Milwaukee’s craft beer scene is booming, with ten new breweries opening in the area in 2016. With so much to visit, it’s hard to find the best. Here are some favorites … two old and two new:
Brewery / Beer by the lake
According to the president of the Russkish brewery Klisch, the business started when his brother, Jim, expressed his interest in making beer, and Russ made him happy by giving him a book on home brewing. Impressed with Jim’s beer, Russ decided he could brew a better one. In short, sibling rivalry and common interest led the two brothers to start participating in amateur brewing contests and winning prizes. It wasn’t long before family and friends encouraged them to turn their hobby into a business.
They started brewing with 55 gallon stainless steel drums and used dairy equipment. On December 2, 1987, they sold their first barrel of beer at the Gordon Park Pub. With the brewery up and running, the infamous tour started soon after! As Lakefront’s popularity increased, its production increased: in 1988, sales climbed to 72 barrels; in 1989, 125 barrels; and sales started to double after that.
The tour is one of the best in town. The guides are extremely enthusiastic, especially when the tour is led by one of the Klisch brothers. This was one of the first brewery tours where they allowed you to drink beer before, during and after the tour. One of the fun parts is hearing the Laverne & Shirley theme as they introduce the bottling line.
The brewery is located in a large brewery space, with high ceilings, brick walls and communal tables. It’s right by the river, with a patio at the back. The brewery turned into a basic brewery, where beer was only available with the tokens you would receive on a visit. Then they became popular for their Friday night fish fry. Now they serve a variety of basics at the bar all the time (counter service) and all beer is available for purchase at the bar.
Some options are salads, sandwiches, tacos, pretzels, cheese and wurst boards, as well as desserts. On a recent visit they had 12 beers on tap. It is also one of the first breweries in the country to offer organic and gluten-free beers.
• Eastside Dark Munich Dunkel – Smooth and toasty flavor, beautifully smooth and drinkable, not at all intimidating.
• Fuel Cafe Organic Stout – Excellent aroma, inviting, full bodied, roasted malt in full display.
Sprecher Brewing Company
Sprecher Brewing Co. was founded in 1985 by Randal Sprecher, former Brewing Supervisor at Pabst Brewing Company. From 1985 to 1994, the brewery was located at 730 W. Oregon Street in the Walker’s Point area of Milwaukee. In the first ten years the business grew steadily as more and more people discovered Sprecher’s high quality beers and sodas. Finally, the company had outgrown its original facilities and began to look for a new location to continue its growth. In 1994, Sprecher purchased its current building, located at 701 W. Glendale Ave., a former elevator car factory. The new larger brewery allowed the business to continue to grow.
The gift shop / tasting room is open Monday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tours are available daily for $ 6; check website for schedules. You must call ahead for reservations.
At the time, Randal Sprecher was in charge of brewery tours, which were made memorable by his obvious passion for the craft. For a slightly different experience, try one of the Reserve tastings offered on weekends for $ 20. Reserve tastings are conducted in smaller groups than regular tours / tastings and feature the company’s premium and limited edition products. Each guest will receive ten samples of Sprecher beers, each paired with a different artisan cheese.
They offer five beers all year round, five premium reserves, as well as seasonal beers, as well as a wide variety of sodas. They are well known for their root beer.
Although they do not serve food at the brewery (other than cheese), they have opened four pubs, located in Glendale, Lake Geneva, Madison and Wisconsin Dells. The location of Lake Geneva is a favorite, right on the lake with a lovely outdoor terrace. The Glendale pub is also nice, located in the Bayshore Town Center shopping mall. They have a great menu with German and American options, happy hour Monday through Friday, as well as a variety of daily specials.
Black Bavarian – Best Schwarzbier brewed in the United States; Huge roasted character, big malty body.
Located just outside Cedarburg, The Fermentorium opened in early 2016. Kristopher Volkman is the Founder and President, a locally raised, home brewer.
Currently offering ten beers on tap with plans for expansion, the brewery also distributes to restaurants and bars in Southeastern Wisconsin.
The tap room is currently open Tuesday to Friday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday to Sunday from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. It is a modern, very open and comfortable space to relax and drink beer. The brewing area is in the right half of the room, separated by a wall of windows, so you can visualize the process.
For a newly opened establishment, they already make several outstanding beers, so it was difficult to pick from the favorites.
• Strawberry Tart – Berliner Weisse; excellent combo to balance acidity and strawberry.
• Safe passage – Doorman; huge roasted malt flavor, omnipresent malty aroma, exceptional example of style.
Good town brewery
Their motto is “Seek the good”. The first brewery on the east side of Milwaukee, Good City opened in June. The three founders connected in 2015 and immediately hit it off, sharing a love for craft beer and the untapped potential of Milwaukee. Andy Jones is a master brewer who left Goose Island Brewing in Chicago to move to Milwaukee and work for Lakefront Brewery as a plant manager for six years. David Dupee is an entrepreneur with a background in securities and regulatory compliance, founder of the crowdfunding platform CraftFund, which was created to help agribusiness companies raise capital from passionate customers and local residents. Dan Katt is a Milwaukee real estate developer.
Good City has a modern and airy tap room with a large bar, outdoor seating, and shiny fermenters fresh out of the box. The menu has a good variety of snacks, cheeses and meats, salads, beers and dinner options. No more than seven options in each category, so the choices aren’t overwhelming (a good thing). There are several vegetarian dishes. There are ten beers on tap.
• Pilsner – Medium body, hoppy Czech style, silky smooth.
• Detail Porter – Dark and deep in color, flavors of roasted coffee and chocolate dominate; exceptional example of style.