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Vote for Our Next Bar Time Blogger
Read the submissions and tell us who you think should be our next Bar Time blogger.
The submissions are in and we like what we see. But we need your input to help us pick the winner of this year's Bar Time blogger contest. Read through the submissions and vote (top right corner of your screen) for your favorite blogger. Then leave the rest to us. 

Voting will be open until midnight on Wednesday, Oct. 10. We'll announce the winner Friday, Oct. 12, so stay tuned. 

1. Dave Nelsen reviews Hooligan's

For as long as I’ve been drinking, plenty of bars have populated the area around Farwell and North, and they all have their merits. However, when I’m looking for a few good beers and a place to watch the game—and I often am—the place I always seem to stumble into is Hooligan’s. It’s a rather small bar with a rather big beer list and a TV everywhere you turn.

I visited Hooligan’s the other night, and I took a seat in front of the large chalkboard that details the often-changing beer selection. I saw plenty of local brews from Sprecher and Lakefront, including pumpkin beers and other seasonals. Of course, that’s to be expected in any beer-lover’s bar; it’s the selection of brews from beyond the state and national borders that impresses me. You can find standards like Smithwick’s, Newcastle and Moosedrool, next-level stuff like Hoegaarden, Franziskaner, and Lagunitas IPA; and ones I’ve never heard of like Magners, an Irish cider, and Okochim, a Polish pilsner. The amiable bartender offered her opinion, but she also admitted it’s difficult for her to try every beer, as Hooligan’s switches its options so often. Indeed, the wall opposite the bar proudly displays tap handles representing the varied kegs that have given their lives over the years.

I opted for a Sprecher Oktoberfest, a Rouge Brewing Dead Guy Ale, and something nutty and delicious labeled simply “Scottish Ale.” I finished my night with a Sea Dog Blueberry beer, which came complete with three berries floating in the glass. In all honesty, it tasted like thin, artificially flavored crap, but I applaud Hooligan’s nonetheless for taking a chance and offering such a variety.

It’s this variety, I believe, that attracts a slightly different crowd from what you’ll find at the more college-skewed bars in the area. Sure, Hooligan’s fills up with college kids on the weekends, but on the Wednesday I visited, the patrons seemed a little older and wiser. The guy sitting a couple of stools down from me, for example, was clearly there to try different beers and, from the sound of it, knew a thing or two about drinking. I didn’t see a single person in the place sipping from a can of Pabst. Not that there’s anything wrong with Pabst—it’s just that there are bars you visit to drink Pabst, and there are bars you visit to drink a Three Floyd’s Alpha King. Call me a beer snob if you will, but if I’m going to the trouble of leaving my couch to revel in some public drinking, I’m having me an Alpha King.

It’s also a good place to catch the game. As I said, Hooligan’s isn’t huge, but they’ve stocked the two small floors with enough TVs that there’s not a seat in the house that doesn’t give you a view of the action. Or, if it’s nice out and you don’t feel like watching the game, you can grab a table on the sidewalk.

Oh, and the food is pretty good too. The quality of the deli sandwiches seems to have declined from a few years ago, but the burgers and fries are still top notch. I recommend the bison burger.

So, that’s Hooligan’s. If Coor’s Light, Miller Lite, or Bud Light 55 are your thing, maybe this isn’t your place. But if the thought of a good, thick ale you’ve never heard of makes you drool like a Montana moose, then stop by the next time you’re in the North Ave. area.

About Dave

Dave Nelsen is a father, writer, proofreader, editor, comedian, lifelong Milwaukeean, and dedicated drinker of fine beers. He can often be seen cooking dinner for his family, walking, biking, wasting hours at a time on Facebook, or entertaining his own or someone else’s whiney kids.

2. Michael Bischoff reviews The Hamilton. 

Even if you’ve been to The Hamilton several times it’s likely you haven’t noticed the room-for-rent hidden behind the service door at the end of the bathroom hallway. It’s a large space, ideal for parties, wedding receptions or, as it was on one evening this past May, a vintage fashion show.

On that particular night, however, the quality of service could not match the entertainment.

As a frequent bar patron (and occasional employee) I understand that a busy bar combined with craft cocktails, The Hamilton’s specialty, will lead to a long wait, and I am obliged to patience in that regard. However, a busy bar combined with an inattentive staff is not only irritating, it’s an insult to patrons. The bartender—there was, curiously, only one, despite the promoted event and the fact it was a Friday night—contently sliced lemons as customers backed up three deep, while his barback rearranged bottles and servers chatted at the end of the bar. I stood directly across from the bartender patiently awaiting eye contact, which came as listlessly as it departed.

Not surprisingly, that listlessness translated into his drinks. Each cocktail he poured required constant referral to the recipe guide, as though each time were the first he had read it.

Taking pity, I stayed off the menu and ordered, instead, by ingredient—bourbon, ginger beer and Angostura, three staples of any cocktail bar. As I watched him mix my drink he pulled Beam Rye from the well, looked at it twice and must have decided it was “bourbony enough,” poured it over rocks, and topped it with water and about 17 dashes of bitters.

It’s hard to blame him for not knowing what he was doing. Maybe he was preoccupied, maybe he’s just not very good at bartending. Regardless of circumstance, the bar put him in position to fail and did nothing to help him when failure became certain. The bar manager was present, not bartending. One of the owners was present, not bartending. Side work—slicing fruit, clearing glasses, replacing pour spouts—was ignored by the support staff and put the bartender even deeper into the weeds. Even the best bartenders will struggle under those circumstances. Ultimately, it’s the customers who are cheated when their drinks are constructed poorly, take too long to make, or are just flat-out not what they ordered.

I’ve been to The Hamilton on several occasions, slow nights and busy nights. On no occasion have I left the bar feeling like the experience added anything to the cocktail culture of the area. That’s fine for a bar that isn’t trading on cocktails as their principal conceit—I’d never hold it against a bartender at The Nomad, for instance, if he or she didn’t know how to make an Aviator. I’d hate myself a little bit for even asking. The hallmark of this cocktail renaissance is the passion of bartenders in their work. Cocktails are not a passion at The Hamilton, they’re a fad—they’re marketing material.

Milwaukee is brimming with talent in the cocktail niche. The Hi Hat Lounge recently had three finalists out of ten in a regional Bombay Sapphire cocktail competition. Bryant’s Lounge has a long, storied history and is routinely featured in national and international publications as Milwaukee’s premier cocktail lounge. The owners and staff at The Hotel Foster, which opened around the same time as The Hamilton, take obvious pride in their seasonal and featured cocktail menus, and Distil is home to a number of the city’s finest bartenders. Start there and then decide for yourself where The Hamilton ranks.

About Michael

Michael P. Bischoff is a freelance journalist and copywriter living in Riverwest. A lifelong Wisconsinite and native of Beaver Dam, he’s lived in Milwaukee since 2006 after several years in Madison. He also writes sketch comedy and had his short story, A Room in New York. 1932., published in Skive Magazine (Australia) in 2009.

3. Joe Gozdowiak reviews the World of Beer.

I am usually a strong supporter of shopping locally whenever possible, and that extends to where I go for a drink. So when the opening of World of Beer (1300 E. Brady St.) was announced, I was disappointed to learn that it was part of a chain. However, on a recent late summer evening walking down Brady Street, I noticed through the very large windows that several of the TV screens were showing the Brewers game. With the way the Crew has been playing lately, I figured I should sit down, have a beer or two, and watch the game.

Upon entering, the first thing I noticed was the space. World of Beer is definitely not cluttered. There are booths along the outside of the space and a few tables scattered about the middle. With the beautiful summer weather, the bar was crowded for a Tuesday night, but there was plenty of room to move around, and even more importantly, an empty seat at the bar to watch the game. The massive windows provide an excellent view to watch the eclectic Brady Street denizens walk by. There are also several sidewalk tables to enjoy your beer outside weather permitting. At the front of the space, there is a stage for live music, and there are many specials such as a service night, college night, a loyalty club that offers discounts to cardholders, and the option to mix and match a six pack to take home.

