Beerchasing in Wisconsin – Part I

The sunset in Sister Bay, Wisconsin

Wisconsin is a beautiful state, most notably Door County, which is in the northeast part of the state and borders both Lake Michigan and Green Bay.  My wife and I were fortunate to spend a week there with my sister-in-law, Pam, in June – in Sister Bay, a charming little burg of 876 residents, but which hosts year-round tourism in what some refer to as the “Cape Cod of the Midwest.” 

The Cape Cod of the Midwest…

It is the land of bays, beer, brats, churches and cheese.   I can’t understand why Hillary Clinton was reluctant to return during the 2017 Presidential campaign, but that’s another story and one left best ignored when chronicling Beerchasing exploits.

Milwaukee – historic ambiance with modern energy

After a smooth flight from Portland to O’Hare, we rented a car and drove from Chicago to downtown Milwaukee the first night – Sunday of Memorial Day weekend.

And the city, which we both really liked, has a lot of historic ambiance, but bustling energy and was hopping that weekend. Milwaukie is an  old and renowned beer town – for many years touted as “The beer capital of the world.”

According to, “……indeed, the city has been home to some of America’s largest brewers — Pabst, Schlitz, Miller, Blatz.” 

The historic Pabst Theater

The website states that factors such as abundant water, availability of raw materials such as hops and barley, cheap labor and even loads of ice from Lake Michigan were not responsible for the City’s preeminence in the sudsy brew.  Rather, it was a combination of factors including savvy business people with a vision and who expanded sales to outside markets and this very interesting bit of information:

This fire helped make Milwaukee the beer capital of the world

“Proximity to the large beer-consuming population of Chicago — and the easy and inexpensive lake transportation thereto — was always a boon to Milwaukee’s brewing industry.

For example, the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 boosted sales of Milwaukee breweries enormously. Schlitz’s frequent shipments of beer to the devastated city earned it the slogan, ‘The Beer That Made Milwaukee Famous.’ Schlitz enjoyed a 100 percent jump in sales immediately after the Chicago fire.” 

First Brewery in the city

We arrived in the early evening and scouted Water Street – adjacent to the Milwaukee River for a good place to eat and a craft beer although some Northwest skeptics warned us that craft beer in Milwaukee is a “mug of PBR with an orange slice adorning it…..”

The Water Street Brewery was our first stop and one that was interesting for its history and its beer memorabilia – including collections of beer cans (50,000 of which 6,000 are featured in 25 displays), 1,400 tap knobs, 2,300 coasters, 825 bottle and can openers, etc.)

One of twenty-five displays of beer cans

The micro-brewery, opened in 1987, was Milwaukee’s first according to the “Water Street Journal”:

The bottle opener collection – all 825 of them

“The city’s first modern “brew-pub” – with six gleaming copper vats to brew beer for tavern patrons opened Wednesday…..the building dates back to 1898…..

Demand for Water Street Brewery beer was so strong that in the first six months, brewing capacity was increased by 50%…..At the time there were only 16 brew pubs across the US…”

We had excellent beers and great food – bratwurst and spaetzle dumplings included.

My affinity for dive bars was accommodated by walking only one-half block from the brewery with two adjoining bars – Scooter’s Pub and Duke’s on the Water.  Janet is not a fan of dive bars although she acquiesced when I told her I had to take advantage of Scooter’s special – drafts of Miller Genuine Draft in a large plastic cup for a buck!

Perhaps because of the weekend, the bars were more genteel and had an enthusiastic diverse crowd that night unlike this Yelp review (2/3/16):

“Aside from a hot bartender there were no women on this side of this odd bar connected to another bar on the other side which is called Dukes.

Responding to the demand for $1 draft beers…..

That side had many more people and few women ventured to Scooters and from judging and looking at the bro’ crowd I could see why. the dudes in here were both drunk and dumb and rude. The place seemed pretty shabby and the lone bartender was overworked providing fair service.”


The crowd was fine and I downed my MGD and we were  on our way.

A lively crowd at Duke’s

Lambeau Field – Home of the Green Bay Packers

The next day, we decided to take a short side trip on the way to Sister Bay, so we could see Lambeau Field in Green Bay – the famous home of the Packers.  Now Green Bay, with a population of a little over 100,000 is known as Title Town USA in light of the thirteen NFL championships, the most of any NFL city.

Toilet Paper Capital of the World – the other title Green Bay has under its belt…….

And Green Bay, does not have much else besides football, except for a few meatpacking plants and it probably doesn’t brag about the city’s other title – “The Toilet Paper Capital of the World”:

“…..Green Bay, home to the Quilted Northern brand. In 1901, Northern Paper Co. produced its first tissue. Named Northern Tissue in 1902, the product became splinter-free in the 1930s, two-ply in the 1960s and quilted in the 1990s.” (American Profile 1/14/2007)

Hinterland Brewery – almost across the street from Lambeau

And as expected, there were two breweries within a short radius of the stadium.  The first, Hinterland Brewery had just relocated to a sparkling new building across the street from the stadium although it does have an older gastro-pub in Milwaukee. The brewery originally opened in 1995 in an old meat-packing facility.

