
More impressive than the interior of this bar was the patio or beer garden which was overflowing with suds and Saturday night revelers and had a long line waiting to get in.
Lakefront Brewery – “Thirty Years of Blood, Sweat and Beers!”
On Sunday morning, we had time for one more brewery tour before the flight and rather than try the big ones such as the historic Pabst or Miller-Coors, we headed to the Lakefront Brewery, which receives great social media reviews on brewery tours. It’s nationally recognized.
According to a 2015 ThrillList post, it’s:
“The tour by which all other tours are measured. Guides are informative and genuinely funny — though anyone talking about bungholes probably would be, especially after a few beers.”
We joined about twenty other people from all over the country who paid their $10 for the tour – it also includes tickets for four six-ounce pours and a Lakefront Brewery glass – the price for the tour is great even without the ancillary items.
Lakefront is another of the many stories of entrepreneurs who enjoy beer and are willing to devote their capital and time to building an organization. Like a number of similar enterprises in Milwaukee, Portland, Denver and other major cities, the brewery is housed in historic trappings:
“……..the City of Milwaukee had a building to sell. In 1908, Lakefront Brewery’s current building housed the Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Company’s coal-fired power plant.
It was later sold to the City to house Milwaukee’s Forestry Department. But in 1998, the City was considering tearing down the old power plant to uphold a contract with a nearby apartment complex unless a local business was interested in the location.”
Justin was our tour guide – he could have been a stand-up comic given the humorous one-liners he worked into a nice educational briefing on the history of the brewery and some of its operations. Justin would appreciate the stand-up comic comparison although he would assert that he wouldn’t qualify based on the amount of time he spends in a prone position after drinking free beer.
He did a great job covering the history of the brewery and briefly got into the mechanics of making beer and Lakefront’s approach to brewing and being an important member of the community.
We stopped strategically to see different brewery equipment which, of course, also provided the opportunity to sample another one of Lakefront’s good beers. Of course, with his comedic wit, Justin placed special emphasis on the kegging function and exactly what was meant by the term “Bunghole.”
The final part of the tour was viewing the bottling machine, which was an opportunity for Justin to work in a bit about Laverne and Shirley, the situation comedy legends from Happy Days (aired from 1976 to 1983) who lived and worked in Milwaukee. He asked for two volunteers and Janet raised her hand.
What followed was an old rendition of the “Happy Days” theme played on Justin’s cassette player while Janet and the other volunteer went through the bottling routine.
The brewery also offers a weekly 90-minute technical tour geared toward any home brewer or beer drinking aficionado led by one of their experts. It concludes with a 90 minute food pairing featuring specific Lakefront beers which complement their chef’s selection of local and national cheese, meat, fruit, chocolate and coffee. (Although participants would miss Justin’s act…)
Lakefront is known for its innovative beers which includes Organkica: “From the country’s first organic beer to the country’s first Gluten Free beer to be granted label approval by the U.S. Government, we have the perfect brew to fit your lifestyle.”
After the tour we went into the spacious brew-pub and had the beers although I should have known better than to experiment by ordering a tea beer (Don’t remember the name….but I didn’t finish it). That said, I really enjoyed their Imperial IPA/Red Ale which won an honorable mention at the United States Beer Tasting Championship and Janet loved the Riverwest Stein an excellent American Amber Ale.
I was disappointed that as with the case with the bars in Door County, we missed their traditional Friday Fish Fry, which at Lakefront includes a live polka-band and dancing…
We had a wonderful time during our eight days in Wisconsin and the Beerchasing stops which included those listed below were enjoyable and let us enjoy new microbrews and a $1.00 Miller Genuine Draft (on tap)……We also liked the Goose Island beer:
Milwaukie: Water Street Brewing, Scooters PubBar, Dukes on the Water, Pourman’s Bar, McGillycuddy’s and Bar None
Green Bay: Hinterland Brewing and Badger State Brewery
Door County: Door County Brewing, the Cornerstone Pub, AC Tap, Coyote Road House
You can see the reviews of these at the other two posts on Beerchasing in Wisconsin at the links below: