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Best Beer Bars
Where to seek suds supremacy at local taprooms.

Photo by Chris Kessler

Naturally, a city of brewers also entertains some top-notch watering holes. From the nationally recognized establishments to the credible up-and-comers, we’ve rounded up five of the best beer bars in town.

As one of Draft Magazine’s “America’s 100 Best Beer Bars: 2012,” Palm Tavern has what owner Adrienne Pierluissi calls a “romantic” vibe, perfect for those in love and ideal for those in love with beer. Pierluissi, who owns both Palm Tavern and Sugar Maple with husband Bruno Johnson, says what really draws aficionados are choices like the Canadian Breakfast Stout – a “very rare” seasonal brew that might only last on tap for a night – plus 25 taps and 150 bottles. 2989 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., 414-744-0393

On a recent May evening at Romans’ Pub – a Draft Magazine pick for “America’s 100 Best Beer Bars: 2012” – Leinenkugel launched its new Big Eddy Imperial IPA – “bigger, bolder, stronger,” says Joe Dion, the Leinenkugel retail beer merchant who dropped it off. All beers on owner Mike Romans’ list (31 lines with 25 dedicated to craft brews and Fullers E.S.B. on the engine) have to “pass muster” with him, and you can bet his favorite, a Goose Island IPA, will be there. Jessica Daynor, managing editor of Draft, gives affable Mike Romans the highest compliment: “The guy knows beer. Period.” 3475 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., 414-481-3396

The 53 tap beers at Stubby’s Pub & Grub are admirable, as is this East Side pub’s dedication to expanding the palates of Milwaukeeans. As a way of encouraging patrons to try something new, the Stub Club gives a $53 gift card to members who try all 53 taps. “Our rarest beer is always going to be exclusive to stub club members,” says owner Brad Todd. “It’s exciting to offer exclusivity to our most loyal patrons who appreciate a good beer.” Well, sign us up. 2060 N. Humboldt Ave., 414-763-6324

Where Palm Tavern specializes in rare craft beers, Sugar Maple, its brighter sister bar, embraces variety. But “what’s really important is local,” says co-owner Pierluissi. And that emphasis is paying off. Daynor, managing editor of Draft, reviewed Sugar Maple for the best-of list and says she admires its “well-executed …Wisconsin bent.” Not to mention the selection of 72 beers, including a Black Husky Batch 100, New Glarus IIPA and Three Floyds Alpha King Pale Ale. 441 E. Lincoln Ave., 414-481-2393

The Rumpus Room may be the Scotty Smalls of the local beer world, but the recently opened Bartolotta gastro pub has all the necessary accoutrements and a stellar selection – 25 taps and 150 total beers, including domestic, craft and rare ones like firkins. There’s also a beer engine with brews that change weekly. The list is impressive, in no small part because of resident “beer expert” Bill Browne. “Milwaukee’s beer enthusiasts are a close-knit group, and everyone knows what the other is doing,” he says. “We watch the scene closely but can only be happy for the beer drinkers of Milwaukee when any bar gets a new product.” 1030 N. Water St., 414-292-0100

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