Twelve of Hinterland’s own and twelve guest taps

It has a gleaming interior with a display kitchen, two large wood-burning fireplaces for those cold Wisconsin days and a great patio. We tried two of the twenty-four beers on tap –  Hinterland’s own Cherry Wheat Ale and the Nitro IPA  which the bartender told us was brewed with Oregon Simcoe hops.

A short drive down Vince Lombardi Ave. to the corner of Holmgren and Reggie White Ways….and we hit the massive parking lot for the Badger State Brewery.   On game days, the parking spots are only $20 if one patronizes the brewery – a great deal!

Our bartender, Josh, was friendly – as were all the staff we talked to in the Wisconsin bars and breweries – and recommended the On Wisconsin Red Ale

(“This red ale has a beautiful color given by the various caramel malts which also contribute a nice sweetness. All-American hops add light flavors of orange zest to the beer. Sweet – Fresh – Rustic – Hoppy.”)  Since we had just partaken at Hinterland, we split this one and liked the color and taste.

Josh reviewing the beers on tap with Janet

We drove the ninety miles to Sister Bay through the beautiful Wisconsin countryside – the flat terrain was a real contrast to our mountainous Oregon topography.

Water Street Brewery     1101 N. Water Str.  Milwaukee

Scooters Pub      158 East Juneau Ave.    Milwaukee

Dukes on the Water    158 East Juneau Ave.  Milwaukee

Hinterland Brewing    1001 Vince Lombardi Ave.   Green Bay

Badger State Brewing      990 Tony Canadeo Run   Green Bay

Don’t Be a Clutz – Visit Lutz (Tavern….)

A Woodstock Neighborhood Retreat

A 1999 story from The Oregonian, stated, Lutz Tavern has more than 50 years of history soaked into its dark wood…….a tavern that’s been part of the community for decades.”

Dark wood and red booths retain historical ambiance – this also shows good selection on tap!

Ten years later, The Willamette Week 2009 Drink Guide echoed these sentiments by stating,A retreat for those turned off by the poshness of the Pearl and the affected low-rent vibe of Hawthorne and Belmont area drinking establishments, Woodstock’s (neighborhood) Lutz Tavern is a dive bar free of pretension and political correctness…..

When the Yuppie Zombies descend on Portland, the city’s blue collar workers will hole up inside and drink to the apocalypse with Miller High Life.”

and then

abruptly in 2010, Lutz, which originally opened around 1943, closed to the lament of Reed College students and the working-class group of regulars.


Back in Business

Lutz Tavern rose again  on 11/11/11 – this time with a new kitchen and patio and serving liquor in addition to the traditional PBR and four other tall-boys including Ranier ($2 and $1.50 during Happy Hour – daily from 4 to 6 and 11 until 2 AM) and Hamms on tap along with seven excellent micro-brews and eleven bottled beers.

At one time, the Lutz received a commendation from Blitz Weinhard for the amount of Blitz it poured.

Thebeerchaser and long-time friend and telecommunications guru, Walt Duddington, visited the Lutz on a Tuesday night and it is a great neighborhood bar – distinguished by its patrons and a very long bar with a light blue formica top, dark red booths  and a vintage phone booth with an ATM inside!

Shaun – excellent at food prep, Thebeerchaser and the Beer Tour Logo

Perhaps a call to Pennsylvania 65 – 000 would be appropriate – for those of you old enough to remember

Our bartender, Billy Jo, was great as was Shaun the cook, who opined that the best thing about the Lutz was “its multi-cultural regulars” who range in age from 21 to 65.

Billy Jo – a quality person and bartender

College memories with “The Beer that Made Milwaukee Famous”

I loved the old beer signs – most notably that from Schlitz – my favorite beer in college (Schlitz Dry to be specific) and the picture of Jackie Gleason at the end of the bar.

One of these days, Alice — right in the kisser!

It was also refreshing to note that the plasma-screen TV was off – people were playing pool, pinball or just talking in the bar and on the spacious deck rather than watching …. soccer??

Talk rather than TV…

The food was really good – we both had an excellent Lutz Burger with an incredibly big serving of shoe-string fries. (we declined the peanut butter that Billy Jo said is a popular topping with some regulars).  Perhaps we should have had the Pulled Pork Sandwich which draws rave reviews (“the bun was six sizes too small for the amount of pork”). If we had not had the beer, however, we would have opted for the $3 milkshake – “make it boozy and add a well shot for $3…”)                                   

I’ll take that Strawberry Shake with a splash of Crown Royal

Distinguishing Characteristics – Paradoxically, the Lutz fills this category by having no real distinguishing characteristics other than a lingering sense of history that fortunately did not die in 2011.  It’s worth a visit and say “hello” to Billy Jo and Shaun.

Lutz Tavern                       4639 SE Woodstock