Upon taking my seat, I was immediately greeted by a friendly bartender who presented me with the novel that passes for the beer menu. With 40 beers on tap and 500 in bottles, this is definitely not the place for the indecisive.  The beers are listed by both country of origin and style. For those unfamiliar, there is also a glossary of beer styles with a thorough description of each one, from basic lagers and ales to lambics and schwarzbiers.  Behind the bar are massive coolers with packed shelves labeled by country. Germany and Belgium are very well represented,  but there are also shelves for Asia, Australia, and New Zealand.

The bartenders were very knowledgeable, offering details on the beers and offering samples of any before buying. Bottles and taps range anywhere from $5 to over $20 for some of the larger and more exotic offerings, so sampling before buying may not be a bad idea.

The tap selection was impressive, offering everything from light to dark and everything in between, What impressed me most was the availability on tap of some Wisconsin breweries that one doesn’t see too often in most places, such as O’so, Hinterland, and Titletown. Despite being a chain, in a nod to this location, over 30 Wisconsin brews are available, and American craft beer in general is well represented.

This is definitely a beer lover’s place. There is a very small wine list and hard liquor is not to be found. They do offer mixed drinks, but here that means various combinations of beer, and the offerings go well beyond the usual Black and Tan. With a name like World of Beer, the customer gets exactly what is advertised. Food is not served, but the beer menu did list several local establishments such as Balzac and recently opened The Philly Way that will deliver food to your seat. Menus for the restaurants are available in the bar. 

Despite being a chain, World of Beer has made a commendable effort to fit in to the neighborhood and seems to be off to a good start.

About Joe 

Joe Gozdowiak is a lifelong Milwaukee resident.  He graduated from UW-Milwaukee with a degree in secondary education and is a high school English teacher. Growing up on the South side and still residing there with his wife and two children, he loves all things Milwaukee and likes to explore all the city has to offer, from restaurants to farmers’ markets to all the great neighborhoods. 

4. Kaitlin Corner reviews Club Charlies. 

Shtick noun \╦łshtik\: one's special trait, interest, or activity. I’m a sucker for shtick. I find pleasure in knowing what separates one bar, restaurant, or gentleman from another. I’m also a sucker for beers that require a two-hand grasp.

Nestled between Catalano Square and North Milwaukee Street, Club Charlies (320 East Menomonee Street) has been around since 2009. When I moved back to Milwaukee this spring after a four-year stint in North Carolina, I found myself living a block away from the bar. 

One Tuesday in May my friend asked me to help spend her Groupon. Never turning down an invitation for a deal, I trotted across Catalano Square and met my friend outside Charlies. We found a corner spot at the bar, and although busy because of Tuesday Trivia, were immediately welcomed by the bartender.

My friend had a vodka tonic and I asked him to make me something citrusy. I’m still not certain what I got, but it went down well, so well that I ordered another with one minute to spare in the happy-hour pricing. We tried to go light and shared the hummus plate and chicken fingers. While not the most complex menu items, we enjoyed it nevertheless.

 Following Summerfest one Thursday, my friend and I bellied up to the bar filled with festival goers looking for a place to continue their fun. As it seems Club Charlies is one of the biggest backers in Milwaukee of Stevens Point Brewery, I asked for a Point Special and my friend ordered a Blue Moon. It did take a good while to get served due to the crowd, but the bartenders did a reasonable job of helping people as quickly as they could.

Besides repeatedly being hit on by a Bret Michaels lookalike, we had a good time. The music was a perfect mix of old-school rap, urban hits, oldies and pop music.

It was between my intense chair-dancing sessions that I locked eyes with it: the big beer served in a paper bag. It was as if I was watching in slow motion as the bartender passed a hobo-looking drink to a gentleman across the bar. This warm feeling came over me and my inner self yelled “I want that!”

Quickly brought back to real life, my friend thought the marshmallow vodka we drank earlier caught up to her. As we exited Charlies, I vowed to return for the beer-in-a-bag.

