Stubby's Gastrogrub & Beer Bar: Another meeting of beer and pedals. Photo by Chris Kessler.
If you prefer your good craic to be al fresco, grab a Guinness and a table on the large rooftop deck at Brocach (1850 N. Water St.). The patio isn’t reserved just for drinking and dining. Benches and wooden chaise lounges are the ideal spots for Monday Movie Night during the summer.
Outdoor seating is as abundant as Belgian beer at Café Benelux (346 N. Broadway). Sidewalk spots on the bustling corner of Broadway and St. Paul Avenue are nice, but it’s a table on the large rooftop that has become one of the most coveted places to imbibe in Milwaukee. Downtown rises in the north, and the hip Third Ward lies to the west and south. Sip a Tripel Karmeliet from your perch, and you’ll feel like the ruler of it all.
I find it really hard to look up from the massive beer list at Stubby’s Gastrogrub & Beer Bar (2060 N. Humboldt Ave.) to take in my surroundings. The place has 53 brews to choose from, so I’m kind of busy. When I take the time to look up, I realize I’m on a wooden deck perched high above the Milwaukee River. A great spot for a fruity saison, bitter IPA or crisp lager. Stubby’s has plenty of each to choose from.
The back deck at The Harp Irish Pub (113 E. Juneau Ave.) has been the site of late-afternoon “meetings” for years. Understandably so. The tiered wooden structure is festive and awash in sunlight on a clear day. Big boats, little boats and rowing shells all drift by. It’s hard to not wonder if the crews on even the nicest boats on the river are a little jealous of the Harp patrons who’ve commandeered valuable deck space.
Jackson’s Blue Ribbon Pub
The eerie sensation of being immersed in a ghost town washes over me while I’m downing a PBR on the large outdoor patio at Jackson’s Blue Ribbon Pub (1203 N. 10th St.). It’s the massive Building 25 across the street that provides the ambiance. The old Pabst malt house looms in the background, an empty (for now) remnant of Milwaukee’s brewing history and a decidedly cool monolith to have in view.
The beer garden at Romans’ Pub (3475 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.) isn’t about great scenery, unless you’re a beer nut staring lovingly at your glass. The cozy backyard deck is shielded from busy Kinnickinnic Avenue by a tall, wooden fence, but the brews are what people come here for. The 30 taps are well-chosen by owner Mike Romans, and rarities are plentiful. A summer night in Mike’s backyard with a great beer (or a few) is never a bad idea.
Taylor’s People’s Park
Those who don’t live there may not realize that downtown Waukesha is, well, cool. Taylor’s People’s Park (337 W. Main St., Waukesha) is the crown jewel in an area filled with hidden gems. The view across Main of the stone Almont Building (built in 1857) and ornate Queen Anne-style Nickell Building (built in 1901) is worth the trip west, but a tasty brunch and a full rooftop bar serving a long list of cocktails doesn’t hurt. Get there early. The 10 tables are popular real estate.
Activity on Third Street used to taper off at Highland Avenue, but the popular strip has recently extended its reach to Juneau Avenue. The second-floor rooftop at Ugly’s Pub (1125 N. Old World Third St.) offers a full rectangular bar, wood flooring, plenty of tables, delicious truffle fries and heaters – for when summer refuses to act like summer – to ensure that you’re well-equipped to oversee the nightlife renaissance taking place below.
The Yard hibernates during winter and serves as parking for the Iron Horse Hotel (500 W. Florida St.). But after Memorial Day, it blossoms into an expansive patio that is ground zero for cocktail enthusiasts, scene-sters and informed out-of-towners. An expertly made Manhattan pairs nicely with one of The Yard’s cozy outdoor couches. Ample seating, a fair amount of shade from large fabric sails and a great cocktail list make the limited outdoor drinking season at the Iron Horse special.
The Ruby Tap
The Ruby Tap’s patio (1341 Wauwatosa Ave., Wauwatosa), overlooking a quietish, angled block, is a casual place to sip slowly on the wine bar’s wine-on-tap offerings and its 32 varieties of vine juice-via-machine. This summer, co-owner Sarah Smith recommends slurping down the dry, strawberry and white-pepper tinged Anne Amie Rose, of the eponymous Carlton, Ore., winery. One of the patio’s best attributes, though, is its proximity to the adjacent Yo Mama! frozen yogurt. Or, as we call it, the perfect summer night.
This article appears in the 2014 City Guide in the June 2014 issue of