It was dead on the particular Wednesday night I found myself back at the bar. The lack of patrons didn’t damper the mood, however.

Upon Foursquare alerting me to a special, I inquired with the bartender. For checking in I could get a 24-ounce bottle of Miller Lite or PBR for $4 and it’d even come in a brown paper bag. He barley finished his sentence before I squealed “Yes, Miller Lite.” When he passed the paper bag adorned beer across the bar, it was like I was touched by a scantily clad Aaron Rodgers.

Half-way through consuming my bagged beer, from the corner of my eye I caught the bartender fiddling with a shark-shaped blimp. I turned, put down the beer and watched as he moved the blimp around the room and over our heads.

I faintly heard music from “Jaws” play in my head. No, No, it wasn’t Shark Week yet, just something fun for the staff and patrons.

Shtick and sharks are just the start. Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. it’s two for one bloody marys, there’s an all-you-can-eat pajama brunch buffet on Sunday, as well as half price bottles of wine Thursday.

To see the full menu and daily specials, visit Club Charlies online.

About Kaitlin

Kaitlin Corner recently returned to Milwaukee after spending four years impersonating a southern belle in North Carolina. A UW-Milwaukee graduate and marketing communications professional by trade, Kaitlin enjoys spending her free time exploring the bars, restaurants and shops that popped up while she was away. In addition to her love for the Badgers, Packers and bloody marys, Kaitlin has a mild obsession with can and bottle cozies and carries one with wherever she goes. Her goal in life is to spread the celebration of “Flannel Friday” across the nation

5. Dan Goldbeck reviews Victors. 

Victors.  Or as some locals say; “Victims.”  A legendary Milwaukee establishment.  Have you heard of it?  Of course you have!  Where else can you hear music from the 60’s (the same decade they opened), to today’s Top 40 artists like Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj? 

And where else can you see a group of college kids celebrating a 21st birthday, and an older couple celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary in the same building?  Yes, you guessed it: Victors.  A Las Vegas style night club with a Milwaukee twist.  Blue collar meets white collar.  Out of town business men socialize with some of Milwaukee’s most eligible women.

And to make it even better; they serve food!  From chops and sandwiches to fish and chicken, Victors has it all.  And while you’re at it, why don’t you wash it down with one of the several hundred drinks that Victor’s offers.  You have the option to wine and dine.  Or for the frugal minded, stop in early and take advantage of one of the many Happy Hours Specials provided.

Victor’s will have you feeling like you’re on vacation in Vegas.  Even if the temperature is 20 degrees outside, warm drinks and friendly faces provide for a cozy atmosphere inside.  Whether you’re looking to spend a night on the town with your significant other, party with a small group of friends, or host a big event, Victor’s is the place for you.  Young, old, or somewhere in between, you are guaranteed to have a good time.

If you’re a dancer, you’ll have the opportunity to do everything from the electric slide to the moonwalk.  If you’re not the dancing type, feel free to people watch at the bar or one of the tables or booths.  Or sit back and catch a game on one of the many hi-definition flat screens Victor’s has throughout the bar area.  The friendly staff will take care of all of your needs.  So when you’re in the mood for libations, want to grab a bite, or simply hang out and have some fun, Victors is the place for you.  See you there!      

About Dan 

Dan Goldbeck was raised in the north woods of Peshtigo, WI.  In 1999 he moved to Manitowoc and spent two years at the UW extension.  Afterwards, he moved to the big city of Milwaukee to attend UW Milwaukee. Received Bachelor’s Degree in Communications. 11 years later still living and working in Milwaukee. Getting married in October and looking forward to a new life (and hopefully writing bar blogs part time in the future!)

6. Brinton Resto reviews Sugar Maple

If you love discovering rare craft microbrewery beer, look no further than Sugar Maple (located at 441 E. Lincoln Avenue in Bay View, right off of Kinnickinnic). Sugar Maple is known for their selection of over 50 American Craft Beers on draught. The mere sight of the extensive row of +50 taps visible behind the bar is enough to give you an overwhelming impression of endless choices. Thankfully, a beer menu is also provided to help you decide on choosing a particular beer and is sure to offer even the most veteran beer drinker something new and exciting to drink. Choices range from delicate, light-bodied, pale, champagne-like, effervescent white-ales to deep, dark, smoky porters that are so savory they could just as well serve as a marinade for your next barbecue. I recently enjoyed an ale from Kentucky that was aged in a bourbon-barrel (think of the lovely vanilla and spice overtones you can only get from oak barrel-aging, without the bite of hard-booze or the dryness of red wine, mixed with beer!).

Besides the extensive beer selection, one of the best things about Sugar Maple’s endless beer menu is their smaller selection of rare and limited supply of cask-ales offered straight from a firkin. If you’ve never had beer straight from a firkin and find yourself asking—“what’s a frickin firkin?”—don’t feel too left out. A firkin is simply a cask-size equivalent to a quarter barrel. What is significant about beer stored in these specific small casks is that the beer served from a firkin is typically unfiltered, unpasteurized, and partially fermented in the cask it is served in—a process that yields a beer that naturally produces its own carbon-dioxide, unlike conventional pressurized kegs. For me, this means that the small selection of beers served straight from a firkin at Sugar Maple tend to taste uniquely fresh since they rotate more frequently than beers served through larger pressurized kegs that have a much longer life. The differences in quality between beer served through a conventional tap and one served through a firkin is not necessarily one of night and day; it’s subtle, and it won’t make a beer you don’t like taste much different. The difference is mainly in the intensified freshness and in the noticeably smoother mouth-feel from the softer carbonation method.

Firkins aside, the atmosphere at Sugar Maple is very open and lounge-like, but, as with many bars in Milwaukee, can get loud and crowded in the bustle of weekend nightlife. The interior space has been updated over the years with many rearrangements. Today the place strikes a decent balance between being integrative and inherently social but not tight and claustrophobic. Furniture is well laid out and the bar is generally accessible. Local artwork covers the walls and there is also a back-room where local musicians and bands regularly perform. Large couches with pillows and an ample combination of tables and chairs provide for the perfect opportunity to converse with friends or hide in a corner and people watch with a significant other—an activity which may turn out to be a hipster Safari of sorts since one cannot spend an entire night in the Bay View bar-scene without spotting half a dozen amusingly long moustaches or young women wearing thick-framed glasses with no lenses. Given the extensive selection of beers to choose from, the local feel, and the open atmosphere, I expect Sugar Maple to continue to enjoy success and please the diverse body of beer lovers in Milwaukee for years to come.

About Brinton

Brinton Resto is a recent graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Philosophy. A typical office worker by day and a food and beverage enthusiasts by night, Brinton can be found sniffing out the undiscovered gems of the city when he is not trying to perfect the art of cooking and pairing food with beverages at home with his significant other. An avid reader and lover of literature, Brinton can be found squinting at the ‘on-hold’ section at your local public library for the latest best-seller or popular classic.

Photos courtesy of Hooligan's, Club Charlies, The Hamilton, World of Beer, Sugar Maple, and Victor's. 

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JackKirgen Posted: 10/2/2012 12:05:09 PM
 2   21    

Joe and Michael's reviews were the only ones I could make it all the way through. It would be generous to say any of these people are writers. If this is what they submitted as their best writing sample... none of them deserve the job.
Englishpollard Posted: 10/7/2012 1:19:26 PM
 6   3    

Replying to: JackKirgen
You seem quite bitter, do they not accept applications written in crayon?
Jennifer Spuehler Posted: 10/1/2012 8:16:48 PM
 3   1    

How do we vote? I don't see anything to click in the upper right hand corner!
Claire Posted: 10/2/2012 9:10:43 AM
 0   25    

Replying to: Jennifer Spuehler
In the upper right hand corner of this page, you should be able to select your favorite potential Bar Time blogger and then click submit. You can email claire.hanan@milwaukeemag.com for any additional problems or questions. Thanks for reading!
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